Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Woman's Beauty

Before our office moved from Century City, I went to the Annenberg Space for Photography on my lunch break to see the Beauty Culture exhibit that features photographs of movie stars and models by world famous art and fashion photographers such as Tyen of the House of Dior and Albert Watson whose celebrity portraits have appeared on more than 100 covers of Vogue Magazine.

The purpose of the exhibit, which runs through November and features a must see documentary short, is to show the power of the still image in shaping our cultural ideals of feminine beauty and a woman's sense of self.

Take your friends and family, sons and daughters as the exhibit sparks a lively discussion about our relentless pursuit of beauty and how power co-opts our sense of self for its own end.  You need only take a look at the Wall Street traded multi-billion dollar corporations that surround high fashion photography today to see that they are always trying to expand deeper and deeper into your body and psyche -- and for what purpose?  The answer is simple.   Just ask yourself, "Who profits?"

But you don't have to buy into it. One of the women featured in the exhibit is my personal heroine, Sophia Loren. She's an icon of feminine beauty for sure, but even the exhibitioners don't quite know where to put her. When you go you'll see what I mean. She stands out from the other beauties as having an undefinable, uncategorizable, incongruent "something".

In my own attempt to define what beauty and "the red coat" means to me, I came across her book Women & Beauty.  I never followed Ms. Loren's career but the book made me a huge fan.  In it she gives tips on wardrobe, hair, cosmetics, exercise, dieting and though these are important, she says, the essence of a woman's beauty is something much more.

Looking back on her career as an actress, she tells a story about working with George Cukor. Cukor was considered a “woman’s director” who had an eye for beauty and a special instinct for developing a woman’s potential. To Loren's great surprise, he did not spend time fussing with makeup and costume. One day, in the course of explaining how a character should emphasize her attractiveness, Loren recalls that Cukor said something that she has never forgotten:
"Beauty without self-confidence is less attractive than ugliness with self-confidence.   
If you are confident, you are beautiful.”  
Loren, elaborates.
"If you turn to your friends or even to women who appear in the media, you will see that the beautiful ones, those who catch your eye and make you delight in them and perhaps envy them, are the ones who believe that they are beautiful.  Somehow they have discovered that they are beautiful, and they radiate the pleasure of their discovery, even though their features or their figure or their makeup are not perfect.  You recognize immediately their confidence in their own appearance.  Indeed, I am convinced that nothing makes a woman more beautiful than the belief that she is so.”
What would happen in the world right now if women everywhere believed that they were beautiful and radiated the pleasure of that discovery?

For my picture, I chose a photograph of me when I didn't know how beautiful I was. Do you have one like that too?


Sarah said...

I just sent this piece out to all my best women friends.

Linda said...

how could you NOT know you are beautiful from THAT picture!??!
xo Linda

lisalisa said...

You were and you are beautiful! Funny story: Charlie brought a girlfriend to visit last month. We were working a puzzle and shooting the shit and she said when she was training to be a counselor at camp they wrote in her evaluation she was "too quietly self-confident".