Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Celebrating Albinism Week – Why I am in Love with Connie Chiu

For many of us who take it upon ourselves to correct the wrongs of the past, particularly those who take on the battle of image politics, it’s been a very troubled game. To be subjugated by our very features, skin tones, facial shaping, and subsequently behaviors or attitudes in negative and oppressive ways, we oftentimes take the very same features used to differentiate us from those in power and use them as symbols and rallying cries of what beauty really means, and embrace these characteristics as our blessings. Another approach has been to sublimate these features altogether, making them nonexistent to our world through a physical eradication as an act of appropriating ourselves to the norms of society. Another approach has been to play ignorant to it altogether, live with it, but leave it in a perpetual ‘timeout’ in which are never to speak of it. One final approach is we include other components to the mix and attempt to fill the names we use “Ablino”, “Black”, “Latino”, etc. with as much variety and ‘diversity’ as possible… to bombard the onlooker with so much variation that the features that were highlighted become blurred with images (chosen by us) to balance out the essentializing of our identities.
The problem with these approaches is that we are attempting to change the look of the table, but we don’t really change the menu (at the cost of our exhaustion). In what ways have we really changed the surrounding norms, forces, factors, influences, and frameworks to eradicate this plight?? We love Hip Hop, but we complain about the industry… We enjoy seeing ourselves on television, but we are sick of networks’ irresponsibility… We feel higher education is one of the greatest gifts in the United States, but yet we still see social stratification being socialized unto us today.
And this look at the personal with the industry is why I am in love with Connie Chiu.

Connie Chiu is the only Albino high fashion model in the world. And there some simple reasons why I love her, 1. She is physically attractive, 2. I feel a kinship to her 3. She is from an ignored population and has been embraced and valued by others 4. She is also from a non-western background, coinciding with my Salva-Chapin roots. So, all that to say, she is absolutely gorgeous. Her parents moved from China to Sweden in order for her to be away from the harmful sun. My parents also did all they could to make sure I was taken care of in any physical needs related to albinism.The other piece that I’m fascinated with is how she is treated and presented in her photos. Her placement as an established fashion model for high-end designers. She even was in a video for Recoil (a side project from Depeche Mode… I’d post the video here, but the song sucks big time, and I don’t want to do any injustice to my girl.. lol). As someone with albinism myself, I find her shocking, I am mesmerized by her and cannot stop staring. I dunno if its just me, I also note her physical features differ vastly from most models anyway. Yet, I’ve always fallen for women who are not traditional looking, but still attractive.
The kicker is that she is an industry that I find to be one of biggest tools to hurt women in my world. I detest the whole notion of high fashion, as the bare consequence has been a constant pain to the women of my life. So many of my Latina, Black, Biracial, hermosa, curvaceous women have been mentally, physically, or emotionally affected by Western standards of beauty. While Connie Chiu fits many qualifiers to be considered a model, her Albinism also qualifies her to be considered a model. Which leaves me to question, is it right that we find her beautiful because she is albino? Would she be a model if not? Is either question being fair to her? Is her albino-assed self perpetuating the thing I hate about high fashion??
I have no answers to these questions. The sad part is that I do not think she will be “opening the doors to others with albinism” as we see with racial groups. In the end, I simply enjoy the fact that someone who looks like me, and comes from a similar immigrant context, is up there. It is a pairing of social opposites, we have a person with albinism… which has been seen as a ‘defect’ in many cultures, identified as a ‘mutation’ in science books, and carries particular limitations (UV rays, sometimes eyesight, etc) and yet she is in one of the biggest tools of an industry I can imagine. Yet the point of her as a model is that you are forced to look at her, you are socialized to perceive her as work of art or beauty, and you are to like and buy whatever she is wearing.

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