An archive special this week from 2003. I stumbled across this one by chance the other day and it struck me that it exactly addresses what I’ve been feeling looking at those pictures of Elle McPherson at the school gates.
They are just paparazzi shots, but some of them – the one in the snow particularly – could go straight into US Vogue. It’s had me thinking again about the otherness of true beauty.
And I’ve illustrated it with the amazing Natalia Vodianova (who I consider the most beautiful woman on earth) because her life so illustrates the transformative power of beauty. She was selling vegetables in a Russian market when she was discovered…
I do wonder if it as potent a life-changing quality in men. I’d love to have the opportunity to ask Andres Velencoso Segura… My favourite male model.
I was leafing listlessly through a fashion magazine today, thinking yadda yadda yadda, seen it all before, when one picture stopped me in my campaign weary tracks.
It wasn’t a particularly startling fashion photograph, but then I’ve been looking at fashion pictures for so many years – first as a consumer, then as a magazine editor and latterly as homework – that I find I am less often transported by them than I used to be. I don’t know whether it’s fashion, fashion photography, or me (most likely), but find I am rarely moved to linger and sigh these days. But something really struck me about this shot. It was the extraordinary beauty of the models.
Now that’s a pretty dumb thing to say – all models are gorgeous, or they wouldn’t, er, be models – and it is a fashion photographer’s job to render that beauty on the page. But somehow, this picture seemed particularly to showcase the amazing slender legs, willowy torsos and satiny skin of the two girls. And it made me wonder – what would it be like to be that beautiful?
Theirs was not the kind of fairy floss allure that is spun together by lighting, stylists, make up artists and a certain shutter speed, as is the case with many models. A lot of them are quite wan and plain in real life, their beauty springing forth only when pinioned, like a specimen butterfly, by the camera lens.
You could tell from the picture that these are the kind of girls who are even better in the flesh, who make people’s mouths drop open as they walk down the street. The full girl from Ipamena effect.
It put me in mind of something I once read about the supreme fashion photographer Richard Avedon – whose pictures still make me sigh. He had a sister of extraordinary beauty and he wrote of her: ‘My sister’s beauty was the event of my family.’
Isn’t that good? The ‘event’. I love the way it evokes the impact of amazing beauty, its power to change lives. Because I really think to be as beautiful as the models in that picture – not pretty, not cute, not sexy, but beautiful – must be to inhabit a different world from the rest of us.
I had an inkling of this years ago, when I had one very beautiful friend, who did ultimately become a model herself. We were students doing the same summer job and although we were exactly two weeks apart in age – she the slightly older – the manager of the restaurant where we were working put her on the higher wage scale, because she was ‘nearly’ 19.
When I protested that I was nearly 19 too, only two weeks less nearly than her, he sent me packing. He had smiled the little bit of extra fortune he had to bestow on her simply because she was beautiful. He wasn’t a sleaze bag, he wasn’t trying to crack on to her, but seeing her walking into his office had no doubt made his day, in a way which my entrance had not. I fumed at the time, just as I fumed when every guy I fancied lusted after her and ignored me, but now I understand it.
Beauty has such currency. I know I have given jobs to people mainly because they were beautiful. Having them around cheered up the office and enhanced the image of the magazine when we were out and about. It’s horrible, but it’s true, and that’s why I think to be seriously beautiful must be to exist on a kind of moving walkway of life, with everything made just that little bit easier for you.
Of course there is that thing that beautiful people complain of, when they want to be loved for their minds and not their silken thighs (ha!). But on the whole, I think life must be transformed by beauty in ways we normal people can barely understand.
No wonder we are all so obsessed with it.
Now tell me, who are your current, living Most Beautifuls?