The following post was solicited from poet Olivia Gatwood’s after its initial publication on her blog: oliviagatwood.tumblr.com.
It’s time to talk about Models
It’s not often that a successful person comes out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. When I say successful, I don’t mean a PhD or a business owner, I mean celebrities. I think so far we have Xzibit, Freddy Prinze Jr., and Neil Patrick Harris. Quite the lineup, right? So as you can imagine, when someone does make a move, everyone knows about it. But what exactly qualifies someone as “successful”? Why are certain people noticed, given credit and honored for their fame while others have worked just as hard yet receive little to no attention?
I reblogged a post earlier this week called You Don’t Have to be Pretty from a blog called A Dress a Day. She writes;
“You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.”
Of course, when I was reading this analysis, I was jumping out of my seat screaming OH MY GOD YES!!! LIKE, RIGHT?? YES!! You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. You don’t have to apologize for the way you look or the way you dress. It’s your body, it’s your life, and fuck the haters. Basically.
Thinking I’m trailing off from the first paragraph? Hold up, let me tie this shit together.
In 2010, my poetry team advanced to Final Stage at the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam. Because we were one of the top four teams, we were featured on an HBO special that broadcasted the final slam. Coming back to Albuquerque was beautiful. We received so much love from the poetry community, taught classes at local middle and high schools, conducted workshops at foster homes, and continued to showcase our work for the next year. We even became members of the Heroin Awareness Committee, a group of parents whose children are addicted to, or have died from heroin. I am more than grateful for all of the respect we earned as poets and artists, and could not have asked for a better community to come home to.
Recently, a girl from Albuquerque has been making quite the name for herself in the modeling industry. She’s all of eighteen years old and is making appearances with Guess, E!, and a reality show on the CW. I admire that she’s following a career path that she cares about, and is pursuing a dream that she’s probably always wanted. But when I saw her on the front page of the largest newspaper in New Mexico, on the morning news, and appearing constantly on local television, I couldn’t help but feel a bit outraged.
Why didn’t we receive this sort of recognition for our accomplishments?
Where is our newspaper article?
I know, I’m being an annoying little brat. But it goes further than just my school girl jealousy. I felt like what we had done and the amount of work we put in was equivalent to her’s, but for some reason, she was getting the big news. And this brings me back to You Don’t Have to be Pretty. Truth is, you don’t have to be pretty. But society definitely prefers it if you are. They couldn’t choose any “nerdy” girl to be the face of G4, it had to be Olivia Munn because she’s hot too! Every Olympic athlete who is decently good looking is pushed to be the face of Covergirl or shirtless in an Axe commercial, because their talent and inhumane ability isn’t enough. Last night I saw the female heavy weight lifters, and I was BLOWN AWAY. Tiny girls holding 250 lbs over their heads. But I also realized I have no idea who these women are. I didn’t even know it was sport. Yet, I know the face of every little gymnast who’s twirling ribbons and jumping around doing splits (not to belittle gymnastics because that shit is nuts). Why? Because they are pretty girls with pretty bodies, not because what they are doing is any harder than the heavy weight lifters.
Slam poetry isn’t pretty, or sexy, or even appealing to some people. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t work to accomplish what we did. Nor does it mean we worked any harder than that model did either. But it’s hard to ignore how blatantly society favors beauty over everything else. How New Mexico clings to the fairy tale of a pretty local girl becoming a star, yet ignores the students who are working hard to make a difference in their community. Will this ever change? If it doesn’t, how should artists/authors/scholars get the recognition they deserve?
The model who is anonymously mentioned in the piece later posted a link to this blog on her Facebook page expressing her anger towards what I wrote and assumed about her career. After reading all of the insults and comments about the blog, I posted a response to the model and her fans. After an attempt to resolve conflicts with said model, no response was received.
Response to feedback on “It’s time to talk about Models”
1. I did not write this blog post with the intent of “attacking” this model. There are no harsh feelings towards her or her career choices. I thought I made that clear, but apparently some people thought differently. I wrote it as an analysis towards how the media respects certain acts over others. We all know this, we are all aware of this. I chose to use a model as my base point because it is what I know. It’s what I’ve seen. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been told to “write what you know”. That is what I am doing.
2. I am a writer. This is what I do. I have to be honest with what I feel and think, because if I don’t, it’s a waste of time. I write to broaden the perspectives of those reading. To help people see the other side of the situation rather than worshiping the norms. My poem “An Ode to Norma Jeane” is under the same category as “It’s time to talk about Models”, except one is about a well know icon and the other is about a girl that some of you may know personally. I will not apologize for what I write, and I will do my best to write with sensitivity to those who are reading so I don’t have to apologize later. But in the end, I’m still a writer, and half of you are going to disagree with what I say.
3. Calling me “ugly”, “obnoxious”, or a “jealous bitch” isn’t going to fix this. It’s not going to make me stop what I’m doing, and it’s not going to resolve your problems with my piece. In fact, it is just proving my point even more so. Most of the hateful comments that I received were targeted at my looks and appearance. Once again, it’s all about measuring worth in beauty. I will not ask you to stop saying these things about/to me, because you are just as entitled to your opinion as I am. But I will say that these awful insults do nothing for anybody. Instead, give your input, your thoughts, your analysis. That’s what blogging is for.
4. I am not asking for the front page of the newspaper. I don’t even know if I deserve the front page of the paper. Who really does? Of course I am grateful for the praise I’ve received for my work. Teaching kids about poetry does satisfy me. I am not asking for more than I already have. Like I said before, this piece was simply an observation of what I believe we all know and see.
5. Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you haven’t been scared off yet.
Olivia Gatwood is a young writer born and raised in New Mexico. She is the youth, collegiate, and city wide poetry slam champion of Albuquerque and an active member of the poetry slam community. She is a finalist at both the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam 2010 where she was featured on HBO, and the Women of the World Poetry Slam 2012. She was also a part of the ABQ Slams team who took first in Group Piece Finals at the 2011 National Poetry Slam. Olivia was the Albuquerque High School Poetry Slam coach of 2012, and led her students to win the High School State Poetry Slam Championships. She has released one chapbook, “I’ve Removed Myself from the Kitchen”. She is based out of Brooklyn, NY where she attends Pratt Institute and is working on her BFA in Writing.