Friday, November 18, 2011


While channel surfing last night, I came across the soul singer, Trey Songz performing an unplugged session to an intimate MTV audience. It surprised me to witness the heartfelt enthusiasm of his fans, the camera even managed to catch one girl wiping a tear away from her cheek. It was not long until Trey held out his hand to a young girl in the front row and led her to a barstool onstage. He traced his fingers across her back and kissed her forehead seductively: "Can I sing to you? Can I sing to her?" He encircled her as the introductory chords of Kings of Leon's Use Somebody rang out. He leaned in close to her, caressing her cheek and touching her hair, inching closer to her trembling lips. I watched, absolutely agape.

It could well have represented a lyrical manifestation of the song itself. This nameless girl with the long black hair and yellow top could have been the somebody Trey was referring to. After all, the song did not necessarily suggest that you had to know a person before you could use them. More than that, this demonstration played up that incredibly potent adolescent fantasy of the female fan kissing her musical idol. It was suggested that they would kiss, in the manner he held up her chin and gently pressed the tip of his nose to hers. In spite of her embarrassment, it was apparent that she so desperately wanted this dream to be realised. However, the promised kiss was left unshared. As the song ended, Trey asked her name and led her back to her seat in the front row.

In an interview immediately following the clip, Trey described an instance where he did actually kiss that one lucky girl, that one random fan pulled from the audience. It was in Los Angeles and Trey's drummer insisted that he needed more, whatever that means. He spoke of his routine coyly. There was this unspoken acknowledgement that it was very much a performance, a fantasy. While he managed to claim responsibility for the manner in which he exploited his sexual appeal in live performances, I couldn't help but feel a bit dirty about the whole encounter. It forced me to recall similar routines of rock and roll intimacy: a highly energetic girl leaping onto Morrissey, throwing her legs around his waist; Bruce Springteen inviting Courtney Cox on stage to dance; Bono leaping over barricades at Live Aid, rushing to embrace a crying fan.

Yet, in spite of Trey's admission, I still find myself reflecting upon the effect of that performance. How its appeal is grounded within the promise of an impossible interaction, the chance that in a sea of tens of thousands of fans, he could see something in me. In spite of the sensual nature of its choreography, I cannot help but think of it as a relatively non-confrontational gesture in the eyes of the sexually inexperienced adolescent female. It is almost as if the kiss were at the absolute periphery of physical interaction. On a subconscious level, she would neither be affronted with the fear, pressure or gravity of actually having sex. It would just be a moment of pure cinematic romance, the last few seconds of a film before it fades to black. Despite every aspect of its contrived choreography, every empty glance, every insincere touch, I cannot help but think: "My god, I would have died."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Hip Tilt

I wasn't allowed to start a fashion folio, not until I had finished my Year 12 exams. My desire to pursue something fashionable, something artistic failed to impress my parents, but at this stage of the game, I could hardly care less. As my school friends got wasted, I bought a spiral-bound book with a translucent purple cover and I started to sketch girls, inspired by the pasted scraps of glossy paper ripped from fashion magazines. I started my first fashion folio, I started to imagine who I could be.

The girls I sketched were gruff, yet willowy, with side fringes and fashionably asymmetric garments. I drew awkward, couture dresses and near pointless white-singlet-indigo-jean combinations. All the while, I would pay careful attention to the female form. I ensured that each girl posed differently, with a head tilt or a fist clenched. There was always a cohesiveness about it, the eyes were always flat black lines, hooded to disguise any realistic demeanour. Their bodies were always stretched out and slimmed down to avoid any hint of a hip.

When I was meant to be studying for Criminal Law, I sketched furiously. I presented my initial efforts to my supportive best friend. After examining the drawings closely, she cried out: "It's great! You've got the hip tilt and everything!" I had never heard the expression before, but as she went on to explain the physiological significance of the tilt, it was the first time I ever considered that the hips might play some sort of a role in the balance and proportion of the female form.

It would take some time before I would accept the hips. I felt a great deal of reluctance to accept that curve: the exaggerated breasts, the small waist and big hips. I can only imagine this had much to do with those glossy images I poured over. In 2002, no such images were represented in the fashion magazines I collected. Yet I still admit, I wanted to be one of them, I wanted to be straight up and down, like a stick. I thought this was the absolute embodiment of sexiness.

Again and I'm not quite sure how, something changed, something in the public consciousness. I felt there was a greater acknowledgement of different shapes, of pears and apples and an almost universal adulation for the hourglass figure. Lovers raved on and on, insisting of how they unequivocally loved curvy girls, how they perceived hips as handle bars. Not only that, I spied Tyra's team of wannabe Top Models, discussing how they could effectively shape their body, to contort it in a manner that would exaggerate the curve I once so vehemently detested.

I never ended up drawing a girl with big hips. I gave up in 2005, three quarters of the way through my fourth fashion folio. I had presented my sketches, along with my stencil graffiti artwork to a panel of teachers, during an interview for a creative arts certificate. After I was rejected from the course, I could never bring myself to sketch again. It seemed pointless to imagine how I'd ever fare in trousers made of belts or a hoodie made of chainmail, inspired by the Smiths' Bigmouth Strikes Again.

I only recently started sketching again, I started teaching myself vintage fashion illustration from Walter T Foster's instructional book, Fashion Illustration 1920-1950. I love it, even though the girls are even more slender, stretched out and slimmed down. There are no hips, no breasts and only the tiniest waft of a waist. I do it, not to vanquish my own curve, but to embrace that simplicity of line and how it so easily suggests an arcane ideal of the female form.

