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.