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What is a “Dreamgirl?” March 4, 2007

Posted by jsaffold in Uncategorized.
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I missed the Oscars due to two terrible exams, but this was the one clip from the evening that I caught on YouTube. In class on Thursday, we discussed Beyonce’s status as a ubiquitous sex symbol and the strategic marketing used to create her mass appeal.  It is interesting to see Jennifer Hudson’s journey through American Idol to Dreamgirls. This video shows one of her performances on American Idol, just as a comparison. The voice is just as powerful but her look is certainly different.

What I find interesting is the nature of Dreamgirls and the fact that it was that film that propelled Jennifer to stardom. I wonder if her path would have been at all similar had she not been the underdog and if she hadn’t been constantly in comparison to Beyonce. Her voice is clearly superior to Beyonce’s, but that alone is not what I think made her into a star. I wonder if we will expect to continually see Jennifer Hudson in the underdog role–it is sort of related to how female power often comes in the form of revenge. What struck me about the clip was that Anika Noni Rose, the third Dreamgirl, was in the center and Beyonce and Jennifer were off to the sides when in all the promo pics and in the movie, Beyonce assumed the spotlight position. It may seem minor, but it was a big deal in the actual film that Beyonce took Jennifer’s lead position and assumed the “center” spot. In this performance, Jennifer effortlessly sings circles around Beyonce, although Beyonce does clearly try to sing up to Jennifer’s level.

The problematic part for me is this: why were we more apt to accept someone like Jennifer when she was in the Effie White role? Would she have been as successful if she hadn’t played the part of a woman wronged? Also, if Jennifer came out with a video even remotely resembling “Upgrade U” (complete with the sensual rolling in jewelry, the diamond in her mouth, sitting in the trunk of a car) it would certainly be received much differently from Beyonce’s.

As a not-so-academic side note, I had a “moment” when I was sitting at the men’s basketball game last weekend (the NESCAC semifinal against Colby). It was in the silent moments just before an Amherst free throw, when from behind me I heard the refrain of an adolescent male voice: “To the left, to the left, everything you own in a box to the left…” I’d heard the female done-wrong “anthem” many a time on the radio and even listened to it by choice on my iPod, but it had never struck me just how ubiquitous Beyonce and all things related are.  

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1. erinsull - March 5, 2007

So I finally took the time to sit down and read the article accompanying the controversial Vogue photo spread (or lack there of in this case). On the cover she is being toted as “America’s Dream Girl”. The main focus of the piece is how improbable her success is, especially her acceptance into the high end fashion world. The article is written by Andre Leon Talley, the black editor at large for Vogue. Andre has taken Jennifer under his wing to try and mold her into a Vogue ready fashionista. In the article we have everyone from Marc Jacobs to Oscar de La Renta to Vera Wang gushing over Jennifer Hudson. Still each piece of praise seems to be followed by a statement about how incredible it is that these titans of fashion have fallen for “plus size” Jennifer. Alot of it goes back to the personality aspect we talked about in class, the designers don’t go as far as saying that the like her body, instead they praise her as a person. Sure she might not be the right size but Michael Kors says she is “uplifting, without being syrupy”. It all leads Andre to ask “How ever did a girl like Hudson end up holding court here, posing with legendary New York Post columnist Liz Smith, and preparing for a flurry of designer fittings?” Is this why Hudson is being embraced as our “Dream Girl”, because her success is so improbable, because she is the expection to the rule? Like the orignal poster it got me thinking of her underdog status.

On a side note I think Andre Leon Talley, and his place in the fashion work is really interesting. This is the man who once said “Most of the Vogue girls are so thin, tremendously thin, because Miss Anna don’t like fat people.” Here is a an interview where he talks a little about race in the fashion world, or course there is much that is left unsaid but it is an interesting start

http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1264/is_2_34/ai_102452914


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