Monday, April 11, 2011


The idea of bullies in America's Next Top Model is no strange thing. After all, in every cycle, in every model house, there is the hard girl, the cruel girl who stands independent of the others. Like Tiffany (Cycle 4), like Jade (Cycle 6), like Angelea (Cycle 14), the models make oblique references to their past to account for why they bully. Cycle 16 is no different in that Alexandria is immediately cast as the bully. From week to week, she comes across as rude, abrasive and controlling. She tries to direct the photoshoots, to which any ANTM viewer is a well-known cardinal sin. The other housemates often bitch about Alexandria, often insinuating that she needs to be on medication for her mental health. It went as far as Monique reading through her diary. Matters came to a head in the most recent episode of ANTM when it became apparent that it was no longer Alexandria who was the bully, but Brittani. Brittani's outburst during a photo-shoot challenge, her hysterical proclamations that "everyone wants you gone" and "you don't deserve to be here" made it clear that the bullied had become the bully.

What do you deserve?

I had such investment in my disdain for Alexandria that I failed to see what was really going on. Brittani, too, felt as if she was entitled to victimise Alexandria as she did. It was only when she was interrogated by Tyra and Nigel Barker at panel that she showed visible signs of remorse and embarrassment. But even through the tears and the panic attack, it was apparent that Brittani did not feel sorry for treating Alexandria as she did. Brittani only felt sorry that she "let (Alexandria) do this to her." It forced a lot of viewers to evaluate and compare the actions of both models and consider whether the bully deserved to be bullied. In spite of my initial dislike for Alexandria, I saw so much cruelty in the behaviour of not only Brittani, but in the whole model house. I saw so much ugliness, so much hypocrisy and I was disappointed to see that other YouTube viewers didn't seem to feel the same way. The majority of the commenters felt as though Brittani's bullying should have been carried out back at the house, far from the eyes and the ears of the clients.

The incident forced me to consider the ongoing battle with the bullies of my past. It all went down more than ten years ago, but I dream about them still. I dream about confronting them and shouting at them. I dream of understanding why they were so cruel and sadistic. I figure that is why it is still so relevant to me, I fail to understand what I could have done to deserve that treatment. At the same time, I am uncertain as to what effect my bitching, my snide comments had on my tormentors. I remember a number of girls who hated me so much that they couldn't even look me in the face. One girl spread a rumour that I had planned to do a "Columbine". Another girl stood with a clipboard outside her party and without looking down, she said I wasn't on the guestlist. I remember that night, but I also remember listening to the other girls talk about her. They speculated why all her hair was falling out. They speculated whether she really had an abortion.

I hated these girls, I really did. It wasn't until Top Model that I'd considered that they might have had a reason to hate me too.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Evil > Slow Hands

I had been drafting letters in my head again. It gets worse when I am left alone at work for hours at a time. I become fixated with certain expressions, obsessed with the idea that I can clarify matters. I become obsessed with the idea that I can clear my name, not my memory. I really wanted to write to him. As time has passed, he has brutalised my character to anyone who cares to listen. He portrays me as a drunkard, a heartless selfish manipulator. His descriptions of me have become more and more malicious as months roll on. I suppose the lack of contact gives him that entitlement to distort the facts. I have done the same thing, the only difference is that I am compelled to pay homage to our friendship. I am compelled to value the ambiguities and the complexities of it, now it can never be restored.

I suppose we can never change how they feel about us, but I desperately desire control of the way I am perceived. I hate that he hates me, that he feels compelled to punish me as he does. I hate how that punishment is indicative of his own pain and suffering and that, because of his mandate on the subject, I am forbidden from contact. It frustrates me immeasurably, as I find more and more people are invited to judge. They are invited to comment and dispel my actions. Yet, I am not granted the right to defend myself. Instead, I exist in the shadows, cloaked in my trade mark trenchcoat, averting their eyeline, weltering in the knowledge that they hate me. They really fucking hate me. But should I even really care? I never even liked him, in any case.

What is peculiar is that one evening, it all felt so different. Instead of obsessing over my endless mental drafts, I spent the night laughing with a work colleague. We spoke of the Medellin drug cartels, maquiladoras, Keith Richards and kittens. It was a remarkable thing, because I remembered what it was to be seen as person, not as a monster. It was a blessed feeling, to have some kind of implied assurance that they would never bully or exclude me as I have been bullied and excluded. Yet, in a completely different way, the evening revealed the true extent of my self-loathing. It revealed how much I anticipate strangers and acquaintances to witness the same breed of evil as he saw in me.

I'll stop. I promise I will. I'll stop with the hating and the mental drafting and my earnest willingness to believe the hype. I can't control much, but I know I can control something. Even if it's cultivating a delusion that the hate isn't as severe as it really is. That somewhere, at some point and some time, he remembers all the laughter and affinity that I do. I hope, that in spite of everything, I will be able to convince myself of that fallacy. I hope that I will be able to live in the comfortable ignorance that he doesn't hate me as much he says he does. Maybe then, each night alone at work won't seem as painful as it ought to be.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Points of Our Boots

We stood, shivering, in the carpark of the Palace in St Kilda. We stood in a circle, so as to protect ourselves from the wind heaving and blowing our fringes out of place. We all looked down at our feet - myself, my boyfriend, his lover and her sister. "Look at our boots..." she cooed. The end of their boots were polished and pointed, so as to add a few extra centimetres to the end of their toes. The end of my boots were rough, square and scuffed. They were cheap and I wish I could have done something to hide them. I could have dropped my rucksack on the ground to obscure the faux-pas, but I didn't have the sense to think of it in time. I just had to stand there while they carried out their examination.

No one said anything about my shoes, but it was a dead giveaway. They must have known I was faking it.