viernes, 30 de noviembre de 2012

Las perversidades del precio de la belleza

The Skin Trade by Chloe Schama

Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model

by Ashley Mears

WHAT DOES IT take to succeed in an intensely competitive, cutting-edge industry? You need to show ambition, clearly, while never exuding unbecoming eagerness. For the right kind of exposure, you may have to work for free—even go into debt. You need to be calculating with your acquaintances, but avoid close connections with possible competitors. Above all, you need to stay beholden to the unlikely dream of success and the rare moments of magic, building calluses and erecting blinders to the unpleasant and grueling realities.
Such self-steeling is required for a career in any number of creative fields: journalism, novel-writing, acting, design, singing, dancing. But the world in which such demands come into perhaps the sharpest relief is that of the fashion model. The modeling world, with increased intensity in recent decades, has become one of freakish and outsized expectations—professionally and physically. Look no further than the apex of the industry, the high-end catwalk model, for the starkest example: she is often a size 00, with a waist that compares to a seven-year-old girl’s. For all the beauty it regularly displays, there is something deeply twisted about this industry. In her new book, the former-model and current professor of sociology Ashley Mears untangles just how crazy the fashion industry can be.
The physical requirements for the high-end model, while upsetting and grotesque, are not exactly unfamiliar. As an agent half-joked to Mears at the outset of her teenage modeling career: “Anorexia is inthis season.” The quotation is from a decade ago, but it is safe to say that skinniness is still the thing. Everyone from Naomi Wolf to Naomi Campbell has debated the meaning and implications of size-zero, primarily white beauty. In 2006, Spain banned ultra-thin models from participating in catwalk shows. When theNew York Public Library held a panel discussion titled “Out of Fashion: The Absence of Color” in 2007, it sold out.
But what is surprising, and what Mears does an excellent job underlining, are the truly baffling elements of the industry. For one, modeling, for the vast majority, is not a lucrative career; it is barely a sustainable one. This is in part because of the explosion of the industry over the past two decades—an increase in supply without a real increase in demand. The internet has allowed scouts to multiply and coordinate their efforts internationally; there are now more models than ever scouted abroad and brought to the United States and Europe. To accommodate the number of non-American models, a House bill proposed a special visa, so that models would not have to compete with other specialty workers like engineers. Fashion-oriented reality television has advertised the industry, promoting an anyone-can-enter and anyone-can-win ethos. (As long as you’re as fierce as Tyra Banks tells you to be.)
The greater supply of models has prompted a contraction in rates—even for high-end work—to shockingly low levels. The average magazine shoot, for example, pays about $100 a day. For appearing on the cover of Vogue a model gets an additional $300. “Many magazines,” writes Mears, “pay nothing at all, though lunch and snacks are often provided.” (I’m guessing that most models don’t gain real compensation through snacking.) Payment for walking in a Fashion Week show in London (where rates, admittedly, are lower than in other cities) is $500. The median income across America in 2009 for a model was $27,330—income that includes no benefits.
Owing to this dynamic, in which desired work is poorly paid, “successful” models are often the most impoverished. Models can actually go into debt through working if their agency fronts the cost of start-up expenses, like photos and transportation. In the less prestigious world of catalog or showroom work, models actually make a living—and keep their agencies afloat. At the New York agency that represented Mears, “the highest consecutive earner, year after year,” she writes, “is a showroom model who has the precise size 8 body needed to fit clothing for a major American retailer.” The model charged $500 per hour; she was, at the time of Mears’s research, 52 years old. Though such “money girls” supply the bulk of an agency’s income, they are considered a drag—workhorses who don’t do much to burnish an agency’s prestige. The golden ring for both models and agencies is a high-end campaign—for a fragrance (which pays, on average, about $100,000) or some other luxury good. This type of job makes money and preserves stature.
Such are the twisted hierarchies that rule the economics of the modeling industry: good work is poorly paid, well-paid work is ignoble. Additional contradictions abound. Bookers want their models to have a good personality, but a cookie-cutter cheeriness is frowned upon. Models should be young, to avoid seeming like the-next-best-thing-that-never-was, but experience is an undeniable asset. Eighteen of the twenty women interviewed for the book—in addition to the author herself—consistently lied about their ages to potential clients. Non-white models face many more obstacles than white models in obtaining representation and booking jobs, due to an entrenched racism that permeates the industry. “Black girls have a harder-edge kind of look,” says one magazine editor, explaining her aversion to what Mears calls “urban roughness.” A booker claims to Mears that “a lot of very beautiful black girls are moved out by their noses.” If they are too wide, the booker, explains, they do not photograph well. And yet a hint of color can be a priceless asset, the ambiguous “ethnic” look one of the most coveted. To her credit, Mears doesn’t let this repulsiveness go. “What matters is not the truth or falsehood of physical differences between white and non-white women but, rather, bookers’ presumption that such differences are unattractive and problematic.” Hear hear, but shouldn’t such a sentiment be front and center rather than indirect and buried?
Perhaps the most central question underlying the book—the question of success, of what makes a good model—is prone to the greatest illogic and shrouded by the most impermeable mystery. A distinct “editorial” look is one that, in Mears’s words sits “on the border between beautiful and ugly.” As an agency accountant puts it: “An editorial girl—you’ll see her, she’ll look awful, like my God, what’s that?” Sufficient height and a decent nose are the two qualities that scouts look for first, but there are innumerable other factors—an abundance of rules, but no clear path to success. “There is no authority … to organize the competition or declare the winner,” writes Mears. And yet Mears contends that “in fact, you can explain it.” In this respect, her book satisfies. Mears catalogues the perversities and picks apart the underlying drivers of the industry: marketing, timing, networks.
But what Mears doesn’t do—at least to a degree that appeased me—is indict, accuse, and generally shout about the grotesqueries of the industry. It’s not just that the ideal form of the industry is unattainable. Paradigmatic figures in many creative or athletic industries embody physical states far beyond the commonplace, and there is much to celebrate in the physical investment that, for example, ballerinas or sumo wrestlers make. Modeling, however, is not an art or a sport. It is an industry—inspired by artistic ideals, but driven by commerce—where pay is low, prestige is elusive, super-skinny is always in, and the workers are young and inexperienced. It is an industry that valorizes women who starve themselves, excusing it by citing designers who desire a “hanger look”—flat canvases for their clothes—and tolerates casual racism that sidelines models with any color to their skin.
It is not Mears’s mission to pick a feminist fight or to argue strenuously against “laissez-faire racism.” In ably laying out the evidence, she provides a valuable service, while, I assume, preserving the greatest degree of academic credibility. (This is a book published by a young professor and a university press.) But whenever her prose gains a little heat, the subject is her own experience. Her own foibles are well-related, but it is the in the industry’s foibles—the darker ones, such as its unhealthy obsessions and its racial prejudices—that the true perversions lie.
Chloë Schama is Deputy Editor of The New Republic

