Without further ado, here's the second half of our interview with the fabulous Velvet D'Amour. (You can read Part I here, in case you missed us yesterday.)
What are your thoughts on the model health debate today, nearly two years after your walk down the runway for Gaultier?
Often, the focus tends to be entirely on the external. Granted, modeling is about the physical, but all the media tends to focus on as a general rule when it comes to model’s health is how 'thin' a model may appear. There are women who are prone to being thin, just as there are women who are prone to being fat. That is not to negate the reality that anorexia and bulimia exist amongst both models and society at large.
Anorexia is a disorder primarily associated with adolescence (and also has links to not wanting to grow up), so by employing such young women, virtually children (even 13 year olds in some cases!), then one may expect to witness these disorders more closely associated with the fashion industry, which selects models from the group most commonly affected by the disorder. Naomi Campbell was just 15 years old when she got her start. What needs to be asked is not only why the beauty ideal at present insists upon such thin extremes, but also why we are using children to market to women? And how this too adds to a feeling of inadequacy in how people feel about their looks.
Media does the same when it comes to plus-size people. The general reason one gets as to why there is not more representation of curvier folks within modern media is that inclusion would be equivalent to acceptance, and acceptance would then equal condoning, which would mean they support alleged ill health. The odd dichotomy is that whilst people like myself are banned due to the purported notion we will somehow 'promote' being unhealthy, we are besieged with media saturated with imagery of Britney Spears, Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton, Kate Moss and Lindsay Lohan. How these women represent good health is somewhat beyond me. Not that I look to discredit or demean them, it's merely impossible for me to wrap my head around the media’s indisputable hypocrisy.
People may look at me and deem me 'unhealthy' at first sight, yet were I to ask you, 'Is every thin person healthy?', you would scoff at such a frivolous notion. You can't tell by looking at me that I do not smoke and I never have, I do not drink alcohol and I never have, and I do not take recreational drugs and I never have--just as you can’t tell by looking at a thin person that they may do all of the above. So I reject the judgment of perceived health, and frankly find it patronizing, as more often than not, merely by virtue of size, I am expected to disclose my health to the majority of TV and radio interviewers. Though personally, I wouldn’t dream of asking them to drop down and give me 50 push-ups or casually make public their personal health history to me, a total stranger.
What is almost completely ignored in my opinion, is mental health. The current beauty standard is so inaccessible that the vast majority of Western society is displeased with their looks to the extent they reach to extreme measures to attempt to fit in, or feel better about themselves. There was a program I saw, I believe it was entitled The Swan or something like that, where each 'unattractive' contestant went through a process of having their teeth bleached white and having liposuction, and all of them across the board seemed to need breast implants. What is sad about this cookie cutter approach to beauty is that the individual is lost amongst the commonality. Each and every person has a beauty unique unto them. The more one comes to accept oneself, the better she/he is able to revel in her/his own unique beauty! When we start to address this in fashion, then we, as a society, can begin to feel better about ourselves and celebrate our perceived imperfections, versus eradicating them in attempts to adhere to the modern beauty standard, which seems more and more narrow, less and less accessible.
[P]eople's rejection of their looks drives capitalism. The more people do not accept themselves, the more potions, and lotions, and surgeries etc. they invest in so that they might have the power that is beauty.
The mission of our work is to get fashion and beauty professionals on board with the idea of promoting healthy beauty. How would you define healthy beauty, and what do you think is the industry's biggest obstacle to getting there?
I would define healthy beauty by stealing a quote from Christian Dior: “Zest is the secret of all beauty. There is no beauty that is attractive without zest.” I think we are beginning to see some change afoot as a backlash to mainstream fashion with people like Leslie [Hall], Beth Ditto, and Joy Nash. The birth of You Tube has allowed for people to make personal statements to a much wider audience and this has made for something of a revolution.
The biggest obstacle to the promotion of healthy beauty within the fashion industry is the dependence fashion has on advertising. Since magazines are dependent on the advertisers to exist, this beholds them to adhering to what has become the yawningly boring average--thin, white, tall and young. The reason being is that ads are so costly that they fear taking risks and as such, the vision of beauty is preserved as not only unattainable (to promote the use of the materials being sold) but also staid, since they are afraid to rock the boat and want only what sells.
What are you working on now?
I am always busy with many projects. Last week I modeled in a Renault ad. Yesterday I had a wonderful opportunity to dance in a music video for an up and coming French band, the Scarlet Queens. I was thrilled to be included in their clip Rock N Roll Girl...It's great to have bands bucking the norm, much like the photo shoot I did with the equally cool French band FANCY. I have an upcoming role in a French film featuring Vincent Lagaffe. I continue to both shoot and film plus-size women for my impending website as well as to create original music for videos I am beginning to edit, which feature plus-size women. The French film I starred in, AVIDA, (which went to both the Cannes and Tribeca film festivals), has just come out on DVD in America through Cinema Epoch. Tonight I am off to dinner with Edmond Boubil, the designer of the French plus size-clothing companies Ronde de Nuit and Umberto Monza, to discuss shooting for them. Definitely a busy bee!
Our Interview with Velvet D'Amour Part I