Thursday, June 28, 2007

Women & Tatts

It all comes down to Cher. Back in 1972 when she was 27 years old and newly separated from Sonny, she got her first tattoo:
"I thought it would be something different, a statement of freedom. Good girls didn't have tattoos then, no one was doing it...It was really the first step of an experiment to state making decisions on my own....I had made so few real decisions that I was bound to be bad at it. I was right."
Now all the A-list (and A-wannabe) celebrities are inking their bodies. The tattoo has become a female fashion accessory, rather than the rite of passage. It's no longer taboo, but still a little risque– different but accepted. It's almost difficult to name an actress who hasn't got a tatt. Everybody's doing it, from girl-next-door Jennifer Aniston to Bay-babe Pamela Anderson.

The subject matter of body art has undergone a revolution of sorts. The old stereotype of sailors and marines – and who doesn't know an aging WWII veteran with a blurry rendering on his bicep – are of a generation who never dreamed of finding their own name tattooed across the flesh of their stateside sweetheart. Today that's all changed. Women are elbowing out young men to get in the door of the tattoo parlor. In a recent survey, 22% of the UMass undergraduate women sports a tatt, twice the rate of the male students.

While "Mom" and the names of sexual partners still rank high in frequency and gang symbols are widespread amongst the prison-bound populace, the upsurge is in young women. Estimates are as high as 36% of all American women ages 21-32 now sport a tattoo. They seem to be indulging in tattooing as more of a journal of sorts. And the celebrity women are no exception. According to Angelina Jolie:
"Usually all my tattoos came at good times. A tattoo is something permanent when you've made a self-discovery, or something you've come to a conclusion about."
Okay, not counting the blue-tongued dragon she got when she was drunk and dropped trou in Australia a few years back (now covered by the black cross/dagger handle). Perhaps the most prominently tattooed actress today, Jolie has 13 tatts at last count and several older ones that were converted or removed. She has stated she’s just a “punk kid with tattoos” at heart, but dressed and strutting the red carpet, she is radiating more of a regal tribal look these days.

Some stars go so far as wearing it, literally, on their wrist. Not satisfied with a cement star in the sidewalk, Eva Longoria and Ashlee Simpson both sport small black outlined stars on their left wrists. Victoria Beckham has five stars on her lower back. Perhaps it’s part of the Michelin rating system?

And then there are those who want to commemorate their childhood. Nicole Richie sports a pair of ballerina slippers, as if her father’s composing Ballerina Girl for her wasn’t enough. But the little pair of angel wings on her back? You decide. Christina Ricci decided on having Aslan, the lion god of Narnia tattooed onto her left scapula to symbolize her emancipation from a hellish childhood – and seven more to go with it.

And then there are those fans that just go in for having the star himself as the tattoo: elaborate celebrity images are getting more and more popular. Reminds one a bit of those edible photographic sheet cakes.

This young female demographic is characterized by a certain exuberance of spirit that settles down as it approaches strapless wedding gowns and steady jobs. And tattoo removal. In the good old days, you died with your tattoos. Or you traded them in for horrific scars. Before the advent of lasers, a variety of treatments were tried: dermabrasion or skin sanding, X-ray treatments, chemical peel, liquid nitrogen, dry ice or CO2 'snow,' flesh-colored over-tattooing. The most common method? Surgical excision and skin grafting of the hole left behind. It wasn’t pretty.

The advent of medical laser technology has changed all that. Tattoos are created by placing drops of ink under the skin via a needle (hopefully). A Q-switched Nd: YAG laser is the one most often used to remove tattoos and other pigmented or discolored skin. The high-intensity light beam penetrates the dermis and is absorbed by the ink, vaporizing the pigment colors. It feels like rubber bands snapping against the skin. Hard. Over and over. The lymphatic system (the body’s natural filtering system) clears the dissolved particles of ink pigment. A tattoo that cost a few hundred dollars could require several thousand dollars and many laser sessions to remove.

Bright green, yellow and red inks are most difficult to remove. A new tattoo technology is available starting this fall called Freedom-2, a type of ink encapsulated in beads and designed to break up after one treatment with a special laser. It will be interesting to see if this 'removable' tattoo changes what and how often people adorn their bodies with images.

Tattoo removal clinic chains are making their mark or erasing it, so to speak: Dr. Tattoff, Tat2BeGone and Tattoo MD sprung into being on the West coast. Many states don't regulate tattooists or tattoo parlors, but do regulate medical lasers. These tattoo removal clinic chains are most often staffed by nurses. In other locales laser removal is supervised by physicians: plastic surgeons, dermatologists, or practically any physician with a laser payment to make.

Angelina Jolie has spent time in the doctor's procedure room: ex-husband Billy Bob's moniker has been lasered and the real estate tattooed over with the longitude and latitude of each of her four children. And Cher? At 61, she now thinks tattoos are "just plain stupid" and is in the process of getting them all removed.

In the final analysis, young women getting tattooed may be all about empowerment.

And power is really sexy.

What do you think? Click on the envelope icon and send us your thoughts.

(Okay, this last tattoo is made up.)

