Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Afraid of Beauty

Why on earth should I of all people be afraid of beauty?

I have always been drawn to, enchanted and impressed by images of idealised women, attracted to elegance and the aesthetic and have found myself at times intimidated by other women's beauty.

My more than 25 years as a fashion designer required the constant ingestion of glorified beauty in the form of fashion models, icons and art. Seeing women portrayed as objects of arresting beauty and at times sensuality has filled me with inspiration and sheer enjoyment from when I can remember.

The discovery of my very real fear of beauty has been and was a very confronting experience that I am still struggling to reconcile.

During a shoot a few years ago for my own range two of my models left due to other commitments and time constraints leaving me with only half of my range photographed. I still had my location, half a range, my hair and make up artists and the photographer for the rest of the day. With much prompting and with the lead of a confident friend stepping in I found myself stepping in to model my own work. This is something I have never envisioned or have been inclined to do and found it a very uncomfortable experience.

You can see my Deer in the headlights here.

I was asked to model often when I was young but so painfully uncomfortable on the one occasion I was convinced to try that it did not work, my akwardness was evident in the images. I was embaressed this left me even more determined never to entertain the idea again.

It was while collaborating with a number of creatives that I began to move into styling for various events and came to see photography as a form of self expression. This is where my inroversion began to fall away.

These images were taken by the talented Paul Louis Villani we have worked together on a number of occasions producing collaborate work. Paul's approach enabled me to explore the experience of being a conduit for the sake of expression and art.

This sparked an ongoing interest and love of morphing in front of the camera almost always being in character while being shot. What I found most interesting was however was the dislike, insincerity and discomfort I felt when I saw what might be perceived as beautiful images of myself. I would find myself writhing with psychological and emotional discomfort.

At first I thought it was about humility and a lack of vanity that led me to feel on edge about being portrayed as beautiful. 

It made me feel fear and over time it made me realise I was afraid of beauty.

The sexuality, power, beauty of others, the many models I know and have friendships with, the icons I love and admire, the likes of Sophia Loren and Monica Bellucci I lauded. I admired their force and confidence, but I lacked their power. Beautiful images of myself left me feeling objectified and compromised. I would dismiss any kind comments discouraged discussion and currently have a large cache of unreleased material taken by many photographers including the very talented Paul Vanzella .

Why was I afraid of beauty when for others I am happy to embrace and encourage it?

Well there were a number of obviously apparent reasons.

  • I felt the representations unrealistic.
  • There was a fear of perceived vanity and self indulgence.
  • I felt people might be disappointed by the real me.
  • The concern that the images do not relate to my character and could lead to assumptions about who and what I was about.
The list goes on...

I thought somehow it might work against me.

Why was I so reluctant to reveal these images of myself?

Initially I thought it was due to my lack of vanity or need to be validated. I didn't need it it was unnecessary. 

A few weeks ago I began to explore for the first time the 'self portait'. Involving a series of images (yet to be released) parodying female stereotypes called 'I AM YOUR SEX THING' my intention is to make a strong statement about how women deliberately wear guises designed to entice, enhance or impress and bring to light some of the absurdity of what we as women continue to promote. I am in the process of creating more characters and will be launching the already approved Pozible campaign to facilitate the project within the the next eight weeks with a view to stimulating discussion and awareness. 

The Facebook page can be found here

The characters are given numbers not names and this helps me to create distance and quantify the sex thing with objectivity.


While I am excited about the project and keen to fully realise it has made other issues rise to the surface. I consider women who embrace their beauty as incredibly brave I saw it as risk, as dangerous.

Then it hit me...
In my experience being an attractive girl or woman can lead to an attack. It has served to diminish not empowered me, this has been due to the beliefs and experiences of my past. I very recently experienced a regrettable encounter that made me aware of a pattern that had through out my life from with large spaces between, from my first kiss to my first sexual experience punctuated by what might be considered mild or exteme transgressions. I was unprepared for all of them, I was targeted, fixated upon and pursued. I have had my boundaries crosses by people that have left me blindsided by the events resulting in the internalisation of the experience. While I have never been subject to violence I have been sexualized and had physical experiences forced upon me against my will in varying degees. Most times it was embellished with praise for my looks. Inappropriate and unpleasant experiences leaving me feeling shame. A very destructive emotion - thus my Fear of Beauty.

In this modern landscape sex is a commodity, modesty is rare, self censorship is exercised less and less, in our more liberated society the world is always hungry for more. Understanding why I wasn't hungry for more has lead me along a long complex path of recovery.

So now I hope that with the right lighting and best angle I will no longer be afraid of being beautiful.

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