Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

January 19, 2008

Some Thoughts On Watching How to Look Good Naked

Filed under: Be Super Fantastic — Twistie @ 3:42 pm

I never watched Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Not once. I have no idea whether the information offered was good, bad or indifferent. I just couldn’t get past the Queer Guys themselves. I admit this freely. One commercial was enough to send my brain into a fetal position and make me long for a Luddite existence sans television. I don’t know why they bugged me so much, and I certainly can’t say anything against them as individuals, but I just couldn’t wrap my brains around them.

Since – for some reason I can’t begin to explain – Carson Kressley was the only one I could identify by name, he came to annoy me the most. This was in no way something I’ve ever been proud of. It was prejudice, pure and simple, and I’m deeply ashamed of it. I am, however, big enough to admit my flaws.So, in the name of fair play and an effort to make myself a better person, I decided last night while my menfolk were gone and not going to scream if they walked into the room while it was playing, to try out How to Look Good Naked. With two episodes playing back-to-back, I figured either I would get over my Carsonfear or it would be permanently ingrained because of actual reasons rather than random gut reaction. In other words, I knew it would be Good For Me, so I bit the bullet and went for it.

Let me now go on record as saying that while I still find Carson Kressley an irritating presence on my television, and I found one or two of the tactics used a bit unsettling (Projecting pics of women in their underwear on the side of a high rise building…was there no other way of getting candid views from people in the street? I keep thinking there must have been another tactic that would have resulted in equally effective reactions without going quite that far) I think he’s doing something remarkable and long overdue by making this show. If it was his idea, then I honestly admire him for it. If it was someone else’s idea and he was willing to be the host, I still have to give him kudos. This is a somewhat risky show. There are so many shows about how to fix your body, why you aren’t good enough, and how your life is a pathetic waste if you wear a ‘huge’ size 12, that this is a real breath of fresh air.

I think the most telling exercise of the program was having a line of women standing in the order of largest to smallest measurement in the area the subject considered her worst problem and having her place herself in that line. One woman mentally added six inches to her hip measurement, while a woman who hated her body because of her ‘enormous’ breasts added some three inches to her bustline in her own eyes. The light bulbs clicked on when they realized how badly they’d been beating themselves up over nonexistant figure ‘flaws.’

I probably won’t watch the show again because I think I’ve learned what I can from it and because I really don’t enjoy watching Carson Kressley reinforce gay stereotypes in his personal behavior…but that’s me. If you haven’t watched it yet, I highly recommend you try it at least once. If nothing else, it will probably have the same effect on you that it had on me: I went straight to my largest mirror, took off my clothes, and started looking for what was best about my body.

What did I see? I saw firm upper arms despite the fact that I clearly remember listening to the Watergate Hearings on my radio; great skin tone; pretty eyes; nicely proportionate legs with slender ankles; sleek hair with a great color and no grey – naturally, no less; a nice oval face with a lot less chins than I had a couple years ago before I started making an effort to become healthier; a terrific swan neck that actually makes me look taller than I am. I saw attitude. I saw humor. I saw a beautiful woman well worth knowing. Far more than the body, I saw a person I really like shining through because I was looking for what was positive.

So do me a favor. Whether or not you decide to watch the show, head to your mirror, shuck the layers, and look for what’s wonderful about your body. Not only will you see something amazing in your body, you’ll get a great glimpse of the best parts of your personality, as well. Then come back here and tell us all what you saw that you loved.


  1. Twistie – I watched the first show also – the exercise with the “line up” was the real eye opener for me. Yes, Carson has some annoying mannerisms – but his interaction with the woman I saw was absolutely wonderful. No matter what she said, how she felt, what delusionary behaviors she exhibited…he went right along telling the truth to her about her. I also give him major thumbs up about avoiding trends and finding things that a) fit and b) look good and make you feel good. If that is all anyone gets from that show, they’ve learned a whole lot.

    Comment by toby Wollin — January 19, 2008 @ 5:02 pm

  2. I absolutely agree with you, toby Wollin, as much as I find Carson personally irritating, I think what he is doing with this show is brilliant, and I do believe he’s absolutely sincere in his interactions with these beautiful women who’ve just forgotten how to love themselves.

    And yes, the lack of lists of required clothing, insistance on dress for your body rather than the prevailing trends, and understanding that if you don’t feel good in something you won’t look fabulous in it is both refreshing and long overdue.

