Going Gaga for all the right reasons
Lady Gaga bared all for her 'A Body Revolution 2013' initiative.
Last week, Sun-Herald fashion reporter Kate Waterhouse made international headlines for all the wrong reasons when she asked Mad Men actress Christina Hendricks about her “full figure”.
I doubt offence was meant – in Waterhouse’s defence, Hendricks has answered similar questions countless times before, telling Health magazine back in 2010 that it’s “such a compliment” to hear that so many women admire her body. Tellingly, though, she also mentioned that she was surprised that it was her body that women would want the most. “Really?” she said. “They don’t say Jessica Alba? 'Cause that’s what I say!”
If someone like Hendricks, who is considered one of the sexiest women alive, doesn’t feel comfortable talking about her body, what hope do the rest of us have?
Two weeks ago, Lady Gaga attracted international headlines of her own when she launched the Body Revolution on her Little Monsters fansite. Responding to unflattering photos of herself taken at a recent concert, Gaga released a series of unretouched, unadorned shots of herself in bra and G-string briefs, revealing a body far slimmer than those misleading concert photos, but also considerably curvier than the super-lean Gaga we’ve seen in the past. Gaga, who says she has suffered from bulimia and anorexia since she was 15, claims to have (happily) gained 11 kilos in recent months, the result of relaxing her diet and feeling more comfortable in her own skin, and encouraged her fans to join the Body Revolution and post their own warts-and-all pictures on the site.
Her “little monsters” responded in droves, with thousands uploading their photos, sharing stories about their anorexia, bulimia, obesity, acne, skin diseases, disabilities and scars. It’s perhaps no coincidence that in the days since, Gaga’s already huge following on Twitter has eclipsed 30 million, making her the biggest celebrity on the social networking site.
Gaga’s Body Revolution is in stark contrast to another page I’ve noticed recently on Facebook – The Ashy Bines Bikini Body Challenge. Started two years ago by bikini model Ashy Bines, it currently has 283, 252 “likes”. Back in July, A Current Affair did a story on how some customers were unhappy with the amount of information and support they received upon buying an Ashy Bines Diet Plan. Another page on Facebook, Ashy Bines Bikini Body Challenge = Waste of $ has attracted over 10,000 likes. In spite of the backlash, her supporters seem to far outweigh her detractors, and to me, what is far more worrying and insidious than Ashy’s alleged lack of bang for buck is the disturbing nature of the photos on the site. Girls post before and after shots of themselves, almost always in underwear or bikini, and wait for the inevitable ‘likes’ that seem to conflate their self worth with weight loss. Certainly some were unhealthily overweight before, but many were not.
While Gaga has received her share of plaudits for going public with her Body Revolution, there’s also been no shortage of cynics who have labelled it a publicity stunt and accused Gaga of taking advantage of insecure people to make a profit.
Frankly, I think that’s bullshit. Gaga was doing just fine on the publicity front before any of this came about, and as her meat dresses and hatching-out-of-egg antics prove, she’s not short on other ways to call attention to herself. All too often, we’re fed “celebrities without make-up” pictures and unflattering snaps of cellulite-dimpled bottoms at the beach, but it is another thing altogether for a celebrity to come forward and expose their own body and all its (perceived) imperfections, and to call on others to celebrate who they are, regardless of what they look like. I’m not saying we should be embracing obesity, because that’s another serious health issue that needs to be addressed, but striving for perfection is not the answer either.
Surely Gaga’s is an infinitely healthier message than the one propounded by Ashy Bines Bikini Body Challenge?