“Like My Body?” she slurs, lacing her fingers up her voluptuous figure and then throwing them up in the air. Introducing Kanye West at the 2004 American Music Awards, Anna Nicole Smith, high on drugs, spreads her arms saying, “If ever I make an album, I want this guy to make my make me beautiful duet!” As she lowers her head and claps, the crowd roars its approval.
But the scene is eerie, the sound of her voice alluding to the TrimSpa ad campaign for which she was the spokeswoman is almost haunting after her death. Her tottering appearance drew much publicity and comic fodder throughout the rest of the program, and her representatives, of course, scrambled to cover it up saying Anna’s presentation was due to fatigue and her slur due to not having her contacts in. But was anyone looking at the woman herself? It is a scary thing when we the American public can watch TV laughing and applauding as someone self destructs right in front of us. Why are we surprised at her death? Anna Nicole Smith, like many women today, did everything to be beautiful and be accepted in this society, but she was dying inside long before her body succumbed last week.
Spiritual death; the painful compression of one’s true self into another’s prescribed mold. Actresses, models, women of all races kill themselves to fit a glittering image of “perfection” in America. Whether it be through binging and vomiting her body away, straightening the last kink out of her hair, slitting the slant in her eyes, stretching her skin back, or altering herself to uphold the young, white, blonde, thin and flawless ideal. These women make a choice to do this, to increase their appeal and success, but the tragedy of it all is that living to fit this or any mold is really a death of sorts.
Putting her rollercoaster life aside, Anna Nicole Smith was an extreme case of a woman whose entire self worth came from her external packaging. Selling a product that cooed “Be Envied,” she longed for that attention even if it meant making herself into a visual shell of a human being. But after Anna Nicole’s death we continue to laud the very ideals that killed her and without skipping a beat we move right onto the next “fallen” star who shaves her head, puts on a little weight and gets talked about all over the country—Britney Spears anyone?
Anna Nicole’s idol, Marilyn Monroe once said that “Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.” And she was right. The image of flawless perfection sells, so paint on the make-up, pull tight the dress, drape on the diamonds, who cares if the woman underneath is smothered beneath the weight? How many starlets today have been in rehab for this very same pressure? Nicole Richie, Mary Kate Olsen, Lindsey Lohan. Our own image-obsessed society helps kill these super starlets and then we have the nerve to ask, what happened?
Glamorized messages in magazines, billboards, movies, commercials, bombard our media space everyday telling us to keep pruning the outer visage, even if the inner self is destructive and broken. When we believe these messages, we also become victims of the same epidemic. Even when men create the fantasy it’s women who maintain it. It is time to step out of the shadow of fantasy and live in the light of this reality. We need to stop running from the pain inside and address the deceptions that cause our spiritual death and cripple our culture.
God calls our society to stop reveling in its muck that shackles so many women to the lie that she must fit a certain mold to be beautiful. Only when women have the courage to live outside of these fantasies with the willingness to address them, and the fortitude to fight them, will they be free to discover their true beauty. This is why African-American actress and comedienne Mo’Nique of The Parkers is such a role model for girls and women. She knows she is beautiful. All of her; her size, her skin, hair, nose, and personality. She owns her own beauty and is not dying (literally) to fit somebody else’s ideal. She even executive produced Mo’Nique’s Fat Chance, a beauty pageant for plus-sized women that counters the old ideas of size. But she’s not just saying she’s beautiful to counteract stereotypes. She says it with confidence, claiming it as her God-given right.
While society must expand its notion of beauty, we women must learn to accept that we are beautiful as is. This is crucial because our beauty is connected to our self worth. But how do we know? It is written in the Word, where God claims women as His Beloved. We must be like the Shulamite who when in the presence of her Beloved exclaims “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.” (Song of Solomon 1:17). She knew from the gaze in His eyes her self worth. As women, we must accept ourselves as His Beloved first, so that we do not seek to satisfy that need through the world -which fades like a wilted flower in heat. God calls women to an incorruptible beauty, the beauty of the spirit. “Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” (1 Peter 3:3-4 ).
So for all the Anna Nicoles of the world who struggle to accept their own natural beauty, stuffing themselves into false ideals, and trying to be “made” beautiful, God frees us from our own fear, doubt and self-destruction saying, “Your beauty was perfected because of My splendor which I bestowed on you.” (Ezekiel 16:14). We are beautiful, simply because He created us in all our splendid variations. The only eternal affirmation of our beauty and self worth comes from the Most High and when we choose to walk in this truth, we never have to ask the world, “Like my body?” again.