They say that you shouldn’t meet your idols as they almost always end up disappointing you. I don’t really like the word idol. In some ways it indicates seamless perfection, making it impossible for followers to acknowledge shortcomings. For this very reason I think it’s better to say there are qualities you admire in someone as opposed to saying the person is your idol as this leaves room for error, misguided brainwashing and personal disappointment.
As a naïve teenager, I was very enthralled with former Miss Universe Wendy Fitzwilliam. Her story, her come-up and her achievements were the ultimate fairytale for any woman (or maybe just me) at least what she allowed us to see. The way she overcame her battles made me so jealous of her strength. What I saw was perfection and for some time it did make me feel like perfection was achievable and a reality for humans. She handled every situation she was in as if she were reading instructions from a rule book on how to master life.
I wouldn’t say she is my idol today. With time we mature into loving our shortcomings. We learn that perfection is a myth and true perfection must embrace imperfection.
Earlier this week, I came across a clip from the Caribbean’s Next Top Model of Trinidadian model Gabriella Bernard. It was a teaser from a short film created by the model titled Black Hair. The short clip showed the former Miss Universe who was a judge/co-host on the show, verbally scolding Gabriella (the contestant) for refusing to chemically relax her hair in order to produce a particular photo-shoot concept. Gabriella pleaded with the hairstylists to use another method because relaxers had previously caused damage. In the end she was given an ultimatum to go through with it or leave. Gabriella chose to stay and have her hair chemically relaxed.
Wendy referred to Gabriella’s behaviour as unprofessional and claimed that though she herself had transitioned the model’s behaviour was poor in taste. She then went on to highlight the fact that this is how the industry operates, whilst warning the model that there are lots of girls who would want to be in her position and to look fabulous like her.
Beauty is subjective and in this case, it was highly subjected to Eurocentric standards. The show itself is a Caribbean version of the popular America’s Next Top Model which aims to give the winner a promising modelling career while delivering salacious drama and conflict. Perhaps the show, which is owned and produced by the former Miss Universe, has its own idea of perfection and maybe it means subscribing to Eurocentric trends.
This is the problem with perfection, it is limited in certain ways. So many varying avenues could have been explored, for example, the politics of black hair, being a model of colour, or coping with racist beauty standards. For a temporary gig on TV couldn’t there have been other temporary solutions? A wig perhaps?
This is also the problem with imported perfection, instead of exploring what makes us unique as people we try to alter our traits to fit in. How depressing and exhausting. Wendy fed into the rhetoric that black hair is problematic in fashion; it is unmanageable. She fuelled the idea that to be black in fashion comes at a cost that you should be ready to pay even if it means sacrificing your individuality.
Perhaps you may think that Gabriella is a sellout or a fraud for not sticking to her ground in the very time instead of submitting her hair to such harsh treatment but that brings me back to the opening idea in this article, maybe she hadn’t discovered the true meaning of perfection as yet. Maybe, like me, she was a die-hard admirer of the former Miss Universe, the girl who made something out of nothing.
This is the problem with idols. It’s a problematic word just like perfection, but thank goodness we are living in a time where diversity in fashion is being embraced.