    Even though I’m probably not going to watch it again, I’m delighted that this show exists and feel like every woman – and a hell of a lot of men, too! – should watch it at least once.

    Comment by Twistie — January 19, 2008 @ 5:09 pm

  3. Like so many other shows, this one is a version of a British program(me) by the same name. I haven’t watched either show, but showing the difference between what you think of yourself and what’s really the case is a good concept I think!

    Comment by Jules — January 19, 2008 @ 5:47 pm

  4. I suppose Carson may be playing it so broadly in order to make himself non-threatening to women who are uncertain about their attractiveness to straight guys (the same reason, I presume, that Richard Simmons acts the way he does), but I think he could tone it down — a lot — and still make the point. The tutti-frutti hat quite put me off.

    I kind of like the pics on the side of the building; they are not identifiable, and it puts women with nice, ordinary bodies in a spot where one would expect to see either super-skinny babes or silicone bunnies. (And, just because I lived in the area where they film that segment for many years, I would like to see them try to get such positive responses in that particular neighborhood to someone who is genuinely fat. They might have to stay out there for a while.)

    The part that bothers me a bit is the comparative sizes lineup, actually. For all the talk about “these lovely ladies,” somewhere lurking around in there is an implication that it’s better, or at least less upsetting, to have smaller measurements than bigger ones. Whereas I am rather an inflexible fat acceptance type, and — though I’m all for improving one’s health — I don’t even concede that it’s better to have fewer chins! :)

    Comment by Bridey — January 19, 2008 @ 5:56 pm

  5. I’m with Bridey. How are the others in the lineup to feel? What about the *biggest* one in the line? I don’t know. It is refreshing, and I did take a look at my body honestly, and really, there is the problem. I think that I think I look a lot better than I actually do. I generally just ignore my so called flaws and go on my merry way, but in examining myself closely I saw a lot of sagging and rolls that I really hadn’t taken note of before, and that was kind of a bummer. I do better living in blissful ignorance.

    Comment by rosarita — January 19, 2008 @ 6:34 pm

  6. Jules: Thanks for the heads up! I didn’t know about the British show, but I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s not like this is the first time. If the original version ever comes to BBCAmerica, I’ll take a look at it and do a compare/contrast.

    Bridey and Rosarita: The lineup is made up of professional models, not random women off the street. I assume that if a woman with a hip measurement of more than fifty inches is making her living as a professional model, then she’s probably figured out bigger isn’t automatically ‘not pretty.’ Besides, this show isn’t about fat, per se. The preview for next week showed a woman who’s convinced she can’t be pretty because she’s short. I would assume that somewhere along the line, they’re going to have a woman who’s convinced that being small-breasted is too horrible to allow her to be pretty or that she’s too thin. The point of that particular exercise is just how confused our perceptions of ourselves can be.

    One of the women last night was complaining about an ‘ugly roll of fat’ on her side. Carson looked at it and told her it was her rib cage. That’s a dangerous level of confused body image. She desperately needed to understand that she wasn’t fat. Spending too much more time concentrating on how ‘fat’ she was might have been the first step on the road to anorexia or bulimia. I honestly think there’s a big difference between making people take a more honest look at the shape they’re in and assuming that smaller is automatically better.

    More of us need to see ourselves more clearly to realize we’re okay just the way we are. Tall, short, fat, thin, large-breasted or small, we can’t love ourselves properly if we can’t even perceive ourselves correctly.

    Comment by Twistie — January 19, 2008 @ 7:21 pm

  7. I’ve been watching this show and I just want to force some of my girlfriends to sit down and watch it! It’s very interesting to see the ladies’ self-esteem rise during the show. I find myself wondering how long they’re going to be able to “surprise” women with a nude photoshoot at the end.

    Comment by Christy — January 20, 2008 @ 3:40 am

  8. it wasnt his idea, How To Look Good Naked has been on in england for well over a year or so now. we have a lovely man called Gok Wan presenting it and its a fantastic show because he points out all the womens super fantastic bits! and hes really nice unlike the patronising Trinny and Susannah in What Not To Wear (i think you have an american version of that too now) i really love How To Look Good Naked because Gok promotes everyone to think they are gorgeous no matter how big or awful they think they look, especially when a lot of women on his show dont like their big breasts, but we are all at home thinking “wow i wish mine were like that!”

