(Originally posted on The Judgment of Paris Forum, April 23rd, 2004.)
There is no way around it. For all that we still regret--deeply regret--many aspects of this magazine, when it comes to visual content, Figure
in its very best days.
Don't believe us? Take one look--just one--at the cover of the new issue, and try not to pass out right there in your local Barnes & Noble.
You will not believe your eyes.
Not only is the wildly (and justifiably) popular Megan Garcia on the cover, but she looks gorgeous beyond belief. This is easily the most beautiful image she has ever created--better even than her Glamour red-dress shot--and one of the most stunning presentations of full-figured femininity, ever. Her hair is longer, her eyes gleam with happiness. She is utterly radiant.
Figure shows Megan in the embrace of a male model--or so we assume. But no--it gets even better, because it turns out that the fellow on the cover is Megan's husband. That's right--this more than just a magazine fantasy telling readers that a full-figured woman can "get the guy." This is the living proof.
Could there be a more affirmative message?
This cover immediately ranks with the top three Mode covers (Barbara Brickner's, Natalie Laughlin's, and Kate Dillon's), and with Valerie's last Figure showing. Perhaps it even surpasses those, as a shining example of size celebration.
The cover is also another triumph for Roberto Ligresti, whose work for Figure is consistently better than his work for Grace, and perhaps even for Mode. He warrants a place among masters such as Michel Arnaud and Max Abadian as one of the top size-positive photographers.
The cover caption indicates that Figure realized just how delightful an image they were working with. The enthusiasm of this description is infectious:
Megan and Rolando Garcia locked in an embrace . . . She's wearing a filmy, romantic skirt in dreamy hues of blue--just made for dancing--and a sexy V-neck cardigan in Nantucket blue.
"Romantic." "Dreamy." "Sexy." Someone at Figure has the right idea . . .
We should add that whoever selected the hair/makeup artist for the cover shoot--a certain "Nisa"--couldn't have made a better choice. The model's hair and makeup are utterly perfect.
And although that incredible cover is reason enough to adore the summer Figure, Valerie Lefkowitz is in this issue as well--in not just one, but two editorials. The images are among Valerie's best--but, as many readers have pointed out, Valerie surpasses herself with every new shoot, and these gorgeous images continue this fine tradition.
The rest of the issue's visual contest has strengths and weaknesses, but we should make note of a rather clever cosmetics piece featuring Australia's Alana Hearne. This article delivers on its promise to teach Figure's male readers that the "natural, no makeup" look that we admire is actually the result of considerable artistry. Who knew?
Figure is now doing what that no other magazine for plus sizes has ever done before. It is consistently getting better. Mode faltered in its later years, and Grace never rose above a certain level. But this issue of Figure is a major leap forward from the last--which was itself a remarkable improvement over the first two.
Another welcome change is a new name for Figure's forthcoming book of fashion tips. Instead of the truly dreadful title Just Don't Do It, the book will now be called Figure It Out. And since Megan will be one of the models who will be featured in its pages, we will be sure to pick up a copy.
As for the magazine's content . . . there is no point in discussing it here. Readers can take it or leave it. We have offered our thoughts on this matter in previous reviews. Sadly, the messages in Figure are the same messages that full-figured women are bombarded with everywhere, but perhaps books like Spin Sisters will help readers approach every magazine in a more critical way.
On the other hand, what Figure does offer--unlike any other magazine--is a waif-free environment, and pages upon pages of plus-size imagery. And when the images are as spectacular as Megan's new cover, we must concede that the magazine's positives outweigh its negatives. At least one can remove the cover of this issue of Figure, put that cover in a friend's hands, and say, "See? This is what I've been talking about. This is timeless beauty brought to life."
(You may click on the image to view it at a larger size.)