Like one of your French girls.Posted: September 28, 2014
I get ornery whenever anyone tries to talk shit about Titanic. It’s a bloody wonderful movie. It came out when I was sixteen and it might not have the same effect on me now, but it did then, and was so important to me for two reasons.
First: because it was an inversion of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope before it was even a trope. (If you’re unfamiliar, read this.) Usually it’s a beautiful waifish girl who changes a troubled man’s life and then dies tragically blah blah blah. Whereas in Titanic, Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a waifish drifter who talks wealthy Rose (Kate Winslet) down from suicide, then befriends her, then becomes her lover. He dies. She survives. She then turns her back on a privileged but suffocating life and goes on to reinvent herself from scratch. As an old lady, she lives with her cool artist great-granddaughter and wears hip purple caftans. Seeing that last long shot of all the pictures of Rose’s life, all the things she’d done since then—traveling to Africa, flying a plane, posing as a film star, riding a horse in the surf at Coney Island, with different-colored hair in each—made such a deep impression on me.
Second: the 90s, when I grew up, was the age of “heroin chic.” (I mean, it still is, but Kate Moss was somethin’ else.) I loved, and still love, fashion magazines featuring women who are beautiful and also happen to be skinny; but it was the only kind of beauty I saw represented in the media, unless I went to my family’s bookcase full of National Geographic.
But in this midst of that, suddenly there was Rose DeWitt Bukater.
She was full-figured, curvy, and strong—beautiful in a way that I secretly hoped I was beautiful. She posed nude for Jack as an act of agency, rebellion, and self-discovery. And her body looked like mine. And it was celebrated as wonderful. That meant so much to me, at sixteen.
Sixteen years later, here in Belize, it turns out a friend of a friend is a marvelous artist trained in the UK. I thought of Rose. So on a rainy day when I couldn’t go to the cave, I had him up to the third floor of my guesthouse, where there’s a lobby area with couch and chairs, otherwise empty because it’s low season. I posed a dozen ways—standing, reclining, kneeling, lying down on my back, lying down on my stomach, facing front, facing away, against the wall, in a lunge, in a headstand. He sketched and took pictures. It rained outside. We talked the whole time. I was so comfortable. I thought I might be self-conscious, but the only word that came to mind was “easy.”
I haven’t seen any of the sketches yet, but the artist is keeping me updated through the process. His name is Fernando Cruz Crasborn. If you want a print when they’re available, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get you in touch with him!