jueves, 21 de junio de 2012

El Poder de la Palabra escrita, reportajes de Vietnam

Hola de regreso por aquí, hoy hablaremos de los que mas me gusta(lo siento no es comida) sobre libros, hace un año me había comprado “Reporting Vietnam, american Journalism 1959-1975”, son los mejores reportajes escritos para prensa y revistas norteamericanas durante la guerra inmoral de Vietnam, cuando escribo inmoral lo hago no desde una posición de apoyo al gobierno de Ho Chi Ming ni mucho menos al gobierno de los tres presidentes norteamericanos que tuvieron que lidiar con este conflicto, lo digo porque de ambos lados actuaron de manera inmoral y atroz contra la población civil, pero podríamos decir que todos las guerras son inmorales y no existe una guerra justa como algunos por ahí quisieran pensar, en una guerra todos perdemos.

En este libro se pueden leer las vivencias de los periodistas en las selvas de Vietnam del norte, en la calles de Saigon o en la oficinas de Washington, hasta ahora voy por el año 1966, cuando la guerra comienza su escala de bombardeos y llegan mas tropas de apoyo, bien podría leerlo abriendo al azar pero he decidido leerlo en sentido cronológico para comprender un poco mejor como se fue desarrollando la guerra. Los pocos artículos que he leído me han dejado estupefacto por el nivel de violencia de parte de los dos contendientes, ya desde principios de los años 60 se miraba que la guerra en el campo se podía ganar pero que en Estados Unidos la guerra se había perdido y en Vietnam del Sur supieron aprovecharlo.

