Notes from a Wonder Woman Fan Girl

POW!
POW!
A casual eye to my social media presence will reveal that I love, love Wonder Woman.

I have written about her. 

I entered (and lost…insert sad face) a Wonder Woman themed contest.

I donned a skirted Wonder Woman costume and gave an embarrassingly earnest speech about reclaiming my Amazon-ness for my Miss Tall International talent.

I have waaaayy too much Wonder Woman paraphenlia. Totes, mugs, t-shirts, stamps, stickers, temporary tattoos…

I drove three hours out of the way during a road trip to visit the Wonder Woman museum.

I have dressed up as Wonder Woman (at least once) for Halloween since 2014.

When I work out in the gym, I either imagine I am training for a Trumpian apocalyptic Hunger Games situation or to be a cast as an Amazon sister to Wonder Woman in the movie sequel.

Once, I cajoled my boyfriend into allowing me to come to the Harlem kindergarten class he taught dressed as Wonder Woman.

You read that correctly—I asked to do this.

I remember changing in the unisex restroom of the school, realizing for the first time just how skimpy the costume was. The pantyhose I brought to stave revealing too much ripped as I slid them on and I texted Josh in a panic from inside the restroom, afraid I was going to give the wrong impression of female empowerment to five year-olds.

The kids were wide-eyed at my costume and presence (my Wonder Woman boots are about 6″, increasing my already tall frame to 6’8″). The teachers were in various states of confused merriment and thankfully did not kick me out of the class. At times, when I was bending down to help the kids with their reading, I would see that my boobs were starting to hang outside of my corset and hastily tuck them in. I worried a lot about my starred booty shorts that day.

Strike a pose
                        Strike a pose
Thankfully, no children were scarred for life and they even humored me with assuming a Wonder Woman pose at the end of the day.

The Wonder Woman movie is opening June 2nd.

I will refrain from wearing my full Wonder Woman costume, but I may be wearing my Wonder Woman bra and panty set.

Underneath my muggle clothes. Le sigh.

I will nerdout hard for Wonder Woman. All day. And I am so ecstatic that this movie is looking like an actually polished superhero film and not some cheap-ass summer throwaway. It’s even directed by a woman (Patty Jenkins who directed Charlize Theron in the 2003 feature Monster).

One day, I will attend Comic-Con dressed in some obscure iteration of Wonder Woman. Finally, my Wonder Woman mania will make sense for I’ll be among brethren of all stripes. I won’t even have to worry about the shortness of my starred hot pants.

Suffering Sappho, she's really strong!
Suffering Sappho, she’s really strong!
I love Wonder Woman because she stands for feminine strength and compassion. Because she has kinky, feminist beginnings and always has to save her cute, but hapless boyfriend Steve Trevor. She is an Amazonian princess steeped in mythology. As a woman enamored of mythology, how could I resist the origin story of a warrior princess born to Hippolyta (Queen of the Amazons who makes a guest appearance in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream) whose daddy is sometimes Zeus and often clashes with the war god Ares?

Her changing looks and attitudes, from exuberant patriotism to being a 1960s mod girl to resembling a rabid Cross-Fitter reflect national anxieties on the lines between womanhood and power.

She aint perfect: She has an invisible jet. Sometimes she gets so skinny that I feel relieved she is a true demi-goddess, because otherwise, she’d probably get her ass kicked. I still wish there were more black women superheroines who weren’t derivatives of their male peers or one-lining muscled brick houses with asses that outsize Jupiter.

I want more for us.

Still. This Wonder Woman love is not going anywhere. What’s great about being a great big nerd about what you love is that people will send things your way. One friend bought me a Wonder Woman water bottle (thanks Lucia!) Friends will send me interesting mash-ups on Instagram and limited-time only t-shirts.

My boyfriend bought me a Wonder Woman lightswitch cover. Heart.

