Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Vogue Health Initiative, or, Consumerist Drive, Reality, and Flawsome

(image taken from We Heart Vintage)

(image taken from They Roared Vintage)

(image taken from Joffi's Stuff)

(image taken from Model Haus)

Models, particularly those emblazoned across the pages of print media such as Vogue and her myriad exotic sisters around the globe, can be accurately and simplistically interpreted as cultural icons, or even better fabricated figments of a potential or presumed reality, who sell commodities. As a now staple bastion in the basic exchange of goods and services between producer and consumer, one of the intermediate and seemingly integral middle meddlers and pedlars  in the procession of consumerism, models are, obviously, both reflections of what is attractive and desirable to the masses and projections of what should be attractive and desirable to the masses. They are played and used in sometimes subtle and meticulous stratagems, though more often in quite overt movements, to simultaneously ignite and sustain intense and superficial fires of need and of want. In past generations, female models have been relatively thin yet still exude a sort of healthful, procreative, seductive glow, though, in a more recent past, these frames have increasingly waned, like a pale and frail crescent moon dissipating amongst the burning stars.

The freshly released Health Initiative pact from Vogue International, whose edicts proclaim to foster and promote healthful lifestyles among the models employed by the publications, not just in terms of their physical bodies, but also with regard to more positive working conditions, has been critiqued as being a bit vague. Some have also noted the seeming lack of consequence and reprimand should these newly stated dogmas be broken. In these ways, it reminds me a bit of some of the policies and consensus statements issued by the United Nations General Assembly; idealistic in tone, without offering any type of bite or even bark should the sentiments not be adhered to. Overall, the messages are certainly not new, they are reiterations and reverberations of valid criticisms that have been circulating for decades; however, though demure in language, the act is at least admirable and is garnering popular media coverage. To what effect, it is difficult to say; unfortunately, I would hypothesize, little.

Not surprisingly, steadfast and loud on this Health Initiative bandwagon is former super model morphed backwoods pseudo-feminist Tyra Banks. She is a phenomenal cheerleader and a legitimate one, as she has years of industry experience and exposure to the specifically contrived threats to the female form, and as she herself has been publicly demeaned and bombarded for her weight and physique. Unfortunately, Tyra has already made some questionable comments, suggesting that such cultural and media forces selectively berate young girls, which, simply, is not true. Despite her biased, or perhaps, more aptly, I can certainly commend her for lending her new found reality and talk show personality so vehemently and passionately to this cause, arguably futile as it may be. What I refuse to condone, however, is her, unfortunately, typical and aggressive use of the slang term "flawsome." Presumably created by Tyra, or at least, her publicist or something, again, the heart is in the right place, but the brain is not. True, expectations are falsely erected, thanks to the marvels and wonders of modern image alteration technology, that the women appearing in magazines are without blemish or wrinkle or smudge or pudge. These falsities are damaging and despicable, particularly among the young and impressionable who may not understand the nuances of post-production. Or the powerful and painful results of malnutrition. However, highlighting the disconnect between the flesh and the paper and then immediately equating real and natural beauty to a flaw, or at least laying the groundwork for the implication, is, well, pun not intended, flawed. 

I am curious if there will be any subsequent ripple-effect responses to this initial proclamation, at least as far as the print world goes. Runway fashion and haute couture lines are, in my mind, a separate beast, occasionally in parallel with the buying-selling and seeding-feeding, other times truly born from the loins of aesthetics. My expectations for change are low, but, I am a perpetual pessimist; hopefully, I am proven wrong.


  1. I think it's difficult to know what if anything, will really change as a result of this. As much as I would like to be optimistic, I find it difficult. Here is hoping I'll be proven wrong!

  2. Great pics and great style!

  3. such beautiful vintage photos!


  4. Beautiful photos!

  5. I feel like this initiative is a step in the right direction, at least. I worked for Vanity Fair and I've heard discussions regarding cover models, along the lines of "she's way too skinny, we're going to get backlash for this." So even if it's not a guideline on how models should look & live, at least it's a step!

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.