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How to Look Good Naked — For Real

By January 16, 2008 6 Comments

Carson and the How to Look Good Naked models

When was the last time you sat on the couch, squealing in delight because you were so impressed with the programming? I know. Us neither. We’re not even all that into TV. That’s why we’re so excited about “How to Look Good Naked,” a new Lifetime reality series.

The weekly show is hosted by Carson Kressley from “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” and features a new woman each week who learns to love her body as it is. (Yes, really.) Each week, the show culminates in a photo shoot where the woman poses naked, flaunting her new-found confidence. The show is structured in much the same way as a typical makeover show, but the goal is one of self-acceptance, instead of diet and plastic surgery.

The title of the show may evoke something straight out of seedy late-night cable, but this show genuinely strives to counter pre-conceived images of beauty to which women compare themselves. Carson repeatedly comes back to the idea of loving one’s body, and seeing it as others perceive it, instead of as our own skewed version.

The first episode featured Layla from Santa Monica, CA, and put Layla through a program to allow her to see her body as it really is. In the show, Layla takes a good look at herself in several full-length mirrors and lists off every part of her body that she dislikes, while Carson emphasizes her positive attributes. Shortly afterward, Layla sees interviews with people on the street as they speak about a huge, projected image of her body. Instead of highlighting so-called problem areas, many individuals found Layla’s body beautiful and refreshing. After going bra and underwear shopping, clothing shopping, having a spa treatment, haircut, and makeup restyling, Layla poses naked for a photo shoot.

We find this show delightfully subversive, as it uses the typical makeover show paradigm to promote a positive message about loving oneself. Not once are diet or cosmetic surgery mentioned as possible avenues for self-improvement. There’s still the predictable corporate shilling, in not-so-subtle moments of product placement, and we saw at least one diet pill advertisement during the commercial breaks (et tu, Dexatrim?). Also, too much emphasis was put on making Layla look and feel “sexy” and desirable to men. However, we are impressed with Carson’s compassionate and unorthodox contributions to this reality series, which makes the show watchable and entertaining.

Numerous critics have cited the show for promoting obesity/unhealthy lifestyles (their words, not ours) and glossing over the benefits of healthy eating and exercise. Apparently these critics assume that the show’s viewers have never heard those suggestions before. Apparently these critics have not been paying attention to the corporate sponsors. Ads aside, “How to Look Good Naked” stands out by not taking part in that rhetoric. We are not given information about Layla’s medical profile, her eating habits or her exercise patterns, because that is simply irrelevant.

These same critics have touched upon their own impulse to judge the women featured in the episode as being too lazy to change their bodies, and finding acceptance as a sort of defeat. What do you think? Did you find yourself pointing out Layla’s flaws along with her?

We’ve heard this sort of argument a lot, blaming and bullying women who do not work day and night to achieve a cookie-cutter goal for their bodies. The show has something to say about that: Carson explains that in the 20 years Layla had been dieting, she could have been having fun, being good at her job, dating more. She had been putting her life on pause, waiting until she was worthy to go out and be proactive. That was one of the most poignant moments of the show, and one that will most likely hit home for many of the show’s viewers.

You can watch the whole first episode in three segments on the Lifetime website here. It’s also available for free download from the iTunes Store.

So if you love this show too, take action!

1) Let Lifetime know how much you appreciate its programming by writing Lifetime Television / 309 W. 49th Street / New York, NY 10019.

2) Send Carson’s agent a letter or e-mail and tell her what a great job he’s doing.

3) Support the show by tuning in and encouraging your friends to watch it.

As always, we welcome any comments you might have about the show. Let us know what you think!

The details:

“How to Look Good Naked,” Lifetime, Fridays at 9PM/8PM Central.

— Avital Isaacs and Hilary Burgin

Avital is a sophomore at Oberlin College, where she majors in Cinema Studies. After many years of quiet admiration for About-Face, she is thrilled to be joining the ranks.

Hilary is also a sophomore at Oberlin College in the great state of Ohio, studying Environmental Studies and Latin American Studies. She was raised in a female-positive family that loves to have event gatherings based upon food. She could most likely live off of garlic, chocolate, spinach, cheese, and grapefruit.