Linda Evangelista’s cruel paradox of fate

The answer lies in how much our society invests in removing violence from the culture of beauty. We ignore the possible side effects, pain and distortions of cosmetic surgery. Despite discussions about body positivity and diversity, we are still doing little to address our national obsession with slimming and dieting, with the youth, with the polishing of our human skin down to the softness of glass.

Five minutes at Sephora is all you need to understand the growing categories of things we can do to “improve” our bodies. There is no part too small to be watched, controlled, beautified, augmented or removed entirely, from the eyelashes (extend) to the lips (swell) to the hairs (remove) to the pores (reduce) to the eyebrows (reduce, but also improve) and so on, through nails, hair, teeth, endlessly.

Some of these body modifications are, I admit, fun and interesting, and I do not pretend to live outside my own society: I enjoy and feel obligated to perform certain beauty rituals, which have changed over time, in getting older. It is simply impossible not to internalize some of these overwhelming demands.

But that is precisely why Ms. Evangelista’s trial is so surprising and important: it actually reveals the processes that we are meant to disappear or disown. Not only did this mishap forced her to admit that, yes, a woman in her fifties would need “help” to appear as slim as a 25-year-old model, she also spectacularly demonstrated, if not executed, l internalization of the culture of artificial beauty.

The “paradoxical” fatty deposits that she cites in her costume are not the crucial paradox here. The real paradox is that middle-aged women should look 30 years younger than they are. Movies and magazines filled with 50 and even 60 year olds with incredibly smooth skin, pilatized and botoxed and wearing hair extensions. These are living paradoxes but presented without comment or explanation. The paradox is that a world obsessed with the hyper-visibility of women can send them so quickly into invisibility, into exile, if they do not respect certain diktats.

And then there is this detail, once again worthy of the Greek myth: According to the trial of Ms. Evangelista and others who have suffered from the side effects of PAH, those stubborn fatty deposits that swell under their skin do not look like to normal flesh. Instead, they look like solid, long rectangular bars – which in fact perfectly mimic the shape of the hand-held CoolSculpting wand, the device that is passed over the flesh to “freeze” the fat.

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About Gail Mena

Gail Mena

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