It started with a simple question recently: who would I want to play me in a movie about my life? Without missing a beat, I replied, "A young Sophia Loren, of course." Yes, I know she's not Asian, and technically not young enough to play any part of so-far-lived life but God knows, when I was growing up, I certainly wanted to be her. Maybe a little odd considering I don't think I saw her in a movie until seeing the film version of "Don Quixote" in a high school Spanish class. But I just remember that as a kid I saw this picture of her--and given this was when there were like 20 tv channels and no internet to drown my brain with thousands of faces--and she stayed with me:
I loved that unlike a lot of the thin, blond, giggly bunnies that were the beauties du jour of my youth, she was curvy, dark, and tough. Sure, she's uniquely beautiful, but don't call her a sex object because, dammit if that face and carriage don't demand respect. I was mesmerized by this woman who I saw personify strong determination and action, not just thought of as a pretty ornament. As a child, I knew there was no way I had the face to be a pretty object so I was encouraged and captivated by the beauty of a woman's strength that Sophia Loren solidly represented.
Then about middle school, I discovered my next tough and sexy muse, Debbie Harry, while she was lead singer of the band Blondie. Again this was right before MTV and with no older siblings, I had fairly limited access to and grasp of music and bands, so there may have been other female rockers, but I somehow managed to come across Blondie first. I was totally enthralled that not only was she lead singer of a rock/punk band, but I loved her quirky and unique look, that had that "if you don't like my style--it's your problem" confidence. And I loved her lyrics that went from longing to ripping someone to shreds. Man, I died and went to Heaven when she guested on my favorite show at the time--The Muppet Show--and sang one of my favorite songs:
I dig rainbows too, Debbie! Years later, I had a boyfriend who worked in a video store in Chelsea (where she lived) and one day she walked in. He went up to her and went on about how his girlfriend totally adored her and she was very pleasant and polite. Sigh. I'm sure she heard that all the time.
In high school, I discovered Sheila E. and Cat Glover. Well first I discovered Prince, and then these two fine and impressive ladies. As I described in my brief review of Sign O' the Times, Sheila E. symbolized that roles (like a drummer) don't have to be defined by gender but by accomplishment. And Cat--she made strong look so, so awesome.
I don't think I hold a candle to these ladies as an adult (despite my attempts at Cat-influenced dancing at weddings), but I certainly appreciate their influence on me. They opened my eyes that there was more to being a girl than trying to be pretty, that strength was an asset, and that being yourself can be pretty darn cool. In the hundreds of cable channels, internet sites, and reality shows available today, I'm glad to hear that right now, one of my daughter's favorite characters is Katniss Everdeen, tough heroine of The Hunger Games. I'm thrilled she appreciates strong women too.