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February 15, 2014

The illusion of glamour

"Glamour is a misunderstood word, whose meaning – like similar superlatives such as elite, exclusive, luxury and unique – has been adulterated and weakened, mostly thanks to its overuse by marketers and the media. But unlike those other words, so beloved of lifestyle journalists, realtors and advertising copywriters, glamour is a word that can be evocative and even profound, as writer Virginia Postrel explains in her new book The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion."

Postrel uses two anecdotes to demonstrate the immense power glamour has, particularly in the minds of the young. Growing up in China in the ‘70s, Yiyun Li prized a gold and silver-striped candy wrapper that, held in front of her eyes, made her see “a gilded world, much fancier than our everyday, dull life.” The candy wrapper came from America, and it was the seed of a longing that saw her escape China for an American graduate school and, eventually, a career as a novelist.

Michaela DePrince’s story is even more remarkable. An orphan in Sierra Leone, she found a discarded magazine that contained a picture of a ballerina in her tutu and point shoes. It “represented freedom, it represented hope, it represented trying to live a little longer,” she recalled later. The little girl tore the picture out and hid it in her underwear. Adopted by an American couple, she began studying dance, and in 2012 joined the Dance Theatre of Harlem as a ballerina.

“I was so determined to be like that person on the magazine,” she said.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at February 15, 2014 10:47 AM