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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Markets & Models

This is bad reporting. I'm not expecting NewYoker's level of depth from every daily or weekly, but I read the whole piece (surprisingly through Slatest) and felt bah at the end. On top of conveying nothing, it's plain vanilla stupid. This is the capsule: Filippa Hamilton, a model for Ralph Lauren (RL) was fired because she's fat. She said "They fired me because they said I was overweight and I couldn't fit in their clothes anymore". Hamilton's photo was published after digitally doctoring making her look unbelievably slim. "I think they owe American women an apology, a big apology," she said. "I'm very proud of what I look like, and I think a role model should look healthy." And this becomes news? Rolling-eyeballs, scratching-head, plug in your favorite cliche, but wasn't she getting paid for her figure, skin texture, bust size, etc?

I'm not a fan of models. They look anemic and there's no life in their eyes. Though I find some of them beautiful their expressionless ramp walk makes them all look like cold-hearted robots. But that's just me. The market's requirements are different. Cultural conditioning goes a long way in defining beauty. And it is such culture codes embedded unconsciously that dictates RL to hire or fire models. Men in west dream of slim, smooth skinned and sharp featured women which makes women want to have those attributes. Jared Diamond once wrote in an essay that men in Papua New Guinea thought western women were sexually unattractive, "look at their pale skin, small breasts and weak arms, they're not fit for raising a family" they would say. (Had it been Papau New Guinea she would have been fired for not being plump enough).

Hamilton's second statement can be interpreted as opportunistic if only it weren't so moronic. She has had a contract with RL since 2002 and all the while she must have passed their metric test. Now that she's put on some flesh she's suddenly proud of her looks and demands an apology - not to her - but American women. Her implication is ludicrous. Any advertisement for a personal adornment feeds to a dream. Somehow their product makes you feel good, improves your productivity, adds class. Even a silly deodorizer transforms you from a office geek to a babe magnet. Women's clothing being such a big market and RL being such a premier they have high standards of the dream they want their customers to experience.

PS: I was very reluctant on writing this post because what I have to say seems so obvious. But I had to persuade myself into posting this because it must not be obvious to a few who think it's news worthy (NY Daily, Slate).

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