Sunday, September 7, 2008
In my journey’s through this months phone book size fall fashion magazines, I ran across a curious photo spread. Harper’s Bazaar cover girl Tyra Banks is featured in the role of Michelle Obama along with a male model playing Barack Obama, and two girls as the Obama daughters. Now fashion photos are often a bit odd, especially the ones on Ms. Banks’ Top Model, but this one seemed particularly strange. See the photos here.
Why is Tyra Banks playing the role of first lady and not Madame President herself. Fashion photography is all about fantasy anyway, not to mention Hillary Clinton who let us remember was pretty close to being the Democratic nominee for the Presidency. The spread seems especially odd now that Sarah Palin is the Republican candidate for Vice President, which of course Bazaar could not have predicted. It seems odd to have Tyra type cast as Michelle Obama, when the accompanying article focuses on her as a smart business woman: "what's cool about Banks, who now earns an estimated $23 million a year, is that she was never too cool to be commercial. By doing so, she hasn't just broken borders — of ethnicity, of cynicism, of fashion cliché — she has broken ground." The article goes on to note that "Banks has traded in her pretty for something far more compelling: a voice in the culture." Banks talks in the article about her own career, and her efforts to build a career after the runway. The interviewer, Laura Brown, also asked Bank's about the role of the first lady:
"If Banks ever reached the highest office in the land, she would dress the part. 'I'd wear a V-neck shift and a two-inch heel. Even if the president were taller, I would keep them low. Otherwise it gets a little too sexy.'"
Maybe I'm mistaken, but last time I checked first lady wasn't the highest office in the land, I can only hope that this wasn't a Freudian slip on the part of Bazaar, is First Lady the highest office to which women can aspire to in this country? It seems, at least for the next 4 years, first lady, and maybe vice president is all we will get. I also like Tyra's sartorial proscription to show deference to the faux-President. Pantsuits are notably absent from this shift-dress heavy collection of looks (more on this in upcoming posts).
How should our new first lady interpret her role?:
"A modern first lady, if she followed the Tyra prescription, would first smile. (Banks reportedly has a professional arsenal of 275.) 'Oh, I want her to not take herself too seriously,' she says. 'She'd need to know how to take a fierce picture but at the same time be able to eat fried chicken, have grease on her fingers, and be okay with getting photographed like that, too. I'd want her to feel like every child in America is hers — to have a true connection.' Her expression turns serious, then she winks. 'I would also want her to know how to beat her own face. That means do her own makeup. In the end, the first lady should be her man's rock and his boulder and his mountain. And she should be calling about 50 percent of the shots!'"
Only time will tell if the new first lady will follow Tyra's lead, but in the mean time it might have been nice to see Tyra playing the President. How would she dress then? This would certainly have been an instructive spread to women in politics as well as the workplace. Oh well, Harper's missed the boat, but I do appreciate more and more Tyra's style of presentation, while she often sounds like she has more than a few screws loose, she is honest and smart and at least tries to stand for something (even if it is a simple as the fierceness of women of all sizes, shapes, and colors) in this season of political pandering and vague promises. -V.P.