by Zakia M. Carter
The first time I see the ad, I stop just as the light turns green to cross the street. The steady current of people simply part and continue to move forward around me. With the exception of alcohol and tobacco billboards, I do not think I have ever seen an ad featuring an attractive Black woman on a scale as large as this. What happened to Kate Moss? Her years long reign as Calvin Klein poster girl cut short by her unstartling revelation that her heroine chic look was achieved by a heroine addicted lifestyle. Come to think of it, what happened to the sullen white boy who replaced Kate? His fifteen minutes of fame on that high volume corner lasted less than three months.
Nearly six stories high and a quarter of a block wide, Foxy Brown, Hip-Hops brash and explicit ill na-na girl, is on the prowl. Positioned on her hands and knees, Foxy is clad in a black bikini top and a pair of Calvin Klein jeans. Like a petulant child in a re-telling of the Emperors New Clothes, I cant help but notice that Foxy Browns ass is hanging out. This, I know, is an exaggeration, but I can see the dimple in the small of her back. And I know that if my grandmother were standing next to me she would wonder out loud why nobody gave that poor child a belt before she walked (or as in this case crawled) out of the house.
Draped over the buildings side, the advertisement is made of a synthetic fabric that is opaque during the day. After sunset, Foxys panorama is interrupted by occasional squares of light filtering through from the apartment windows covered beneath.
I am thrilled that she is not the color of buttermilk. Her dark chocolate complexion defies every pale body who ever declared, "nothing comes between me and my Calvins." No co-co dusted Kate clone; Foxys got a grown womans shape with a grown womans curve. And then, I realize that this incongruity is part of the reason why I have been moved to analyze the ad in the first place. Calvins were never made to suit rounded hips and ample bottoms. They are patterned after the long backsides of prepubescent white girls and the angular forms of adolescent boys. Unless she wears them hip hugger style, Foxys Calvins do not fit. It is the round behind, small waist thing. As Foxy so clearly demonstrates, when it comes to jeans, women with this shape are usually assed-out.
Even more so than her skin tone and classically feminine figure, however, I am aware of the fact that Foxy is so obviously a sexual object for sale. Chances are, of course, that Foxy would not have come any other way. No cunning linguist, the full extent of her lyrical content is built on the prospects of sex and material gain. In many ways Foxy Brown as Calvin Kleins spokes-model is the perfect marketing match. After all, Calvin has always relied on sex to sell jeans and Black women have been sexually objectified since the days of the auction block. Its a wonder it took so long to catch on Still, I can not say that I am completely desensitized to Foxys cum fuck me pose or entirely appreciative of Calvins marketing savvy.
The days of Run DMCs sentiment: Calvin Kleins no friend of mine / dont want nobodys name on my behind are long gone. Throwing a line to the ghetto superstars with discretionary income, Calvin forgives us this past trespass and we bite again and again, hook, line, and sinker. Since Foxys debut, Hip-Hop and chocolate reign supreme. Complexions ranging from Lisa "Left Eye" Lopess butter pecan recline to Ghost Face Killahs ebony sculpted body have dominated the coveted corner on Broadway and Houston.
As I cross the street, beyond the range of Foxys all encompassing gaze, I am conscious of just how starved I am to see a larger than life reflection of myself. Foxys semi-denimed derriere aside, the image of a Black woman as a desirable standard ideal is a tremendous statement. It is this image is that caught my eye. Indeed, Calvins choice is further confirmation, as if every jingle, advertisement and fashion trend did not already shout this fact from the rooftops, that Hip-Hop culture has permeated all forms of popular culture.
Now all we have to do is to continue producing images contrary to the predominant stereotype of Black women as whores -- and then splash them on six stories high buildings. Unfortunately, I sometimes feel like that solution is as about likely to occur, as Calvin Klein is to design a pair of jeans with me in mind.
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