“I’ve always felt great about my body. I’ve always been very self confident and I still am.” ~ Heidi Klum
I read this quote yesterday, along with the rest of an article about Klum (which talks about her bazillion dollar enterprises and the fact that she has worn the Victoria’s Secret angel wings in their annual runway show a record total of 13 times) in a less than generous state of mind.
I believe the exact words that popped into my head were, “You can take those angel wings and shove them straight up your a**.”
Not exactly the response of the well balanced, emotionally munificent feminist woman I try to be.
I went on to stare at her picture resentfully, feeling fatter and older with each passing moment.
“40 is the new 20!” she declared, staring out at me with her million watt smile and flawless skin.
“My mom fries everything and drenches it in cream sauce. Whenever she comes to visit it’s like,—boom!—two pounds for me!” (Two pounds?? I groaned. I just gained two pounds reading that sentence!)
For fitness, she simply “walks her dogs” and if she wants “truffle pizza and truffle pasta” she has it.
Why did this typical blurb provoke such hostility? I can only say that I have a well documented problem with body issues. I have written dozens of articles on the subjects of body image, healthy eating, self acceptance and so on in an effort to find a place of ease and balance when it comes to the relationship between my spirit and my flesh.
It is not Heidi’s fault that I don’t love myself with the same unabashed enthusiasm that she does.
I was recently reading Kimberly Lo’s excellent piece about Stephanie Diani, who took nude photos of women after they’d explained to a plastic surgeon what they would like to “fix” about themselves. The surgeon then drew his black ink map upon their bodies just as he would if performing actual surgery, and the women posed for Diani with nothing more than the surgeon’s mark upon their skin.
It hurt me to see Diani’s pictures almost as much as it hurt me to see the photos of Klum. Each line on these women’s’ bodies represents an endlessly repeating loop of negative internal dialogue—my thighs are too fat, my breasts are too small, my face is too wrinkly, my belly is too round. I know, because I’ve got the same loop in my own head, and it dogs me like the devil each and every day of my life.
I imagined myself being brave and honest enough to do a shoot like this. Where would I have the surgeon’s pen? The web would be complex, stretching over my butt, my abs, my thighs, my triceps, my décolletage, my neck, my cheeks, my eyelids.
Where would someone like Heidi Klum have the surgeon’s pen? Based on her Women’s Health article, nowhere except at the bottom of a six figure contract to clone her Germanic perfection.
But why should it matter to me? Would I feel better about myself if Heidi Klum felt worse about herself?
If there is one way in which I would truly like to emulate Klum, I wouldn’t choose to have her body, I would choose to have her attitude about her body. And the good news is, I don’t need a surgeon to get there.
It may take me a lifetime of writing and tears and meditation and midnight phone calls to my friends, but self love is possible, and I’ll never quit trying to claim it.
So, to Klum I say, I’m sorry I told you to shove your wings up your a**. To the women in Diani’s shoot I say, keep fighting. I’ll be right there beside you trying to find the promised land and dreaming of a time when we can all look in the mirror and say, “I feel great about my body, just as it is, right now.”
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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum