I think I’m coming around on Alexa Chung. The more I learn about her as a person, the more I realize my earlier dismissive attitude towards her was primarily a result of everyone’s overly fawning reception of her than anything, a phenomena which she herself has gone on the record saying she doesn’t quite understand. She might be famous primarily for looking good in clothing, but unlike Kim Kardashian, she has great taste, and she doesn’t live her life like a game of Whoever Gets The Most Attention/Endorsement Deals Wins. Alexa Chung strikes me as someone who wants to seize her crazy good fortune to do fun things and live well, but who is not overly concerned with the “LOOK AT ME” part of being a celebrity.
(Also, I wordlessly danced with her for five seconds at a party recently and she beamed fairy moonbeam parasites into my brain that made me fall in love with her. Also also, I’ve seen her out at a lot of the same shows as me, which makes me think she has good (i.e. my) taste in music. Should I start a column called “Celebrities We Irrationally Love”?)
Anyway, the latest quote from Chung Land is pretty cool too, although there are some tangential issues I might like to talk to her about. When asked by Fashionista how she feels about the recent controversy wherein people accused her of promoting thinspo by posting pictures of herself on Instagram, Chung said this:
I think it’s about time people stopped judging women on their appearance and more on their intellect. Like you can appreciate my style without having to appreciate my weight. It’s not actually mutually inclusive. I just get frustrated because, just because I exist in this shape, doesn’t mean that I’m like advocating it and being like, ‘I look great.’ How do you know I’m not looking in the mirror and going ‘I wish I could gain ten pounds?’ Which is actually quite often the case. But if you say that you sound like you’re bragging that you’re naturally thin, and you’re not allowed to do that because even though it’s not the ideal weight, it kind of is as well. So it’s really fucked up. And how people that are bigger can be on the front covers of magazines being like ‘I’m really happy with my shape.’ But if I was to do that, I’d be completely criticized and ridiculed. But why can’t I be happy with how I look?
This is very true. Policing women’s bodies—any women’s bodies—is something we, as a society, need to get over. That said, Alexa Chung doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and has made her living on being judged (positively) for the way she looks. As a model-cum-professional style icon, she exists within, and benefits from, a system that privileges one body type over another, one which probably would not have accepted her had she looked a different way. This is not Alexa Chung’s fault, and if I was going to condemn her for this, I’d have to condemn every single person in the fashion world. If I was offered a ton of money, pretty clothes, free champagne, and cool jobs because of the way I look, I wouldn’t turn it down, either.
But as someone who tends to think collectively, I’d like to hear her talk a little more about the bigger picture when she talks about this stuff. It’s fine to talk about her own experience, but I want to know she understands she’s an absolute best case scenario, and that no, it’s not the same as when a fat person gets criticized for their weight. If it hurts her, someone who satisfies all normative standards of beauty, when people talk about her body, imagine how it must feel for someone who gets told evey day in every way that they are ugly?
Is it her, or anyone’s, responsibility to improve the way their industry deals with these issues? Of course not. But if no one does it, things will never get better. And it’s so rare that anyone thinks about it at all that I want to know her thoughts on the matter beyond how it affects her personally. She could become a valuable voice on this issue, but a recognition of her own considerable privilege needs to be part of the conversation.