January 2, 2012
you too can be a self-creation
You can begin again. You don’t have to let your past, your circumstances, your name, even your face, hold you back. You can be anything you want to be… or at the very least, you can appear to be whatever you want to be. Maybe it’s the same thing.
Here are five inspiring women who re-created their image, and themselves, to achieve what they desired.
It may surprise you to learn that Marilyn Monroe is a heroine of mine. She represents the ultimate in self-creation through aesthetics. She was a brilliant, sensitive artist who deeply craved love – and who recreated her own image into a magnetic force that attracted adoration. To achieve this, she changed her hair, she fixed her nose, she adopted a new name. She art-directed herself, with stunning success.
Are you looking forward to The Iron Lady? I am. I didn’t know much about Margaret Thatcher before I moved here. The hate directed at her in this country is so incredibly fierce, I had to do some research. The most compelling artifact I found was Adam Curtis’ “The Living Dead – Part 3“. Thatcher is not only a self-creation – she attempted to re-create the country she led to suit her personal values as well. In a way, her ability to manipulate her own image was what allowed her to accomplish what once seemed impossible – becoming a female national leader. But when she imposed a similar process of transformation upon a nation, she failed. She is a great example of both the possibilities and the limitations of self-creation.
If anyone understands the intersection of aesthetics and power, it is Anna Wintour. Her iconic image is an exercise in hegemony – the look became more established as she became more established. She controls a position which historically is a tenuous, replaceable one – and yet, she is not going anywhere, anytime soon.
Ever since Christopher Kane sent his Spring 2011 show down the catwalk to the languid lilt of “Video Games“, the fashion industry fell in love with Lana Del Rey. The music industry – not so much. For some reason music media holds a preposterous prejudice against what it perceives as disingenuous. The irony is that Del Rey, rather than being a puppet from the pop music factory – is a self-recreation. Recovering from an earlier attempt at making it in music, she was renamed, injected a new face, and recreated her own debut. Her low-fi, home-made video was a hit, and now she’s a bonafide pop star. She’s like a role model for real makeovers.
The fairy godmother of self-creation for the internet age, Gala Darling recently reflected on 5 years of blogging. I’ve been reading her blog since 2008, and found her narrative of developing a career from scratch utterly fascinating. Her whole schtick is based on the idea of self-creation (or as she calls it, self love), for which she is an ideal example. Her hair, her name, her business, her attitude – are all intrepid inventions.
I am a believer in second chances. I love the promise of reinvention that a new year brings – a fresh page, another chance to begin. I love making resolutions. I love change. While I’ve never considered plastic surgery, I’m honestly considering the possibilities of a showbiz name. Why not – if it gives me a stronger shot at my dreams? In the internet age, we’re all self-creations to some extent – manipulating media to suit our own ambitions isn’t the exclusive domain of movie stars and politicians any more. You can Photoshop your own future.
To be fair, the re-invention game has its pitfalls. You can lose touch with reality, like Thatcher and Monroe did. Untangling image from essence can be a tricky psychological knot. Other human beings – especially it seems those from pre-internet generations or industries other than fashion – are mistrustful of those who seem too adept at transforming their own appearances.
Fashion always adores an aesthetic self-creation. You are free to appear as you wish to be seen, and if you can achieve that, you can do anything you want.