Here in South London, debate and controversy rage. Is naked, flame-haired Beth Ditto, on the cover of my new Love magazine, a beautiful icon of femininity or just an obese bird with a serious eating problem who needs help, not exposure?
Luckily, I am the arbiter of fashion magazine taste in our family, and I think Beth’s an icon, so she’s an icon. But I sense mutterings of mutiny among the troops. The troops, I should say, are all blessed with fast metabolisms and full awareness of the dangers confronting the NHS as a result of obesity in the population. The troops prefer Kate Moss and Gisele Bundchen. The troops think the cover of Love is a ‘before’ picture in a particularly frightening health information leaflet.
I think it’s gorgeous.
In the picture, Beth has Fabulous Hair, impeccable makeup by Charlotte Tilbury, stunning, peachy skin and utter, impenetrable confidence. In real life, Beth was the belle of the ball during Paris couture week, and that’s the ball you want to be the belle of. I didn’t think, to be absolutely brutally honest, that she always looked fantastic in every single photo of her at parties and in front rows that appeared on the net. It helps if you have Charlotte Tilbury on hand and you don’t have to schlepp around Paris in your flats for hours on end. But for Love, on page after page after page, she looked incredible.
Incredible naked. Incredible with her eyelids half closed and only the whites of her eyes showing (and some underarm hair). Incredible lounging in a Gareth Pugh ‘dress’ that resembled a deconstructed nylon garden chair and struggled to contain a single breast. Incredible looking just the right side of pornographic, and perfectly in control.
Interestingly, none of the troops (who are 50/50 male/female) have complained about the quantity of flesh on display. Merely the volume. We none of us mind artfully-shot naked women on our magazine covers. But some of us mind them being anorexically thin (me) and some of us mind them being well-upholstered (everybody else).
Strange, from an art-historical perspective, where for several millennia women of Beth’s proportions have been worshipped as goddesses or painted as kings’ consorts. What happened in about 1911 to change perceptions so radically? I can only conclude that we fixed agriculture. Suddenly, for the first time in history, the majority of people in leading countries weren’t hungry. Ample bosoms were two a-penny. The only way to show your riches was not to need to eat. And we grew richer and richer and richer. And our icons grew thinner and thinner and thinner.
And then our credit got crunched. More than crunched. Obliterated. And who is our new icon?
I still heart Beth and always will, but I won’t try and sell my house until Kate’s back on our magazine covers, and all’s well with the world.