December 21, 2009

Freddie Mercury, Stephenie Meyer, and me

Bear and I watched Queen: Rock Montreal & Live Aid on Blu Ray Saturday night.

I couldn't help noticing how normal and... raw Freddie Mercury and the rest of the band looked.

Mercury, one of the greatest musical prodigies of all time, looked like any other dude wandering the mid-80s.

Sweaty, hairy, balding. Imperfect teeth. Strutting around in affordable-looking high-waisted pants and a sleeveless tee.

Now Mercury's appearance would be a problem and a project. Record companies would slap porcelain veneers on his teeth, hire a trainer to harden his physique (because nowadays you can't just be trim, you have to be defined), wax his chest and back, trim the hair under his arms, and do something with his thinning hair. He wouldn't strut the stage wearing regular guy clothes - he'd be suited up in something expensive enough to be unattainable to the average concertgoer. We can't have the masses wearing the same thing as their idols, after all!

This got me thinking... if the chasm between what the average person looks like and what a person is allowed to look like in the media has widened that dramatically in the last twenty years, where does that leave authors?

Of course, Stephen King can look however he wants and it doesn't matter. Who honestly cares what Joyce Carol Oates looks like? But King is a man, his appearance is less scrutinized, and Oates was an established author long before the talk show circuit and the internet made appearance an important consideration for authors.

Think about it... if a presidential hopeful can lose an election 50 years ago because of a sweaty upper lip and a 5 o'clock shadow, where would that leave a less attractive author today?

I've wondered about this since I saw Stephenie Meyer's November NEW MOON interview on Oprah.

In most photos and videos, Stephenie Meyer looks incredibly polished, from the curl of her carefully coifed hair to her perfect red pout and long black lashes. In the package of Stephenie at home (2:00 mark), however, she looks like a normal woman. Still pretty, but not nearly as polished and 'media perfect' as she looks during the actual interview (4:30).

It is interesting that she was not made up to perfection for her home interview. I like it, maybe she did it on purpose, but it's still surprising. With visual mediums, looks can hurt you, but they will rarely help you.

Appearance is largely irrelevant to a writer's work, but how might it affect a career? If I were published and lucky enough to embark upon a media tour, what would my handlers insist I change about my appearance?

Would they want me to whiten my teeth? (Okay! White teeth are pretty!) Would they tell me I need my teeth straightened? (No way, I love my barn doors!) Would they try to color and highlight a scalp that's never seen dye? Would they send me to an upscale salon that charges $300 a haircut?

I don't think my looks would hurt me. I am a plain Jane, but I'm also a size 6 with pretty cheek bones and decent skin. They could dab makeup on my face, do something with my hair, dress me in designer duds, and I'd look like any other nondescript whoever on TV.

Who knows what they would want me to change. Hopefully one day I will find out.

Of course, it'd be better if one only had to change into their nicest outfit for an interview, but that's not the way it is, and I won't let the superficial stop people from seeing me and my work.

Right, Freddie?

Don't you think, Steph?


Rachel Bateman said...

(told you I was going to stalk your whole blog now)

I just have to say–NEVER dye your hair. Your hair is GORGEOUS. I noticed it first thing when I clicked onto your blog.

Abby Stevens said...

Thank you, Rachel! Unfortunately, my hair only looks like that in the sunshine, but I do often get compliments about the tonality of it. A hair stylist once argued with me that my hair must be dyed "to have that many colors in it," when in fact I have *never* dyed my hair.

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