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Ending the Myth

8 comments | February 22nd, 2012

(story by Carre Otis, a Chestist, and author of Beauty Disrupted)

Motherhood has brought me many joys and insights, but the new perspective it granted me on the role I had inadvertently played in young women’s lives for the 2 decades I spent in the modeling industry was downright sobering.

Although everyone who works in the industry senses how discriminating it can be — against size, against age and against so much more — I had given very little thought to the ways in which I had personally been part of the problem. Once it did occur to me; though, I knew I had to be part of the solution.

I was essentially paid to perpetuate the myth that we are all, or should at least try to be, 17 and a size 2 forever.

For those of us who are older than 17, that means trying to turn back the hands of time… and for those of us who are younger, it means trying to accelerate time — literally growing up before our time. As a young model I was placed in impossibly adult situations and asked to play ‘sexy’ not just for the camera and for those reading the magazines in which my image appeared, but very often for the people in the business who were perpetuating the fantasy. Not only was that utterly inappropriate, but over time it led to a separation of self.

For many, many years I cultivated the ‘performer’ in me — someone who could project the provocative images others apparently wanted to see, while I sublimated the vulnerable, sensitive and real Carré — in some ways actually stunting my sexual maturity. I had to assume this role of performer just to exist in the workplace I somehow found myself in — to get by day-to-day. It robbed me of real pleasures and the kinds of deepened relationships that unfold when sexual growth is allowed to occur in its own time.

We can see that young models are still being ‘used’ in just the same way today and that this fabricated sexuality sells as effectively as ever, if not more so. We are living in the age of Toddlers and Tiaras. In an age when young girls are often encouraged to emulate prostitutes. Girls are being sexualized even earlier now than they were in my generation.

In my mind this is reckless. And it is dangerous. Not only are we putting minors in inappropriate roles, but we are sending a confusing and dangerous message to our youth everywhere — to our sons as well as to our daughters. Eating disorders, body dysmorphia and a general dissatisfaction with one’s life and body seems to ail too many young people. I don’t believe for a minute that most parents are willing to abandon their kids to this troubling and, it seems to me, worsening problem.

I know that I’m not, which is why I’ve owned up to my past, and have written about it honestly in my memoir Beauty, Disrupted. My daughters may be pained by aspects of how I spent my youth when they are old enough to read about it, but I do hope that they will know that I told my story to help end a myth that they — and all of our children — shouldn’t have to live by. That I wanted to help unravel the thread of dysfunction that I had a hand in sewing. {end}

About the author: Carré Otis has long been one of the most recognizable faces in modeling, headlining in campaigns for Guess, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, and Revlon. As a supermodel, Carré has appeared on the covers of Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan. She’s worked with many of the world’s greatest fashion photographers, including Richard Avedon, Herb Ritts, Helmut Newton, and Peter Lindbergh.  In her book Beauty Disrupted: A Memoir Carré shares her unique insight into the business of beauty and the high price it demands by giving an honest account of her struggle with love, identity and spirituality.  Now a wife and busy mother of two she’s found a new voice as a passionate advocate for young women in and out of the modeling industry.

(Story illustration via Tumblr)

8 comments

  • Candace H.

    Posted on February 22, 2012

    Good for you for realizing that the past wasn’t what you wanted the future to be!

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  • Maura

    Posted on February 22, 2012

    What I do not understand is just who it is that gets to decide and create “the myth that we are all, or should at least try to be, 17 and a size 2 forever.”

    Really, who are these people and why is this the ideal they think they should sell and we should buy? Do they not realize what this myth is doing to people?

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    • Holly P.

      Posted on February 22, 2012

      IMO, beauty standards in our country are set by not a lot of people, a lot of who are men. These are the editors of magazines, the CEO’s of companies, fashion designers, and the Directors of Movies and Music videos. Look at how many women are involved in these decisions and maybe we can all understand why what we consider ‘pretty’ usually looks the same.

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  • MCS

    Posted on February 22, 2012

    Owning up to our past, owning our present – is all any of us can do. Ever.

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  • Repulsed

    Posted on February 22, 2012

    I am so repulsed by the sexualization of little girls. We’re turning every 4 and 5 yearold into Lolita’s. Who thinks this is a good idea or appropriate?

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    • OOC

      Posted on February 23, 2012

      We’ve got no answer to your question, Repulsed other than the obvious – the folks who are making and selling the stuff, and some amongst us who buy it despite how it’s being marketed. Pretty crazy, right?!

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  • Lady Hi

    Posted on February 23, 2012

    Carre, I think your daughters will love and respect you for your honesty and for realizing that you wanted to see things be another way.

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