Be Real Sexy

First, a little digression — I think my brain imploded last week due to the media reportage of the VMAs and of one particular starlet whose booty popping antics created a storm. I did not read even one article on this topic, and yet I have felt bombarded by the coverage. So before diving into my topic, I would like to challenge the feminist media to NOT RESPOND to the hype: Jezebel, Bust, xoJane, you do not have to write about it. You can just say “Hooey, that was some show” and move on to talk about something important. Isn’t there an awesome woman doing something cool that we need to hear about? What is Miranda July up to lately?

On a slightly related note, let’s talk about being sexy… like, for real sexy. I’d love to have an original thought to share, but the fact is that Helen Gurley Brown said it best in 1962’s Sex and the Single Girl: a sexy woman is a woman who enjoys sex. That’s right. For all the primping, waxing, high heels, hair extensions, etc., that women are sold in order to supposedly look sexy, the irony lies in the fact that the woman less likely to fall for the ad man’s pitch, the woman who already feels good inside her skin, is the sexier woman.


Formerly anorexic model Crystal Renn, vavoom!

A few years ago, I read a book by Québec writer Nelly Arcand called Folle. In it, she exposes all of her neuroses while recounting a year in the cocaine-fuled relationship she had with a French journalist. Always profoundly unhappy (Arcand committed suicide in 2009), Arcand couldn’t help but compare herself to and compete with the women in her lover’s life, and especially with his artist roommate. I had met many of the characters in this roman a clef through mutual friends in Montreal and so there was a kind of voyeuristic pleasure in reading the book. But, based on her description, I could not figure out who this roommate character was and so I asked a friend. Reader, I found the answer shocking!

Arcand’s aesthetic was Barbie; she had bleached blonde hair and a body that was tiny except in the boob and lip areas which had been surgically enhanced. She described her man’s roommate as a sexy seductress, a dangerous threat to her. But the woman I had been around at a few dinner parties was earthy, fun-loving, and sort of cute. She didn’t wear makeup or dress provocatively, and she had an average woman’s body with natural soft curves not purchased at a clinic. What I realized then was that this woman had the kind of comfortable inviting sensuality that is very attractive to men and that poses a threat to the Barbies of the world. She wasn’t competing in the faux-sexy contest; she’d already won on her own joyful terms!


Hot stuff Debi Mazar with husband Gabriele Corcos cooking up a storm on the Cooking Channel’s Extra Virgin

This definitely aligns with what I observed when working in the beauty industry — There will always be someone prettier, blonder, younger, more fit, and more glamourous than any given hot chick. So many of the gorgeous women I met back then were unsatisfied due to the heights of “beauty” to which they aspired and had yet to attain. But, of course, that’s how it’s set up. In a capitalist society, it’s in the interest of advertisers to create new pressures on women all the time. Those of you who are a bit older than me will recall a time when even Playboy playmates had unkempt bikini areas. These days, some lads are surprised when they find out women have pubic hair — they’ve never even seen or heard tell of it! New body problems are constantly being invented so that they can be “fixed” and at great expense to us (the invention of “cankles” a few years ago is a great example of an imaginary and previously unheard of imperfect body part for women to obsess over).

Style and beauty, author Zadie Smith

Style and beauty, author Zadie Smith

My own personal experience informs me that sexiness has nothing to do with a checklist of traits and everything to do with being a sensual person. Of course, for me feeling sexy does involve some beautifying self-care such as taking care of my skin, wearing nice underthings, and being active physically. But it doesn’t involve trying to look like someone I’m not (I’m working the curvy brunette thing because that’s all I got!). And I think that’s the difference that gets lost in the “look who’s hotter and look who has cellulite” type of trash that passes for entertainment these days — In order to enjoy your own body, you have to know and accept yourself. Wearing makeup, showing a little cleavage, and wanting to look your best are not the same as dieting obsessively and criticizing every inch of your body because it doesn’t look like some photoshopped magazine image.

Here’s a little tribute to just a few women that were/are sexy as hell on their own terms…

First up, my mother: I truly believe that I owe my healthy approach to sexuality to her example and guidance, and that is no small legacy!

Simone de Beauvoir: Known best for writing the philosophical and feminist The Second Sex, de Beauvoir wasn’t just Jean-Paul Sartre’s girlfriend, she was a bon vivant who liked food, wine, vigorous hikes, and lots of sex. While her friendship with Sartre lasted a lifetime, she enjoyed many other relationships and lovers, and she did it with a regal countenance and an admirable love of headwraps.

Simone de Beauvoir looking regal and French as always

Simone de Beauvoir looking regal and French as always

Crystal Renn: Renn was a size 2 anorexic model who successfully made the transition to being an average-sized not anorexic model! She’s managed to inhabit a space that formerly didn’t exist in advertising, that of a not plus-sized, not super skinny model. Our measurements are remarkably similar and seeing her look super hot in mainstream publications feels life affirming.

Zadie Smith: British novelist Zadie Smith is the kind of woman that can make a person feel extremely inadequate. Her first novel, the amazing White Teeth, was published when she was just 25 years old, and her novel On Beauty is one of the best things I’ve ever read. Of mixed race with brown skin and freckles, Smith has the kind of poised confident style that highlights her unique beauty. She is sexy. Perhaps not coincidentally, like de Beauvoir, she also frequently rocks a headwrap.

Debi Mazar: Known for often playing the Jersey girl side-kick, as well as for being a friend to Madonna and for having cut Andy Warhol’s wig (as if it was real hair!), actress Debi Mazar has a LOOK. No matter the role, she always manages to look like the coolest girl in the neighbourhood, the one every girl wants to be around. Plus she has an internet cooking show with her sexy Italian husband — hello!

What makes you feel sexy?


  1. I think when my hair is doing the right thing, then I feel good about myself. It took me years to find the perfect hairstyle that went with my face and type of hair that I had. I don’t think I need that much make-up if I have a good hair day. When I have foundation on, it makes me feel good because otherwise I look dead and sick—that’s just the way my pale, translucent skin is. So, all I need is behaving hair and a small bit of foundation to feel sexy!

  2. 🙂

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