Gerren Taylor has been around the world and back, modeled on countless runways, and posed for renowned fashion magazines. She is tall and slender; her almond-shaped eyes complement her pillowy lips as they sit perfectly on her baby face. While she exudes sensuality, Gerren has an innate innocence about her. She is everything today’s young girls aspire to be when they grow up, the ideal woman. Ironically enough, Gerren Taylor is only 12 years old.
For filmmaker Darryl Roberts, Taylor serves as a different type of muse than what she is used to. In America the Beautiful, Gerren Taylor is the thread that weaves together Roberts’s film, which criticizes our culture’s unhealthy obsession with beauty and our society’s perpetual quest for physical perfection. We follow Taylor throughout her modeling career cut short when she finds herself out of work and labeled “obese” by modeling and advertising agencies alike. At age 14, standing nearly six-feet tall, she only weighed 130 pounds.
Evidently so, models are not the only victims of eating and body image disorders exemplified in America the Beautiful. During the early stages of making his film, Roberts asked 200 women from all walks of life if they felt attractive or possessed a healthy attitude about their bodies. Of those 200, only two said yes. So who’s to blame? Why is it that in the U.S., as many as 10 million females struggle with anorexia and bulimia? America the Beautiful points the finger at media influences, namely the advertising, fashion, and cosmetic industries.
From February 23-27, UCSB is hosting National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDAW). This annual event is tailored to raise awareness about the different kinds of eating disorders and to educate those who are affected. To begin NEDAW week, UCSB invited Darryl Roberts to share his world-renowned film on Saturday, February 21.
America the Beautiful
- When: Saturday, February 21, 2009, 2 p.m.
- Where: Isla Vista Theater, 960 Embarcadero del Norte, Isla Vista, CA
- Cost: Not available
- Age limit: Not available
In America the Beautiful, Roberts not only tackles the fact that Americans are unhappy with their bodies but scrutinizes why that is. Roberts spent five years making his documentary, interviewing everyone - magazine editors, media execs, celebrities, psychologists, and most crucial of them all, everyday, ordinary women - to figure out the who and the why behind our country’s fixation with being “beautiful.”
At the core of this documentary lies a simple message, according to Roberts. “Everyone living has something unique and beautiful about them,” he explained to me over the phone, just after being caught in a New York blizzard in the midst of a nationwide college tour. “We have to learn to tap into this personal beauty. We have to learn to love ourselves.”
If the answer were that easy though, didn’t he think everyone would choose to “love themselves” if they had the chance? He agreed, but knew it wasn’t a simple task. “We have to help ourselves,” he said. America the Beautiful urges women to take a look at themselves, find something beautiful, and embrace it.