H-88 Web

I have talked with Wonder Woman fan-girls (and fanboys) all around the world. We laugh at the weird knowledge we carry about Diana Prince, admire the various illustrative creations of the George Lopez directed comic book line, giggle about the funniest Linda Carter Wonder Woman series episode, remind each other about #wonderwomanwednesday. We talk about how cool it is that while Superman and Batman are summoned to engage in wars, Wonder Woman is who the people call when they want to end one.

About five months ago I took an eight hour bus ride to New York City from Pittsburgh. On the ride, I read through the Wonder Woman series The Circle. This Diana Prince was complicated, trying to balance her otherworldly powers with the compassion the world so needed, all while being misrepresented and misunderstood by the very people she was called to save. A deeper surge of recognition took root in my gut, warmed a path to my heart.

I know I am not an Amazonian princess who can fly and deflect bullets. But, I am a woman who is trying to figure things out, who is oftentimes anxiously straddling the lines between woman and power, holder and held, not-giving-a fuck and empathy.

Most of the time, my fangirling is pure fun, a sort-of socially acceptable way to exhibit the unabashed enthusiasm I never really had access to as a child. I’m sure this is the story for many cosplayers, comic-con attendees, superhero obsessed adults. We finally have a chance to play.

But, sometimes the play can help digest lessons that no first person essay or therapy session could. If Wonder Woman feels confused about the right way to be a woman, perhaps it’s not so strange that I still do too.

I will fangirl for Wonder Woman always. Or until my future children beg me to stop picking them up dressed in full costume.

Onward,

Hannah

 

 

 

My Turn as a Chocolate Cheesecake

cover of black pin up book with brown skinned curvy woman with fuchsia bathing suit on and matching flower in her hair
Buy this Pin-Up Book

A month ago I took part in my first pin-up photo shoot.

I was deathly tired after the hours of back-arching poses and costume changes, and had a case of severe seasonal allergies to boot.

I consider it one of the most life-giving experiences I’ve had this year.

Life-giving kinda sounds like a word that one should use in secondary school classrooms, but still.

Sepia toned picture of dark skinned woman in sparkly bustier laying on feathers and looking away from camera in open way
I do a good look-away.                        Shameless Photography

I’ve mentioned before how much I wanted to be a model when I was just a kid.  I think a lot of it came from my obsession with The Great Muppet Caper, with Miss Piggy and Darla, Marla, Carla flouncing around flowy pastel creations.

One of my uncles who was constantly playing around with artistic pursuits to include photography told me I would one day be “just like Naomi Campbell”.

I was tall and roller-skate skinny (in the words of Holden Caulfield). I dreamed of entering worlds of glamour and electric intrigue, beguiling the masses with my one-dimpled smile from the covers of YM (I loved that magazine) and Seventeen.

I pored over magazines. Watched The Model Story on E! Went two “modeling scout” sessions which ended up being barely veiled scams to suck money out of lower middle class families who wanted their kids on the Disney Channel.

And despite these unfortunate setbacks, I still awaited the moment I’d be discovered by a representative of Elle or Ford in a shopping mall.

Alas, puberty.

afro'd dark skin women in gold dress laying down with legs in air in relaxed pin up pose, eyes closed and on scattered records
That 70s Pin Up       Shameless Photography

From the way family friends commented on my weight gain after age twelve, you would think I should’ve had a star role in The Klumps. My hips grew, my string bean legs filled out. My stomach rounded into its stubborn softness.

Shortly after, my uncle looked at me and shrugged his shoulders, “You can’t be a model anymore, but perhaps there’s hope for your sister.”

At my final scout event, a sour faced black dude with shoulder length chocolate colored locs said that I needed to work on trimming my physique and not slurring my words (it was an acting audition as well).

I was fourteen years old, about the same height I am now and a good sixty pounds less than what I am now.

His words rang through my head for years on end. Trim down. Trim down. Speak clearer. Speak less.

My model dreams were hard to kill off. Sometimes strangers conflate any tall woman with an ability to model and so, I constantly was told that I should model. I watched the ascent of plus size models and often perused magazines like Plus Model Magazine and volup2.

