One of my favorite singers, bar-none, almost wasn’t. That’s right. Her career almost never got started at the ripe old age of sixteen. She was sent to an audition at a famous singing hall because of the sound of her voice. A voice that was so sweet it sounded like angels carrying spoons of dripping honey. But when she showed up at the audition, the stage manager took one look at her, her dress size, and her face, and exclaimed, “You just won’t do! You don’t have the right look”.
Do you think I am talking from one of the current starlets from Hollywood who has starved herself down to a size zero and had her face re-arranged like notes on a keyboard by Beverly Hills top plastic surgeons? It may sound as if I could be referencing any number of them, but I am not.
The singer I am referencing is the mighty, the angelic, the amazing, the ethereal, the sassy, and the jazzy Ella Fitzgerald. No one can skat like Ella. No one can swoon a toon like Ella. And Ella almost WASN’T because of the way she looked. Now, my caveat here is that this was a multi-ethic panel of gentlemen passing judgment on her, not just one lone producer. Sure, these gentlemen wanted to hear singing like Ella’s, but they were looking for a face and body to accompany it that was more akin to Miss Josephine Baker, who was, at the time, the raging toast of Paris.
Josephine Baker, circa late 1930’s.
Still, as fate would have it, even though a young Ella was attempted to be turned away from that audition, she surmounted the opposition and she SANG. And boy did she sing, and “ain’t we glad she did?” because that night was history in the making, and was a precursor of what was to come. I have sung jazz as a hobby ever since high school, and I can say my number one influence and teacher, by the way of remastered CDs, is Ella Fitzgerald. Though long gone, she impacts everything about my singing in the present.
Ella Fitzgerald, circa 1950’s
This is one of the most striking stories of how beauty can influence, and did influence, our society. When I first read that story of how Ella almost wasn’t, I simply went blue in the face. It was like thinking about the possibility of ‘if the Beatles hadn’t met’, and therefore did not spend long dreary days practicing, in rainy, drab Liverpool, England. The Beatles are my all-time favorite band, and the possibility of them not being, is simply unthinkable.
But, I do see that the tides are turning ever so slowly from a very narrowly defined beauty standard. In the recent decades we saw models OTHER than those who were 6 feet tall and positively Germanic looking. We saw an influx of gorgeous, pear-shaped Brazilian models of all skin tones earlier this decade. Gone were magazines displaying models who had no hip-to-waist ratios and I know women around America breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, there were women being photographed who were closer to reality, although they were still a FAR CRY from reality– like 1,000 miles off course, in another galaxy, to be exact.
However, this article is not meant to be the latest diatribe on how fashion models simply don’t match reality. We all know that and are CONSTANTLY reminded of that fact every time we enter a grocery store, open a magazine, turn on a TV, open a webpage or walk around and see billboards or breathe. How many more times do they have to show us that the women they choose and then photo-shop to death don’t match our reality before we get it? We got it already!!!!! So please let up from the torture! Pretty Please?
In walks Crystal Renn. I like her story because she entered the modeling world when she was too old. She was fourteen years old to be exact. That’s really ancient you know, especially if you want catalog work for catalogs being sent to the baby-boomer crowd. Crystal did the right thing and she ‘took one for the team’ by starving herself down to a size zero. But Crystal failed in that she wasn’t willing to be an even bigger team player and starve herself down to a double zero, or better, starve herself so much that a double zero simply hung loosely about her 5’10’ inch frame as she walked down the street and got blown aside by the wind generated from a taxi traveling at five miles an hour. All of my sardonicism aside for now, this was really troubling to read what Crystal had to go through to get jobs in the industry. And what’s even more troubling is that her fourteen-year-old-size-zero self was supposed to represent the rest of us.
Crystal Renn at 14 years old and a size zero
All I know is if I had a daughter who looked like the above image, I would check her into a hospital, and I am serious when I say this. From a medical perspective, she would have a BMI so low that her own body would start to devour its own muscle tissue in order to survive. But luckily, Crystal got hungry before that happened. And she started eating healthy food like fish, steamed rice and vegetables, and she allowed her body to blossom to the size that it naturally should be. Of course, her agency dropped her like a hot potato, but she escaped with her life.
Here is a photograph of Crystal Renn now. I don’t know what the rest of you ladies think, but I think she looks absolutely stunning. And I have enough male friends and acquaintances to know that men would be driven to heights of insanity pursuing a woman as beautiful as Crystal with her gorgeous shape and feminine proportions. As for her picture at fourteen years old, I have male friends who have said, “If a guy likes a girl who looks like a pre-pubescent boy, he REALLY needs his head examined”. It’s no secret that real men love curves and that women naturally have curves. It was evolution’s ‘master planned community’ so that we would pro-create and HEALTHILY procreate. As many of you know, women below a certain BMI stop their menstrual cycle and lose reproductive functions. Mother Nature wanted women, and rightfully so, to get pregnant in times of plenty, not in times of famine.
Crystal Renn now at a size FOURTEEN and 23 years old
My dad is a very funny guy. He talks to me as if I were an old friend. And really, I am an old friend, considering we have known each other for 37 whole years now. He read a news article about a Masters and Johnson survey recently and he took me aside and said, “You know, Masters & Johnson found that it’s the plain girls who are gettin’ the most from their husbands, not these stick thin models. The more the woman matches the media’s ideal of physical beauty, the more likely she is to go to bed alone”. I was floored to hear that, but then started to ask around. And yes, what my father read in Masters & Johnson seemed to be corroborated by what my normal friends were experiencing. Alas, I do not live in NYC or Los Angeles and therefore do not have the privilege to know supermodels. I asked a few male friends, and one of them told me: “Don’t you know about warm flesh? If a woman is too thin, her flesh is cold. But, if she has a few extra pounds, there’s this heat that just drips off her body, and it’s SUCH a turn on.”
Then there’s my husband– and just like any good husband, he says “Yes, dear” at just the right moments and says, “Oh No, Dear, You never look fat, you look GORGEOUS in that dress”. Of course, he’s biased because he’s married to me. But, I have asked him to truthfully tell me what his beauty standard was when he was in his late teens and early twenties. Even in high school, he says he looked for women with large behinds and small waists– the pear shape. He found too thin to be a turn-off for him and worshiped at the feet of actresses like Jennifer Connelly and Courtney Cox PRIOR to them thinning down to get more roles. Here are his favorite pictures of the actresses as he LIKED them. He no longer likes them in their current starved state:
Jennifer Connelly in Rocketeer – early 1990’s
A young Courtney Cox in the late 1980’s
It’s hard to recognize either of these women at normal weights, well before their jawlines became angular and their cheeks became sunken.
I am going to leave you with this thought. Every woman, no matter what age, color, weight, or body type is able to dress and present herself in a way that brings out her own innate beauty. I hope that for the New Year you seek out friends who build you up, rather than tear you down, seek out clothes that flatter but that also express your own funky personal style, and remember that losing an extra 10 pounds is not going to change your life. Only YOU can change your life, and only you can make yourself happy. Once you do that, your beauty will shine through, and people will be naturally drawn to you. That, in itself, will change your life.
So, please, keep a positive attitude and keep your extra 10, because you are ALREADY a perfect 10!!!