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Black Beauty Pt III

By Ada Croal

French fashion photographer Thierry Le Goues illustrates her point. In his 1998 book of photography, Soul, Le Goues covers his nude black models from head to toe in black greasepaint and then photographs them in a white space. The result is provocative, striking and, yes, beautiful.

"I always loved to photograph black models," Le Goues is quoted as saying in the introduction to his book. "I just got better results with my technique and lighting. It's not a sexual dimension at all. [Black] bodies are more sculptural. The shape of the ass and the curvature of the spine is very dramatic; the carriage is different, stronger than the white body. The book is a reaction to never being able to book black girls when I do fashion shoots. Soul is an homage to my medium, which is the models who are my inspiration."

And who wouldn't be inspired by the nude figures of Naomi Campbell, Iman, Kiara, Karen Alexander or Alek Wek whose sleek, black bodies carve out the white spaces of Soul's pages like ancient Egyptian sculptures?

Even though America's visual culture has been slow to change, in the past several years, leaps and bounds have been made. This shift is largely due to the rise of hip hop.

"It's interesting to see how hip hop and fashion have become intertwined," Mosko remarks. "A couple of years ago, Vogue did a spread featuring Puff Daddy and Kate Moss. Foxy Brown was the special guest at the last Calvin Klein show and Lauryn Hill was on the cover of Harper's Bazaar. African Americans are gaining access to fashion through hip hop. And fashion is using hip hop artists to sell their products."

From the high end to popular fashions, hip hop culture has also been aggressively mined for its aesthetic innovations. Think of Tommy Hilfiger et al. Last season, Christian Dior's show shamelessly borrowed from Lauryn Hill's aesthetic in her "Everything is Everything" video. And not only was the clothing imitative, but the models, most of whom were white, all walked the runway in faux dreadlocks - a bit of cultural appropriation that harks back to white America's flirtation with cornrows, as seen on Bo Derek in the 1979 movie 10.

In days of old, each culture had its own standard of beauty, and both men and women begged, borrowed or stole just to meet it. But in this relatively new (one-size-fits-all) order, we're not just trying to get along, we're all trying to look like each other too. Perhaps it is enough that images of black beauty continue to push at the norm. Perhaps it is enough that black women's cosmetic needs are now catered to.

If Madame C. J. Walker were alive today she would be overwhelmed by the plethora of companies now selling black beauty products. Perhaps she might jump back into the fray. Or perhaps she'd simply kick up her feet, thumb through a magazine and smile.

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Awakening BeautyAnthony Napoleon, the author of Awakening Beauty: An Illustrated Look at Mankind's Love and Hatred of Beauty, is a psychologist who has spent many years studying beauty and its impact upon both individuals and society. He has worked with both cosmetic surgery patients and beauty pageant contestants as well as conducting original research into the field. Awakening Beauty is an unprecedented exposé on the subject of beauty. It is both entertaining and thought provoking, a combination that is as unique as it is telling about the author's approach to the subject of this book. The reader is taken backstage into the worlds of beauty pageants, plastic surgery, trophy wives, murderous rage, wardrobe, makeup, Bill Clinton, the events of September Eleven and other provocative topics where beauty has had its effect. Awakening Beauty invites the reader into a world that is as interesting as it is frightening. Readers are transformed as the author shepherds them from their world into his unique perspective and expertise on beauty. Awakening Beauty includes over one hundred tantalizing photographs and illustrations. Awakening Beauty is a compendium of some of the most interesting facts in print. The subject matter of the book along with the author's unique approach to it makes this book a "must read." Get ready to re-think everything you thought you knew about beautiful women and physical attractiveness.

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