Looking through these magazines, I decided I again had the wrong look. Not hour glass enough and too tall. Lacking of racially ambiguous facial features and hair.

I had a story of “can’t” and I was sticking to it.

In my twenties, I would sometimes heed my stubborn modeling desire and have plain black and white pictures taken by a friend or venture to the Korean photo place around the corner.

Dark skinned black woman in afro wig in traditional wonder woman costume standing with hands on hips
You know I had to do it.
Shameless Photography

I’d stare at the pictures afterwards hating on every blemish, wishing for the long, limbed Twiggy physique, the glamazon stature of the 1990s, for video-girl coke-bottle curves. Anything but this ample thighed, athletic woman looking back at me. I located fault everywhere, deemed myself to be un-photogenic and definitely not model worthy.

Those wallet sized copies and 8x10s would quickly become buried under office supplies or stuffed into boxes labelled MISC.

One beautiful thing about the pin-up modeling/dress-up world is the apparent celebration of an assortment of bodies. I’m not saying there aren’t issues of beauty ideals in this vein of modeling, but the standards of being a modern day pin up way more open than straight-sized and most plus-size modeling avenues.

There are hour-glass pin-ups. Alternative, tattooed pin-ups. Lanky pin-ups and the short and stout.

I also love that this community has fun and is mostly female. Style need not be pretentious.

I had long admired the work of Shameless Photography a woman-run pin-up photography business based in the Bay Area and NYC. I was even a finalist for a letter-writing contest they held two years ago. They shoot a diversity of models and I had no fear that they wouldn’t know what to do with my hair or fuck up my foundation.

I was drawn to these images and sought to see myself pictured in this way. The idea of luxuriating in beauty, unashamed pulled and pulled. Women are taught so much centered in shame around their bodies. I am no exception. Obvs.

The Shameless team were so kind and professional, never short-changing on changing around a look or getting the pose just right.

I soon understood a major bonus of modeling: having people admire and encourage you in real time. Who doesn’t want to hear “Beautiful!” or “God, what a great shot!” after each flash of a camera?  After the shoot was finished, we exchanged tired grins of battle comrades.

They were even nice enough to say I should model. Like, IRL.

Now, the thing about life-giving and life changing experiences is that the fear and old stories aren’t just like, “Well, damn, I guess we better move on out.”

During the shoot, my inner voice criticized my lax diet of the last couple of weeks and often castigated myself when I’d flop out of a pose. God, you suck. My mind wanted to posit their model encouragement as Things-They-Tell-Every-Shameless-Pin-Up and just “being nice”. I worried about if the pictures would turn out to be good or not.

dark skinned woman assuming muscle baring rosie the riveter stance in wonder woman costume, side profile. red background. wearing large afro wig and wonder woman costume
Rosie the Wonder Woman
Shameless Photography

The difference between teenage wanna-be model Hannah and Hannah of 2016  is not invulnerability. I wish I could give some declaration of being totally over it, but changing stories often sometimes takes time.

The difference lies in that tiny gap between thinking these damaging thoughts and believing they are true. The difference is recognizing my fault finding and perfectionistic eye as nothing but impediments to being fully myself. And though the negative thoughts are pervasive, they were not the majority. I let myself have fun and make the “too!” face over and over.

dark skinned black woman in cat eye glasses in navy blue white polka dotted dress. holding glasses with one hand and hand on hip. wearing pearl bracelet.
Shameless TOO! Face

Today, I don’t have dreams of being a Supermodel or signing with whatever major modeling agency is out there now. I don’t need to make a living as an IG model or walk the catwalk for Rubin Singer.

I commit to heeding the call of my creative life, no matter how superfluous and superficial or weird these calls may be.

Modeling is part of taking my creative desires seriously and having fun enjoying my body, a body I slowly learned to critique and posit as unfeminine. It’s about letting go of that stale-ass story where I entrusted my self-regard to the male gaze and “popular” opinion.

And giving really good face.

Voguing onward,

Hannah