My first recollection of feeling bad about my body was immediately after being crowned Miss Texas. I walked by the judges’ section and a woman named June, who was head of a beauty company, and had just voted for me, told me to work on the beginnings of my cellulite for the upcoming Miss USA contest. Now think about that. I had just won for being supposedly the most beautiful girl in the state of Texas!
My second recollection of feeling bad about my body was when my dress designers for Miss USA told me I should get a boob job and then perhaps I wouldn’t be so modest about my being seen naked in front of them. And then came the photographer who told me to get a nose job, the same nose I had won Miss Texas with.
That was all good training for Hollywood, where you are never good enough. I was told if I wanted to be a star, I had to die my hair blonde, have larger breasts, and become interested in networking (which I hated and still hate). When my very powerful agent told me that all heroines and leading ladies are blonde and busty, I said, “Really? Tell that to Betty Davis and Kate Hepburn”. “Well,” he shot back, “THEY weren’t sexy.” Check mate. Silly me, I thought they were. Not one to be easily swayed, even at 21 years of age, I resisted the advice, not that I wasn’t tempted to take it.
I guess I thought I was okay, until 12 years later when I left the business knowing that if I stayed I would become one of the insecure, desperate and depressed actresses that I met everyday in Hollywood. Now instead of being famous for being a skinny starlet, I help the skinny starlets get their time in the spotlight. I help the bride feel like a princess on her special day. I help prom girls feel the most gorgeous they have ever felt as a young woman. Not a bad thing, even though critics would say I am perpetuating their insecurities by having them believe that they need shapewear.
A brief history of women trying to reconfigure their shape reminds me that the desire to be something more than what we are is not a new phenomenon. The area of the body we seem to believe is the “problem” just changes with fashion. At one time we hated our waist-lines, thus the corset was born. Another is our derriere, in came Spanx. We’ve even from time to time hated our breasts, the roaring 20’s introduced the wrap for the breasts to flatten them so that one could wear flapper dresses.
So why is it men don’t seem to have this problem? They seem to have adjusted quite well to women, sometimes making better salaries than they. I wonder often if Hillary Clinton would squeeze herself to appear on TV. She did after all stand by her man in the face of public humiliation. But are we victims or volunteers? I ask myself this question often as a shapewear designer. Am I perpetuating the self -loathing that leads to bad self-image? At the end of the day I think it’s a bit of both. I believe after much critical analysis (having been a psychotherapist), that I offer more help than harm. I help women look better in their clothes, which makes them feel better, more confident, more secure, but I have not yet met a woman naked in a dressing room who’s first words to me are not “I’m on a diet.” So my advice would be that we should stop criticizing ourselves when people tell us we look good. After all, isn’t it rude not to accept a compliment?
Written by Amanda Kennedy, Sassybax
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