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Old 4th July 2011   #1
Join Date: July 2005
Posts: 1,784
Default A fine Figure (Winter 2004 issue)

[Originally posted on the Judgment of Paris forum on November 24th, 2004.]

The new issue of Figure suggests that the magazine has levelled off, in terms of quality. But that is nothing to lament, because it has plateaued at a much higher summit than Grace ever reached. And even if Figure never manages to reach the Olympian heights of Mode, at least it is a worthy successor to that groundbreaking publication, and currently the only magazine that offers a waif-free environment in which true plus-size models reign supreme.

This is Valerie’s second solo Figure cover, and one suspects that different readers will respond to it in divergent ways. The concept of a Marilyn-inspired cover is brilliant, and the execution is solid, but not quite earth-shattering. Perhaps it’s the fact that the all-too-short peroxide hairstyle doesn’t really suit Valerie (if it suits anyone at all), or perhaps it’s the fact that, for a Marilyn cover, there is actually very little to see in the way of the model’s curves. Figure’s two best covers by far remain Valerie’s Spring 2004 “sailor” image and Megan Garcia’s incredible Summer masterpiece. Both of these covers were absolutely Mode-worthy, and may have set a standard that will prove impossible to reach.

But Valerie fans need not despair. Roberto Ligresti displays his customary brilliance in shooting this model in a lovely layout titled “It’s a Wrap.” Note in particular the exquisite profile image on p. 30 (right). Angela Huff gives Valerie a unique and becoming hairstyle for this editorial (and, as we have noted before, Mr. Ligresti has a knack for selecting the very best hair and makeup people to work on his shoots). And frankly, the clothing helps, because while a poncho may be nothing more than a shag carpet trying to pass itself off as an article of clothing, a transparent wrap is something alluring and mysterious--and versatile, as this layout admirably demonstrates.

Valerie also appears in a marvellous cosmetics image on p. 18, in which her radiant, natural beauty shines forth. And the fact that her beauty does looks so natural here is a tribute to the talent of the photographer and the makeup artist, because--as the old saying goes--it takes a lot of work to achieve a natural look. Valerie is joined here, and in the wrap editorial, by her frequent modelling partner Jordan Tesfay, and the two share a certain photogenic chemistry that makes their pairings highly successful.

Unfortunately, the wildly popular Megan Garcia is absent from this issue, but readers will be comforted by the presence of another top-notch Safia Fatimi cosmetics editorial. Ms. Fatimi gave us the “Three Faces of Spring” layout earlier this year, in which Valerie was adorned with a garland of roses. This photographer is a bona fide genius at shooting cosmetics layouts, and p. 37 may be the most gorgeous image in this entire issue.

The other layouts are less notable, and the lingerie editorial in the previous Figure was stronger than the one in this issue.

* * *

In a “custom publication,” the line between editorials and advertisements is blurred beyond recognition. That being the case, it is a particular joy to see Barbara Brickner in Figure--at long last. The image is just a simple, fun Catherines ad, but let us hope that this is a precursor to future appearances by Mrs. Brickner in this magazine. Perhaps a cover? Or perhaps . . . (dare one hope) . . . a swimwear layout? Barbara’s swimwear outings for Mode (photographed by the great Michel Arnaud) remain unsurpassed, despite all of the worthy efforts that have been made in the intervening years to equal them (most notably by Valerie and Megan). Could Figure finally engineer the circumstances under which lightning would strike twice? We can only hope.

The growing legion of Crystal Renn fans will be delighted to see her in several new Lane Bryant ads in this issue, the loveliest of which is a close-cropped presentation of the royal red sleepwear outfit that appeared in our recent “Aristocratic Chic” thread. Crystal is developing into a more proficient model with every shoot. Witness her splendid expression on p. 9, which is a dreamy, faraway look that expresses nameless longing. Lane Bryant is currently exploring deep, vibrant hues in its clothing, and these bold colours look especially striking on Crystal, given the contrast between her sable hair and fair skin.

We should mention that the overall tone of the articles in this issue is rather more in the feel-good vein than is customary for Figure--and why shouldn’t it be? Winter is a time for family fun and holiday cheer, and the magazine reflects this upbeat mood.

Now, have you noticed something missing in this brief description of the issue? That’s right--no mention of the magazine’s diet ads. And that’s because . . . there are none. Bravo.

Let’s hope that weight-loss propaganda has finally been banished from this magazine. There is just one annoying page promoting some sort of low-calorie pizza, but that is a negligible matter compared to past transgressions.

* * *

If the relationship with Mode was a torrid love affair, and if Grace was a rebound that went bad, then Figure is a contentious friendship that has overtones of genuine affection. We admire this magazine and support it, and could even imagine loving it someday. Let’s hope to see more Valerie (always, always), to see Megan Garcia back in the pages of Figure, and--incurable optimists that we are--let’s even hold out hope for an appearance by Barbara Brickner.

Let’s also trust to fate that Figure has rid itself of weight-loss ads once and for all. And finally, let’s hope to see more images in the revolutionary tradition of the Spring and Summer 2004 covers, which made everyone believe that it was possible for a magazine to match, and even surpass, the spirit of size celebration that Mode exhibited in its very best days.

Valerie in the Charming Shoppes poster that transfixes everyone who sees it (from Fashion Bug, Winter, 2004):

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