Glamour magazine showed a group of men these two images – Cabanel’s original “The Birth of Venus” on the left and artist Anna Giordano’s “photoshopped” version on the right – and asked them which one they found sexier. The vast majority picked the one on the left. They didn’t survey women but I’m guessing the majority would have picked the one on the right. Check out the rest of Giordano’s comparisons on her site – it’s fascinating!
What makes someone sexy, exactly? According to beer commercials, sexy is in the eye of the beholder — a strange mix of comparison and desperation that says way more about the mind of the person ogling than the body of the one being ogled. But if you read lady mags, sexy is an inner confidence or state of mind almost completely unrelated to your physical appearance. Clothiers everywhere would like us to believe that sexy is the sum of our accoutrements and can be manipulated at will with just the right slimming panel or accessory. Or perhaps sexy is a quantifiable asset defined by the possession of certain traits like youth, big boobs, a small waist and long flowing hair, like researchers, frat boys and perfume ads insist.
I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that the moment when someone sticks a camera 6 inches from your face and directs you to “be sexy” is the wrong time to try and figure that out. Which is probably how I ended up spelling “sexy” a-w-k-w-a-r-d.
When super talented photog Michael Novak from Inventive Media (who just got back from videoing the DNC – you have him to thank for all those gorgeous close-ups of Michelle Obama!) and super talented choreographer Jennie Berglund asked me to be a dancer in their video, I jumped on it. Hair, makeup, lights, wardrobe, sound stage, fog machines, wind machine, blotting papers, big cameras on cranes, tiny cameras on wheels, medium hand-held cameras: It was a once in a lifetime experience. I had a riot.
The video shoot was for a commercial spot that Michael is doing for the 25th anniversary of a cable TV station but after we filmed that part we got to just let loose and have fun dancing for the cameras. Michael put it together in a music video of sorts and for a girl who filmed her last video under the stairs at the Y, it was like watching aliens on another planet.
(If you are reading this on your phone, iPad or mobile device the video won’t play due to copyright restrictions. But you can watch in on your computer! Sorry for the inconvenience, I don’t make the rules…)
I learned a lot. First, dancing is a heck of a workout. We danced for hours and I was as sweat-soaked as if I had been doing Tabata drills. (I also had to do a toe-touch and wolf jump in every take, plus a front walkover into the splits so that amped up the sweat factor as well. And those lights are HOT.) Second, a lot of work goes into making professional videos. Like, a lot a lot. I had no idea before that every time the camera changes angles in a movie it’s a different shot which everyone had to act, film and then someone had to splice together like a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. (And now that I saw it, I can’t un-see it — my husband and I saw The Bourne Legacy last night and I spent half the movie counting takes. It boggles!) Third, I’m just not sexy. Case in point:
One of these things is not like the others… I made my “sexy face” for a friend the other day and he literally said “never do that again!!”
I’m not trying to rag on myself – not at all – it’s more of an observation. I can be cute, spunky, quirky and cheery but the sexy-sex stuff just isn’t in my DNA. I first started to figure that out in high school when the only type of dancing I could do was either the infamous circle dance (ah middle school!) or skank with the dudes (remember when skanking was actually a dance and not a derogatory term for a girl?). In college my friend pointed it out to me while also teaching me the art of the back-handed compliment. And so when Michael told me he needed more, I wasn’t surprised. I compensated by flipping my hair around a lot. (Sexy = hair tornado, thank you White Snake!) Which is probably the reason you only see my face once in the video.
Why I am this way, I don’t know. Maybe deep down I’m a prude and afraid of expressing any sexuality. Maybe being sexy feels too out-of-control for this control freak girl. Maybe I’m scared of being sexy after being sexually abused. (Man, it never gets easier writing that.) Besides, being a modern enlightened woman, aren’t I supposed to be above all this?? But honestly I think it’s because I’m afraid of the risk. What if I really try hard to be sexy and I’m still not? In a society that values sex appeal as much as ours does, that can feel like a pretty hefty fail. Especially for someone with already shaky self-confidence. So I try to take myself out of the game, tell myself that I don’t really want to be seen that way anyhow. And sometimes I believe it.
In the end, when it came to the video it turns out it didn’t matter. All my nerves were for naught. Michael found a way to use the strengths of each of us and blend them together in a way that was really fun. I’ve watched this video like 50 times this weekend and every time I get more proud of each girl. Whether they were in the hallway hyperventilating about their solo (like me) or just fighting to keep it together after dancing for hours (we filmed the solo pieces last), each of us brought something really different and special. And the more I watch it, the more I see the joy and beauty in each of my friends and the less I see the awkwardness in me. (It helps that he didn’t use the take where I fell flat on my butt!) In fact, that move in the splits? I feel downright graceful. And grateful – both for the opportunity to do something so insanely fun and for friends who see beauty in me, even when I can’t.
What about you – do you have a hard time being sexy or does it come naturally to you? How do you define sexy for yourself? Looking at the two Venuses above, tell me honestly – which one do you prefer?
PS. If you are trying to figure out which one I am in the video, there are two long-haired brunettes. If she has tight abs, a gorgeous smile and even makes the running man look sexy (no seriously, she does the running man. And it looks HAWT.) then that’s my supermodel friend Serena. If she’s doing any kind of stunt or in the very back, that’s me.