The Body as a Source of Power

I was fascinated this week by Alexander Edmonds article about plastica in Brazil. In my opinion the most telling part of the article was at the very end when Edmonds makes the statement, “When access to education is limited, the body- relative to the mind- becomes a more important basis for identity as well as a source of power”. Is it any wonder, then, that some of the most beautiful and striking models arise out of some of the World’s poorest nations?


I was reminded of the tragic story of Ana Carolina Reston, a Brazilian model who died of anorexia in November of 2006 at the age of twenty-one. In her case, as Edmonds puts it, her beauty was her “source of power”. When she was a child, her family’s savings were stolen, and suddenly she felt that she was responsible for helping her family out. After winning a small beauty contest in her hometown of Jundai she began to model and her career took off.  Some could argue that there is nothing she wouldn’t do for her career to be successful, and many speculate this is how her weight loss spiraled out of control. For Reston, looking thin and achieving an ideal body type was a small price to pay to be successful. She died November 15, 2006 after kidney failure due to anorexia. She was 5’8” and weighed 88 lbs.


Natalia Vodianova is another example of a model raised in extremely poor conditions (in her case in Russia), but her story is one with a happy ending. She enrolled in modeling school and learned English when she was fifteen, and by the time she was seventeen she moved to Paris to pursue her modeling career. In her case her mother knew that this would be her path to a better life for her and her family, and she urged Natalia to go. At the time it was a sacrifice, but twelve years later, she has walked in over 175 runway shows around the world for the industry’s biggest names and has graced the cover of Vogue, twice.


These two stories get back to Edmond’s idea that these women take part in plastica because it could be what they need to have their big break, and at the very least, to be the breadwinner for their family. In most cases it isn’t out of vain, but out of a yearning and longing for a better life, no matter what the cost.


3 responses to “The Body as a Source of Power

  1. emilykotarski

    Seeing this shocking photo of Ana Carolina Reston in this post is what compelled me to read and comment. This image does not show a woman of beauty but of skin and bones.
    /Users/emilykotarski/Desktop/ANA CAROLINA RESTON#1.jpg
    In this photo of Ana before her anorexia people can see a stunningly beautiful and healthy young woman. In 2004 when Ana left her home in Brazil to go to China for modeling she was told that she was “too fat.” Although, I think we can all agree that this image we see is not of an over weight person at all. Beauty should not be seen as something fake or altered. To me plastic surgery and dieting or anorexia is not beautiful but it is very artificial and almost alienating. In the most extreme circumstances such as the “cat women” who we saw in class, or the anorexic Ana Reston, beautiful women were taken and in attempts to become more beautiful became almost inhumane. I see the most beautiful people as those who are natural and do not alter their bodies in severe or extenuating circumstances. I do agree that plastic surgery and controlling one’s weight to their own desire is a person’s right but where is the line and when is it crossed?

  2. I also remember when she died. I was about fifteen at the time and still remember reports saying she was only eating apples at the time to so stay thin. When I was a little bit older I watch a BBC investigation on eating disorders and how their are websites that are pro-anorexia. The thought of that I think is frightening. That there are that many people that are suffering with this disorder that they create a online communities to help each other and promote their lifestyle. They often refer to them selfs as Pro Ana. The websites often have images of under weight and emaciated models and girls as their ‘thinspiration’ and motivation to not put food into their bodies. Some websites have list of ‘diets’ where one day you might be allowed to have three slices of an apple for dinner and the next night a few ounces of cucumber. Sine the BBC documentary, many websites have been shut down but, in time new ones have sprouted up. Just by doing a quick search I found a few, most of them blogs. What was most disturbing I found was the Thin Commandments: 1. If you aren’t thin you aren’t attractive. 2. Being thin is more important than being healthy.3. You must buy clothes, cut your hair, take laxatives, starve yourself, do anything to make yourself look thinner. 4. Thou shall not eat without feeling guilty. 5. Thou shall not eat fattening food without punishing oneself afterwards. 6. Thou shall count calories and restrict intake accordingly. 7. What the scale says is the most important thing. 8. Losing weight is good/ gaining weight is bad. 9. You can never be too thin. 10. Being thin and not eating are signs of true will power and success. (
    I remember when watching the BBC investigation, they found that a lot of the people who were publishing these websites and active on them were young girls, mostly teenagers and some even younger. I just find this whole idea of Pro Ana incredibly frighting and am shocked by what lengths these young girls go to be pretty. I think this says a lot about our culture and the pressures that young girls feel to be thin and beautiful and that it isn’t just runway models suffering.

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