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Adventures in Barbie-dom: Becoming My Own Social Experiment

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Kim D'EonI remember the first time I showed my cleavage on TV. It was mortifying. It was deeply exposing. It was hilarious.

Hilarious because it was SO. NOT. ME.

I had started working on a flashy entertainment show about a year before that and so began the struggles with my style, my hair, my ability (or lack thereof) to wear heels. As a neophyte on the entertainment scene, I knew I needed to get up to speed. Stat.

My fashion transition was like one of those fun, little musical montage moments in the movies where someone takes on the project of turning a tomboy into a “real girl”. Except there was no musical montage… and it wasn’t really that fun. Being “glamourous” was always a struggle for me. Choosing which tiny cocktail dress to wear in front of a national audience on a daily basis stressed me out!

I didn’t really talk to anyone about this internal struggle. I mean, I even feel guilty telling you now. Who wants to hear a girl, who’s living out a successful television career, complain about picking out fancy dresses and expensive heels? Ew! Gag. Obviously, it’s kinda gross to complain about that. So, I didn’t really (except to my close friends and family who always got a kick out of seeing me all “dolled up” for camera because it was such a foreign concept to them).

I was the little girl with dirty fingernails from playing with worms, who hated brushing her hair and wearing dresses. I used to get quite upset with my mother for trying to force me into anything that didn’t have two leg holes. Luckily, she was an ex-hippie who didn’t really care too much about what my sister and I wore, so it was pretty much a non-issue. I wasn’t ever forced into something I didn’t want to do except clean my room and eat my vegetables. I grew up to be a woman who makes her bed most days, eats piles of veggies, but always feels somewhat awkward in a dress.

I got my first TV job on a youth consumer show, which focused on empowerment. They let me wear jeans and neckties and combat boots. I was in my element.  All the TV jobs I had between then and my foray into entertainment reporting didn’t need to cajole me into a style that was anything but signature, Kim D’Eon. I was always encouraged to be myself.

And then, in an interesting turn of events, I found myself joining the cast of one of the biggest glam-brands in the world. Entertainment Tonight. Dresses and heels, here I come! It was terrifying.

Don’t get me wrong, no one held a gun to my head and demanded, “show your cleavage or die.” The pressure to turn sexy-glam just permeated through everything in showbiz (aka: all the cool kids were doing it!) All I had to do was look at my successful American counterparts to realize how to walk the walk, talk the talk, and wear the dress.

Over the years, I actually learned how to walk, pretty convincingly, in high heels. I learned the “importance” of accessorizing, and how to spot a dress on the rack that  would flatter my figure. And after a few years of convincing, I finally donned my first strapless dress on National TV. Man, I struggled with that one. I find strapless dresses SO revealing (especially in a cropped head-and-shoulders shot!) I was always afraid of looking naked and/or bunny-ish. (Plus, I hated my broad shoulders and would do just about anything to hide them.) Yet, there I was. EXPOSED.

Enter: hair extensions and spray tans. Hair extensions to cover my half-naked torso and spray tans to make my pasty skin appear glowing and flawless. Getting ready for that TV show was a PROCESS. I, lovingly, referred to it as being shellacked.

After years of being shellacked and wearing little cocktail dresses, it sorta became my new “norm” although I never really felt comfortable with it. I began to view myself from a third-party perspective and I encouraged all those around me not to take this charade seriously. I kept a pair of raccoon-faced slippers on set so that I never had to walk around in heels for a single moment longer than I had to. I’d joke around on set with the crew by letting them try on my clip-in extensions during our down time and making jokes about my tiny outfits; anything for a laugh. Any way that I could make a proclamation that THIS wasn’t me. It was just part of my TV-Kim persona.

Against all my better judgment and background in journalism, feminism, and anthropology, I had become my own social experiment. I had become a TV representation of Barbie.

There are a lot of reasons most pop stars and entertainment reporters end up looking very similar. Mainstream beauty standards aren’t very creative – especially not on network TV. There’s the Disneyfication of princess culture and unfortunately there’s a still a prevalent culture of pageantry. But, I’m not trying to pass judgment on that from a larger sociological perspective for the time being. Instead, I’m just sharing how all that shellacking and skimpy dress-wearing affected me personally. In a nutshell, it chipped away at my own sense of empowerment.

For me, confidence comes from feeling smart and funny and looking fierce and comfortable in my own way, not in a way that is prescribed to me by others. There aren’t many things that make me feel more vulnerable than tugging at a short skirt to make it feel longer or hiking up my top to make sure my boobs aren’t falling out.

So, this year, as I enter into my 8th year of covering the Toronto International Film Festival, I’m doing things a little differently. First off, I’m not reporting for said Entertainment show. Now, I’m creating original online content with a human-interest slant (more specifically content that I find interesting). And, because it’s not conventional broadcasting, I have a lot more control over the tone and subject matter and I’m really excited about that!

I also don’t need to look like Barbie. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to look good. I love makeup and shopping and all that. Sure, I’ll wear dresses to my red carpet events, but stuff that feels makes me feel powerful not princessy. I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t wear anything I had to tug on and nothing that would make me look potentially naked on a close shot. And I won’t wear the kind of 6-inch heels that hobble me. Relief!

I also decided to chop my hair off. No more extensions for me. Well, not at this point anyway. I still reserve the right to whip them out and clip them back into my on-camera routine in the future. But, until then, the clip-ons are away in a ziplock bag taking a break.

selfie haircut photo

I feel really good about this change in direction. It may seem like a subtle thing to the average onlooker, but to me, it is a major perspective shift. Letting go of the idea of what I “should” look like to fit a role has been incredibly liberating. I can’t go back and change my past adventures in Barbie-dom and I don’t want to. It’s taught me a lot about myself and helped reinforce how I want to define myself publicaly moving forward.

Some people love to let it all hang out and look awesome doing so. If that’s you, I say:  more power to you, girl! If you truly feel amazing, rock out. Unfortunately, I think there’s a lot more awkward and discrete hemline-tugging and boob-adjusting going on than not and, therefore, a lot more girls and women feeling exposed and vulnerable rather than empowered and beautiful.

I’m exposing myself in a different way now and I feel vulnerable telling you about my struggles but it’s a nice change from showing my cleavage.

Don’t leave me hanging! What do YOU think? Do you feel pressured to dress a certain way that doesn’t feel like you? What kinds of outfits make you feel like you can conquer the world? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

xo

k

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About Kim D'Eon

Kim is an award-winning reporter and television host. She has spent the last 15 years reporting on a wide range of topics including consumer advocacy, current affairs, entertainment and food. Her resume boasts contributions to such popular and critically acclaimed shows as Street Cents, Marketplace, The Hour and Family Cook Off. She is best known for her work on Entertainment Tonight Canada where she spent 7 years traveling the world interviewing some of the biggest celebrities of our time. Kim is also an Ambassador of Change for CARE Canada, an aid organization that aims to empower girls and women in developing countries. Kim was born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and lives in Toronto. She holds an honors degree in journalism.