Get your daughters to watch this
When I was nine years old I thought I was a boy. I wore swimming trunks on holiday, had short hair, was of course flat as a board on my chest, and thought absolutely nothing about mucking in with my brother’s friends. I can truthfully say that I didn’t think twice about my body, or how I looked until I was about 12, and my tennis coach mentioned one day that I’d ‘stretched out’. I remember being faintly shocked in the realisation that I must have been a bit tubby and I’d never known it as well as being strangely elated at the compliment.
I was talking to my mum about this the other day and she made the great point that when my brother and I were growing up we were kind of left to get on with it. We were never smothered with ‘aren’t you beautifuls’ the way we all do with our kids these days (mea culpa), never made us think about how we we be perceived physically. We were just allowed to get on with the serious business of playing.
It’s very different for children now. Though I whack my daughter over the head every day with my mantra that you can’t be beautiful outside if you’re not beautiful inside, her life is filled with pouting popstars like Taylor Swift and Arianna Grande and free make up glitter kits with her pink magazines.
She wants to marry Cristiano Ronaldo (chosen from her indepth knowledge of La Liga, the legacy of two football-mad brothers). She wants to be famous – this is important. She wants to be rich – preferably marrying someone who already has it (wahhhhh, I’m melting). And the third thing she wants? She wants to be a model. Even as a sheltered rural-ish 9 year old, she has a view of the power of beauty that I had no idea about at her age.
But of course my sweet, funny, beauty-mad middle Mudlet is far from the only kid with these wafer thin aspirations. Only that they seem to be happening earlier. I was 14 before I too thought I should be a model (clearly when they opened an agency for 5 ft 3 models with greasy hair with braces). I was also convinced that I would marry Boris Becker, if only I could orchestrate bumping into him while I watching him at Wimbledon. A bit stalky, but there you go, that’s teenage passion for you.
Anyway, I’d been idly brewing this whole beauty issue over in my head when I came a link to a TED talk on twitter. It’s just the most brilliant deflation of this idea of perfect beauty and ‘modelling’ as something to aspire to, and the walls of artifice that feed the illusion. The talk, called ‘Looks Aren’t Everything. Believe Me, I’m A Model’ is by the very smart, eloquent, down-to-earth supermodel Cameron Russell who also happens to be a Victoria’s Secret model.
It’s from late 2012, but I’d never seen it before so maybe you haven’t too. It’s only 9 minutes long and it could be the smartest thing you show your children.
Take a look here, share it if you feel it’s worthy, and as ever, let me know what you think.