Algunos artículos que han dejado su huella son:

We are Losing, Morale is Bad…If they’d give us good planes, es una serie de cartas personales del capitán de la fuerza aérea “Jerry Shank”, escribía casi a diario y dejo una buena cantidad de vivencias como piloto de guerra. Critica fuertemente la falta de apoyo logístico y armamento moderno, volaban aviones chatarra de la segunda guerra mundial que habían quedado. Se puede sentir en sus cartas la soledad y la frustración por la falta de apoyo en Estados Unidos. El Capitan Jerry murió en combate en marzo 24 de 1967.

La Caida de la casa de Ngo Diem, en este artículo se relata como fue el golpe de estado al presidente Jean-Baptiste Ngo Dinh Diem de Vietnam del Sur, a este articulo le quedaría mejor el titulo de”Una crónica de una muerte anunciada”. Ngo Dinh Diem era católico, la cual era una religión minoritaria en Vietnam y oprimía a la mayoría Budista que predominaba en todo el país, sumándole los arrestos contra disidentes y todos aquellos que hablaran en contra del gobierno o denunciaran los abusos de poder de su hermano Nhu. Lo mas interesante es como el gobierno de Estados Unidos sabia sobre los intentos de golpes y presto su apoyo a la junta que dirigió el golpe que terminaría con su vida y la de su hermano.

He was sitting in the center of a Column of flame: Esta es la crónica de Malcom W. Browne sobre el suicidio del monje budista Thich Quang Duc, quien se convertiría en el primer santo budista vietnamita, la escena de la protesta y la descripción del suicidio de ponen los pelos de punta.

Hay muchas mas pero no quiero aburrirlos, el libro es una edición condenzada de dos volúmenes publicados por la editorial The library of America, me decidi por esta edicion de bolsillo por lo fácil de manejarla ya que es en pasta suave y son una 700 paginas de las mejores crónicas sobre esta guerra,el libro es un buen ejemplo del poder de la palabra escrita, me muero de ganas por saltarme hasta la caída de Saigon o al dedicado a la experiencia del soldado negro en Vietnam o leer los articulos de Bernard B. Fall,  Michael Herr, Norman Mailer, Hunter S. Thompson o Phillip Caputo, pero como bien decía Santa Teresa la paciencia todo lo alcanza y lo mejor esta para el final.

Saludos y buenas lecturas.

sábado, 26 de mayo de 2012

El Gran Gatsby y The Roaring Twenties

Bueno el Gran Gatsby se acerca,otra adaptación al cine de la novela de F.Scott Fitzgerald,ahora veremos  la versión muy personal de la mano de Baz Luhrmann el director de Moulin Rouge y de la versión moderna de Romeo y Julieta, sino recuerdan esta ultima, pues bien por ustedes porque los que si tuvimos que sentarnos en el cine fue una muy mala experiencia. Pero bueno regresemos con el Great Gatsby, hasta ahora como todo trailer se mira demasiada colorida pero interesante, la novela de Fitzgerald no la he leído y a diferencia de otras adaptaciones que me hacen correr a buscar la versión en papel antes de ver la versión en celuloide con esta la dejaremos pasar, lo que si me llama la atención son el momento histórico en que esta ambientada la novela y la película, los años 20 o como dicen en ingles The Roaring Twenties, momentos de prosperidad económica en Estados Unidos por conseguir una hegemonía mundial después de la Primera Guerra Mundial, su acero, sus armas, su carbon fueron el combustible que movió los ejes de la guerra a favor de los Aliados, pero el cambio cultural que se vivió en esta época no solo fue algo exclusivo de las grandes ciudades de Estados Unidos, también Paris y Londres tuvieron su parte en el pastes de los Años Locos y por esto o me consigo un libro sobre este periodo o me quedo con lo que mire en la pelicula,

Aquí un avance, que como ya habíamos mencionado es algo colorido.