    Comment by Abbey — January 20, 2008 @ 11:38 am

  9. Well, I wasn’t talking about the responses of the other women in the lineup — all I meant is that it’s been, in the few episodes so far, apparently a great relief to the women featured to find out they’re smaller than they thought. It’d be interesting to see the reaction of a woman who made a mistake in the other direction.

    Comment by Bridey — January 20, 2008 @ 4:51 pm

  10. I saw the first episode and like the concept of the show. I think that, yes, it’s much healthier for a woman to think highly of herself and to carry herself with confidence than to believe she’s some sort of ugly fat worthless person.

    That said…I wonder if this show is taking the body perception delusion stuff they’re trying so hard to reverse too far in the opposite direction. They didn’t really go into very much depth in terms of this woman’s lifestyle, so we don’t know if she ate healthfully–with plenty of fiber and vitamin rich fruits and veggies–or if she exercised regularly, didn’t smoke, got plenty of rest, etc. My “natural” body weight is a bit of the heavy side, but I do the best I can to work myself up into a sweat for 45 minutes 5 or 6 days a week, eat a healthy vegetarian diet, and so forth. And I don’t have nearly the issues this woman did at the beginning of the episode, nor the same body image issues I had when I wasn’t taking such good care of myself (even though my overall size and shape haven’t changed a whole lot). I just think Carson should have pushed the healthy lifestyle aspect a bit more.

    Comment by Arlene — January 20, 2008 @ 8:53 pm

  11. I love How to Look Good Naked. I especially love how compassionate and gentle Carson is with the women when they have to stand in front of those mirrors and describe their “flaws.” Despite his often-camp behavior, there is something quite genuine at the heart of what he says, and I find it touching.

    I don’t agree that it’s important for Carson to “push” a healthy lifestyle on the participants — I, for one, find it refreshing that the show’s only focus is on helping women see how beautiful they are. It’s a message that ALL of us need to learn to hear from ourselves, no matter what size or shape we are.

    (And, by the way, I’ve got a healthier lifestyle than I used to have, too. But that was my decision. Nobody else’s. As it should be for all of us.)

    Comment by Rubiatonta — January 21, 2008 @ 1:03 am

  12. I love the concept of the show. I watched the first episode and I know my hip size and I mentally put myself about the same place the girl on the show did, turns out, we were both wrong and I was supposed to be at the beginning of the line, I was amazed at my poor perception of my body.
    My best friend/neighbor (wears a size 2 but thinks she’s ugly) loves the show too. Rock on Carson!!!

    Comment by jen — January 21, 2008 @ 5:02 pm

  13. Some of you have commented (and in the original post, Twistie also commented) on Carson Kressley’s mannerisms and his sexual orientation. So he’s gay. So he has behaviors that could be described as “stereotypically gay.” So what? You know, it’s possible he’s not playing it up. Maybe he really is just that way. And if he is, should Carson really have to modify his behavior so he’s not “reinforcing stereotypes?” God forbid a gay man be “too gay.” ESPECIALLY on tv. I mean, there’s all the straights to impress. Should he have to water himself down to be more “acceptable?” Who determines what is and what isn’t acceptably gay?

    If I remember correctly, this was also a controversy when Queer Eye was on. And of course it’s been an ongoing controversy in the queer community.

    My suspicion is that not only Twistie but also the majority of the readers of this site are open-minded when it comes to LGBT issues. However, we need to recognize that the previously mentioned comments are homophobic, plain and simple. Let’s be careful.

    Comment by M — January 28, 2008 @ 11:37 pm

  14. Hi Ladies,
    I’ve been reading the site for a while and LOVE that not being “thin” is celebrated. I love that I’m not skinny, and that finally people are willing to celebrate all kinds of difference and not adhere to outdated stereotypes.

    On the subject of How to Look Good Naked I too am from the UK and love our Gok Wan. He seems to genuinely love women and want them to feel about themselves the way their friends or partners do when he talks to them during the show. Seeing a woman truely see herself after years of using glasses provided by “the media” and enjoy who and what she is makes me well up every time. I think body image councelling should be made available to all people who think they’re not good enough. How dare someone make you feel that way just because you “don’t fit”? Shame on them!

    Comment by Kate — January 31, 2008 @ 8:17 am

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