Wednesday, April 30, 2008

If Someone Calls You an IT Girl, Run!

Why is it that being the black "it" girl doesn't usually translate into long lived success? Pimping may not be easy but being the sole black girl of the moment has its own share of hard knocks.

Black "it" girls are prone to meltdowns (see: Hill, Lauryn), excessive wackiness caused by deadly accidental overdose of patchouli and bohemianism (Lisa Bonet and daughter Zoe), drug abuse and shiftless men (Whitney and Dorothy Dandridge, or horrible circumstance (R.I.P Aaliyah.)

While white "it" girls sometimes travel in packs, gaily laughing arm in arm while exiting The Ivy, in general only one black woman at a time is allowed it status and thereby allowed to enjoy its spoils (designer clothes, makeup campaigns, magazine covers and film offers.)

Sharing is strictly frowned upon but on occasion a crumb may be brushed from the table for other aspiring it girls of a darker hue to enjoy. For example, Beyonce may have had a starring role in "Dreamgirls" but did you also know that Kelly Rowland (also of Destiny's Child) was a co-star in "Freddy vs. Jason?" or that Michelle Williams gets to keep all those outfits that Mama Knowles designs? That's how Matthew Knowles spells parity.

Anyway, I write all that because I came across an article in this month's Bitch magazine that answered a question of mine, namely what ever happened to Gerren Taylor?

For those of you who aren't familiar with the model once branded as the "next Naomi*," 12 year old statuesque Gerren exploded onto the modeling scene about four or five years ago and was immediately everywhere. She walked for many major designers, appeared in ads for Marc Jacobs and was a darling of Tommy Hilfiger. Her wide set alienesque eyes laid the groundwork for similarly featured models to come like Gemma Ward. She was quite literally everywhere and then POOF! she seemed to fall off the face of the earth just as quickly as she appeared. These days her name never comes up in discussion of who's who among top black models.

Turns out that when the slender girl grew up and developed a few curves she was labled "obese" by the industry and her bookings (and self-esteem) vanished. She says of the name calling: “It hurt for a while, because I didn’t really understand why they were saying that. A part of me was saying that I wasn’t obese, but what they were saying was making me think twice about why I wasn’t booking jobs ... whatever — so my feelings were fluctuating.” For the record, "obese" here means a gain of 6 cm across her hips and 8 cm across her chest.

For a girl who, according to America the Beautiful documentarian Darryl Roberts "bas[ed] her self-esteem on her work in the fashion industry," this was a terrible blow. At NY Fashion Week that season, a few designers used her in shows for the publicity her name garnered but grumbled about her size. She wasn't booked at all during Paris Fashion Week.

Robert's documentary is playing in festivals around the country. It deals with this country's obsession with beauty and how the the cosmetics/fashion industry underminds the development women, particularly young women by building an industry around making them feel bad about themselves. In interviews he has said that companies have a vested interest into getting us to buy into a monolithic view of what is beautiful. In another interview one of the producers of the film added that cosmetics companies in particular "bring women down to sell them products to bring themselves up."

Of course, I totally agree with these sentiments but at the same time, I am very aware of how much I buy into them myself. I can't tell you how many times I've gone to a cosmetics counter or makeup aisle to buy a little something to perk myself up. For me, being aware of how women like me are played by the industry hasn't dampened my enthusiasm for the myriad of products they offer.

Honestly, I don't know what that makes me (hypocrite with lipgloss?) but I'm still looking forward to seeing Robert's doc when it comes to my town or DVD.

Darryl Roberts's blog
Gerren's MySpace

*is it just me or has the only model to ever successfully become the "next" Naomi, Naomi Campbell herself?


Naturally Sophia said...

It's not you. Naomi is surely in a class by herself. I feel sorry for the "it" girls. Madonna can change her image every 2 weeks but Black girls dimply don't have the luxury of doing that and remaining There successful by Western standards. I wonder want will become of the "it" girl Beyonce?
Anyhow, the "next Naomi" comments are like the next "Oprah" comments Tyra has received... just unrealistic.

vogued out!!! said...

I did wonder what happened to Gerren, it is so sad, I saw the girl in a reality show on BET and I still thought she was super skinny. thanks for posting.

Eb the Celeb said...

Yeah... she did sort of fall off the face of the earth... i thought for sure by now she would be all over the place... She was on BET though well they made the reality show with the rich black kids... all i can think is maybe she is taking a break to complete college and is going to arise after she gets her degree.

But great analyzation of the situation

Anonymous said...

While it is so sad that Gerren's rise to "it" girl fame seems to have ended, what is sadder is the way it has affected her and the way she has to flaunt herself to the world and to every boy she meets for the validation that she lost from the fashion world. Maybe she should take her experiences and channel it into something positive, i.e. helping girls cope with their self esteem issues as opposed to shamelessly advertising her body and alienating every female she comes into contact with.
As for college, I'm sorry to say that little miss G falls into the very stereotypical but in her case very true category of dumb model. I hope she has a rich man to fall back on.