Imagine that

UPTOWN DOWNTOWN - Joanne Zapanta-Andrada - The Philippine Star

Several years ago, I had the occasion of being interviewed for a weekend magazine. The interviewer was a former high school classmate, a sharp, no-nonsense girl who said what she meant and meant what she said. 

“So what is the image that you are projecting this time in your life?” she asked. I was unprepared for the question. It never occurred to me that one was supposed to project any preconceived image. As a former print model, I certainly had my fair share of rendering a look but when the shoot was over, there was no reason to emulate anything or anyone. And yet, looking back to those times, I realize that, like millions of people before me, I had inadvertently done so.

Warren Beatty once remarked, “Madonna would not be able to live without a camera in front of her.” The comment may have been crafted as a sound bite, yet it is common knowledge that the pop singer’s success has little to do with her vocal prowess and a lot to do with her uncanny ability to reinvent herself.

First there was the pleasantly chubby Material Girl persona that made the world pay attention then there was the Virgin/Birch Queen, a leaner, meaner Madonna — gyrating behind a one-way mirror to the liquid delight of an adolescent boy. After which came the brown-haired, chemise, water-drenched Like a Prayer damsel that had her fornicating with a black saint. The images evolved from wholesome playfulness into varied levels of sexual decadence. Madonna’s sex theme eventually reached a saturation point. After her erotic, coffee-table book Sex and her disastrous, pornographic film Body of Evidence, she found herself faced with an audience that began tiring of the sex rehash overdose. As one writer cattily remarked, “What else is there for her to do but show pink?” To this day, Madonna is still a contender in the pop music field but there have been signs of slippage as the Queen of Pop’s star power has been overwhelmed by the rise of younger musicians such as Rihanna, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga (who oddly enough has been criticized for projecting a Madonna-esque persona).

Why the lengthy analysis on Madonna? The reason is simply that many of us are like her. We constantly try to hold our audience captive with new images of ourselves. But unlike the singer whose gimmicks are understandably motivated by the nature of her trade, our reasons are much more personal. We constantly reinvent ourselves to fill the need for attention and approval. The sixth grader who pads her bra, the officemate who takes a month-long vacation to the US and comes home with a pseudo-American twang that may or may not land her a second career in a call center, the 50-plus-year-old who has dyed her hair maize and still keeps her skirts just three-fourths of an inch below crotch level. These actions suggest that what was originally status quo is no longer good enough. Certainly there is nothing wrong with wanting to be prettier or smarter. The difficulty arises when the pursuit of an image hinders us from discovering our true selves.

Why the difficulty in accepting who we really are? Perhaps the reason is because deep down we fear that who we  truly are is boring. Some of us may not even bother to search for our identity because we assume that we are not worth the discovery. The formula of celluloid imaging becomes more appealing because by playing up to an image, we temporarily mirror what we and other people aspire to be.

Those who are wiser know that, more than perfection, it is authenticity that one should aspire for. An insight, a giggle, an inflection, an expression that is completely and unmistakably your own is worth far more than a million perfect reproductions or wannabes.

And so at the risk of sounding Strasberg-like, I answered the interviewer’s question. I told her that at this juncture in my life I had no interest in projecting and have focuse d my efforts on being. In my forties, the klieg lights have long been dimmed and the makeup has been washed away. The first half of my life had been invested into becoming the person I wanted to be. This second half is devoted into meeting the person that I am. Metaphorically, I wonder how this face will look without rouge and eyeliner. I am not yet fully acquainted with the woman behind the mask. But no matter, whoever she is, I have a feeling that I will like her very much.

(Log on to www.uptowndowntownsite.blogspot.com for more articles.)










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