Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Size Sexy, by Stella Ellis

Stella Ellis is a fashion model, born in Israel, who speaks eight languages.  She's a full-figured woman, and takes no crap from anyone about her size, or anything else, for that matter, which I think is laudable attitude, and one I could do with myself.  

I loved this book, with a few caveats.  Stella is unapologetically heterosexual, and she thinks the rest of the world is, too, apparently.  So throughout her book, she emphasizes the importance of being attractive to men.  Which is fine, but I wish she were a little more open-minded, and didn't assume that all women always want to be with men, and be attractive only to men.

Also, whereas she is a plus-size (or full-figured, or as she calls it "hour-glass and a half") model, she advises women not to "let themselves go" and weigh "300 pounds."  She herself says her largest size was size 22, which could mean anything, since sizes (as I have discovered) vary from brand to brand, designer to designer, and manufacturer to manufacturer.  There really seems to be no such thing as a "standard size" when it comes to plus-size clothing.  I would say I'm a 22-24, but in some instances I take a size 26, or 28, and some brands (Avenue, K-Mart, I'm looking at you!) don't fit me at all, no matter what size I try on.  So whereas she says that you should love and accept yourself as you are, and dress for the body you have, accenting the positive and minimizing the negative, she also says you should watch what you eat, eating healthy foods and not junk, and try not to gain weight excessively.  Which is probably good advice, but what if you weigh 300 pounds?  What if you have weight concerns that are not easily addressed, and you've tried losing, but nothing seems to work?  What if you take medication that has caused you to gain weight and messes with your appetite?  Not everybody sets out to weigh a lot, some of it is genetics, and life circumstances.  You shouldn't be shunned and judged harshly because of something that's beyond your control.

However, she does encourage women to take good care of themselves, not just by eating healthy foods, but also by getting some exercise, maintaining an active social life, engaging in hobbies and activities you enjoy, and pampering yourself, either with mani/pedis, a trip to a spa, a massage, or a good long soak in a tub, and some at-home pampering.  She also emphasizes the importance of a positive self-image, strong self-confidence and a positive attitude.  I agree with her on this.  One cannot underestimate  the importance a positive attitude and belief in oneself have in making one's way through life.

Also, pleasantly, the book is well-written, well-edited and has few typographical or grammatical errors.  Stella Ellis uses language well, and her presentation is excellent.  There are quotes from famous people (Mae West is a favorite, and deservedly so), quotes from Stella herself, entitled "Let Me Tell You!" and little bits of advice on most pages.  There is also a section of gorgeous color photographs in the middle of the book, featuring Stella Ellis modeling.  One of the photographers is the designer, Jean-Paul Gaultier, who played a role in catapulting Ms. Ellis to runway fame.   I have to say, it's great to see a plus-size woman done up so glamorously and creatively, even if it's not something the average person would wear every day.  It provides a nice counterpoint to the utilitarian clothing and bad sketches that I've seen in some books lately.

There is the, what seems to be obligatory, chapter on sex and relationships.  Basically she says, don't give it up too easily, be picky, don't sell yourself short, don't settle, dress well, be glamorous, flirt, be interested in the other person and they will find you fascinating.  This was a pleasant change from the last book I read, "You Can Be Sexy at Any Size or Age!" also by a plus-size model, which suggested performing oral sex on your "man" as a way to keep him interested.  I may be naive, but I think it takes more than oral sex to encourage a partner to stay with you.  There are also factors like compatibility, mutual respect, love, emotional support ... you can have all that without breaking out the condoms!

Overall, I enjoyed Ms. Ellis's book and found it useful.  However, I flunked the test at the end, because I still do not feel empowered as a Size Sexy woman, but that is more my problem than the result of anything she did or didn't address.

A word of caution:  She encourages women to go to the makeup counters at department stores for makeovers and makeup and skincare advice.  I do not think this is the best advice.  I think Paula Begoun hit the nail on the head when she said the makeup counters in department stores are known as "Barracuda Bay."  There's a reason they are the first thing you see when you walk into a department store:  They generate tremendous revenue for the store, and those nice ladies behind the counters are there to make sure they sell you something, whether you really want it or need it or not.  They are experts in the soft sell, so be wary when you go there.  I avoid them at all costs, because I know from experience that when I'm in a certain, vulnerable mood, either too depressed or too happy, I will end up buying stuff I don't need and don't really want.  My friend Ange once convinced me to return $90 worth of product that I had bought at the Bobbi Brown counter in Macy's at the Staten Island Mall.  Thank the gods for such friends, right?

When it comes to makeup, I find it's best to rely on friends or acquaintances who have no vested interest in your purchases.  And you can do just as well at the drugstore or the independent stores like The Body Shop and Bath & Body Works and Sephora as you can in the "Barracuda Bay."

I would recommend this book if your mood needs a boost, and if you need some tips on makeup, haircare, skincare, and maintaining a positive self-image.  It's a pleasant, helpful read.