My older daughter has been bugging me to take a look at Lifetime's new show, How to Look Good Naked, and last night I finally did. The idea is that any woman can look good naked if she Loves Her Body. It stars Carson Kressley, one of the Fab Five from the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy show of a few years back, and (in each episode) a woman who is unhappy with her body. Like all reality shows, it's based on the premise of quick transformation, only in this case it's not through diet, overexercising, or self-hatred.
In this show, the path to loving your body does include some high-end clothes, a proper bra fitting, and spa time. But it also pays at least lip service to the idea of taking a good look at your body and learning to love what you see, regardless of how you do or don't conform to cultural beauty norms. It's an appealing premise, though I do have to wonder why women require the services of a gay man to appreciate our boobs, thighs, and butts.
Carson Kressley is, as my daughter says, adorable, and much of the dramatic tension of the show comes from the cognitive dissonance of watching a perfectly toned, tweezed, and tucked-in gay man not flinch at the sight of a fat woman in underwear. And the whole show takes on the unfortunate feeling of a scavenger hunt at the end, when Kressley persuades the somewhat-transformed woman to pose naked for the camera. It feels a bit like a frat dare of epic proportions, and I couldn't help wanting the woman to say "No way!"
But even dressed up in TV sham and tinsel, the show has a little nut of true feeling at its core. When Layla, the subject of the first show, talks about how her mother put her on a diet for the first time at age 12, she wipes away tears—who can't relate to that? When she's asked to place herself in a lineup of women in their underwear, arranged by hip size, she vastly overrates the size of her own hips--and who can't relate to that? It's a clever way to illustrate the concept of how differently we look to others and to ourselves. Mostly, the pleasure that shines on her face when she looks at herself in the mirror at the end of the show, coiffed, well-dressed, and most important closer to accepting her body and herself--that's a genuine moment, no matter how fake the trappings.
Of course, the rest of us have to get there without the help of Carson Kressley or thousand-dollar outfits or highlights. We have to look in the mirror and find a way to say, "I'm beautiful just the way I am." Maybe this show will inspire us to at least give it a try.
I'm going upstairs to do that right now.