Terrifically toned biceps are the must-have accessory of the modern and powerful. On the right kind of woman they pervade an intangible attitude that vacillates between “don’t mess with me”, “I get things done” and also, if we’re honest, “I can basically rock any kind of sleeveless evening dress you throw at me”.
Right in the centre of this pool of the female and genetically blessed comes Anna Wintour, the editor and chief of American Vogue whose terrifying editorial direction was immortalised in the 2007 documentary, The September Issue and the fictional take, The Devil Wears Prada.
Most recently Wintour has become the controversial nominee on President Obama’s shortlist for US Ambassador to France or the UK when the New Year rolls around.
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According to the Mission Australia Youth Survey released in September last year, body image ranks in the top three issues of concern for young Australians.
Research shows 90% of 12-17 year old girls and 68% of 12 – 17 year old boys have been on a diet of some type, and that bulimia and anorexia are among the top ten causes of burden of disease and injury in young women in Australia.
So in announcing The Health Initiative this week, Vogue’s editors have shown not just that they understand the powerful influence their magazines and the wider fashion industry wields over the public’s ideas about what a normal body looks like, but also that they are prepared to show leadership and a degree of corporate social responsibility in their industry.
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When Vogue published its February 2011 profile on Asma Al-Assad, the English-born first lady of Syria, her husband’s totalitarian regime already had blood on its hands.
President Bashar al-Assad has ruled Syria since the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad. They are members of the Baath Party, Arab nationalists who have ruled Syria under “emergency law” since 1971. Under emergency law the government can arrest people without warning, launch police operations against suspicious citizens and jail them without trial.
Yet Vogue, the glossy bible of all things fabulous and fashionable turned a blind eye. Describing the regime as “not as secular as we might like” while salivating over Asma Al-Assad’s long-limbed and analytic beauty. A “desert rose” in the heart of Syria. It’s the safest country in the Middle East, they cooed.
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There was so much fanfare when The September Issue first came out, with everyone caught up in the hype of “Anna, the Ice Queen” and “Anna, the Bitch” and “Anna, the Hardcore Alien” it was hard to assess the movie objectively because as usual, all the hype pointed in one direction. I, for one, definitely wanted to see it for the sole reason of judging what Anna was actually like in, you know, almost-real-life.
I wanted to see her cut-throat ways and watch her spiking staff with her whiplash tongue first hand. I wanted the camera to be in an elevator when Anna stepped in and watch the look of fear on the faces of those cowering out of her way.
This is the Anna I was expecting. Like Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. Someone vicious and uncaring and completely insensitive of other people’s feelings.
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