Friday, January 04, 2008

How to get naked on national TV

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.


Anonymous said...

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.

I'd say that one major reason is that gay men have no investment in holding women's bodies to unrealistic standards of beauty, and every reason to see women as human beings deserving of respect. Fat women with gay, male friends know that a gay man's not going to find her more attractive if she's thinner or less attractive if she's fatter. She just is, in a way she can't be around straight men who live with a cultural prohibition against finding fat women attractive (even if they personally do).

mary said...

I'll take common sense from anyone...straight or gay, men or women. My gay friends were never interested in my body, just my sense of humor.
We need to accept ourselves without concern for pleasing someone else and we will naturally be pleasing. I would never choose a partner that wanted me to be thin for him. Those picky/anal guys creep me out.(even though I'm married and they can't have me anyway : ) ) It can work both ways. Some thin women are considered too boyish/thin for some men. Who cares what they think? We need to like ourselves first. If this is what the show teaches then I'd like it. I'm not sure I can watch it (basic cable here) but if I can I will try.
Thanks for sharing!Thank your daughter too.

RaisinCookies said...

This does sound like an interesting show. I hope that the women go on to live happier lives.

...and her mother put her on a diet at 12? For shame.

lijhe said...

I was put on a doctor-approved diet at about the same age. I was 5'6" and 125 lbs.

I've been working on this for the past couple of years. No quick fix for me. However, it *has* worked -- to an extent. I don't loathe the sight of my naked body anymore (as I did twenty years ago when I was many pounds lighter.) I'm working now on preferring it this way. I get flashes of it. Still some work to do though. Partly of which involves learning to make my own clothing -- there is next to nothing cool and stylish in my size that I can afford. And it makes *such* a huge difference in how I perceive myself.

Anonymous said...

I thought this show was really terrific! Many gay men and women (fat and thin) have very strong bonds, when you combine that with Carson being a famous stylist, who used to work on styling straight guys, well, I just can't think of a better person to host, honestly.

Layla called the nude shoot the most empowering thing she ever did, so I'm quite happy for her that she didn't say "No way!" And I couldn't think of anything further from a frat prank, Girls Gone Wild type situation than her photo shoot and the relationship Carson developed with her that inspired her to do it.

If I were a reviewer I'd give this show five stars!