Saturday is my magazine day. I try to read as many fashion, beauty, current affairs, even quasi-academic “books,” as we call them in the biz, as possible. Despite my addiction to the Web, I still get a thrill whenever I crack open the glossy cover of a fresh, new paper edition.
As soon as I dumped the pile on my kitchen table alongside my morning coffee, I grabbed this month’s Interview with Naomi Campbell‘s stunning puss splayed across the cover. In recognition of the 25th anniversary of Campbell’s ascent to superstardom, Interview features a dramatic photo shoot and interview with the model.
Boy, does her image take me back. Naomi, Christy and Linda established the notion of “super models” and you can bet each model’s face took up some wall space in my teenage bedroom. While models continue to hold celebrity status today, I don’t feel anyone has developed the kind of iconic standing of the original supermodels. You could argue that I’m not as obsessed with models as I was as a dreamy teen and so I don’t “follow” them anymore, or that, in today’s fickle culture, we just get bored more quickly and are always looking for the next new thing.
But, I don’t think these arguments explain it. If you go back to the first two centuries of our country, men and women alike bought in to the American dream. But if you were a woman, you would have had very few ways to channel your ambitions. One of the few was beauty. If you were beautiful, you could land a successful husband or win a beauty contest and ascend the social ranks, or become an actress and gain financial independence. Beauty became very purposeful.
Fast forward to the mid-80’s and women finally start flexing their business muscles like never before. But not without struggle. Do Baby Boom and Murphy Brown ring any bells? It’s no coincidence that women felt comfortable pushing for and celebrating this new-found sense of economic and social power in the world that had been such a source of success before: beauty.
I believe that this desire to venerate models hasn’t repeated itself to such an extreme because women are more economically, politically and socially powerful than ever before. We no longer need the world of beauty to channel or come to terms with this sense of liberation. Instead we have so many other types of role models from a whole slew of new spheres to look up to.