Want This Look? A professional tattoo can be had for under $100, and one that costs a few hundred dollars could require several thousand dollars and many laser sessions to remove. Dr. Tattoff charges $39 per square inch of tattoo for each treatment. Full removal takes an average of eight treatments, spaced at least a month apart, using different Q-switched lasers for different-colored inks.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Too Rich, Too Thin

omen think about their weight the way many men think about sex: all the time. So when is thin, TOO thin?

Just these last few weeks too thin has been selling Hollywood gossip rags. In Touch magazine apparently photoshopped out Angelina Jolie's (32) protruding arm veins for its May cover. The normal body fat that gives a smooth contour to the flesh is missing. Her emaciated arms reflect a significant weight drop while grieving her mother's death this past January. And Keira Knightley (22) is in and out of the tabloids. She has long denied eating-disorder rumors and in January of last year she sued a British tabloid for implying she lied about not having anorexia after losing weight during the grueling Pirates shoot. She probably is telling the truth. Neither woman appears to have a pathological relationship to food.

Last February former supermodel Tyra Banks was on the cover of People after having made a huge internet splash in an unflattering bathing suit. The very same month she was featured inside Vanity Fair channeling Audrey Hepburn. At 5’10” and 161 lbs. Banks's BMI is 23.1 and well within the range of normal health. It should surprise no one that the same woman can look fat in a paparazzi shot and stunning in a photo shoot. We all can.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is sophisticated way to calibrate height & weight (BMI=kg/m2) and do away with the "big boned" excuses. Here are the standards used in medicine:
Less than 18.5 = underweight
18.5-24.9 = normal
25-29.9 = overweight
30-39.9 = obese
40 or more = morbidly obese
We are a fat country and getting fatter. Approximately 33% of adult Americans are obese and an additional 32% are overweight. Yet we also have an peculiar national body dysmorphia, where female celebrities are ruthlessly pilloried for appearing at a normal weight. So from where does this national body distortion arise?

One finger points to the fashion industry. Unlike cigarettes and liquor, American is not protecting it's young from the influence of underweight image marketing. For example, Tyra Banks (33) began modeling on the catwalk at age 18 with a BMI of 16.2; by age 20 as she finished puberty she was curvy enough that her agency pressured her to lose 10 lbs. Instead, she switched to underwear/swim suit modeling in 1995. By 1997 she was the first black woman to be featured on a Sports Illustrated cover, then going on to Victoria’s Secret stardom – all with a BMI 18.8! That's just within the range of normal.

Drugs, diet pills, fasting, laxatives are rife in the image industry – very, very few of these women are that underweight by nature. After a spate of anorexic models died or fell ill last year, Madrid Fashion Week city council organizers enacted ground-breaking legislation: mannequins with a BMI of less than 18 (5'9" 123 lbs.) would be banned from the catwalk. About a third of the models who appeared the previous year won't qualify under the new guidelines, top models such as Brazil's Fabiana, Spain's Esther Canadas, Britain's Kate Moss and Estonian Carmen Kass. But Madrid is alone in treating this as a public health issue. The really big fashion venues – Milan, Paris, New York, London – aren't buying in.
"We worked hard to restrict advertising for alcohol and tobacco because of the potential dangers to our young people, and fashion is now the only major industry without health guidelines." –Lynn Grefe, CEO, National Eating Disorders Association
One study found 47% of school girls 5th-12th grade want to lose weight because of magazine pictures – pictures which are photoshopped out of reality (there are whole websites devoted to exposing this.) The print and film media are actively engaged in a manipulation of public perception. The female image school girls buy into is a simulacrum, an unsatisfactory imitation of, a substitute for real womanhood."Even I don't look like Cindy Crawford when I wake up in the morning," admits the famous supermodel.

How serious is it? It’s a mental illness that progressively damages the body, fatal to 15-20% of sufferers. It precipitates more deaths among females aged 15 to 24 than all other causes combined. (It caused Terri Shiavo's heart failure and brain death.) And eating disorders have doubled since 1960s. An estimated 10 million girls and women, as well as 1 million males suffer from anorexia nervosa (starves, obsessive, body dysmorphia, compulsive exercise) or bulimia nervosa (normal weight, binge/purging cycles). There is some evidence of altered brain chemistry that makes it hard to stop. For more information check ANRED.

Of course there are some famous dead Hollywood anorexics, like Karen Carpenter (32) and Margaux Hemingway (41), along with the aforementioned Audrey Hepburn (61). Several stars lived through it and talked afterwards: actress Jane Fonda (69) suffered from bulimia from age 13 to 37.

The current crop of Hollywood sufferers includes many. Nicole Richie (25) repeated bouts of fainting underscore her eating disorder/drug problem. In November, Richie told Us Weekly: "I'm not in rehab, and I don't have an eating disorder. I'm getting the help I need and taking care of my health." Denial ain't just a river in Egypt. Mary-Kate Olsen (21), Kate Bosworth (24), Victoria Beckham (33) all share the disease.

There are a few stars in Hollywood speaking out against the pervasive thin image. Cameron Diaz (34) has said:
“We get ideals from images that we see and there certainly should be more responsibility put on those people who are putting those images out into the world. Let’s be a little bit more responsible to what’s realistic.”
Kate Winslet (31), nicknamed 'Blubber' in school, has unapologetically appeared nude in six films. She describes the trend as "unbelievably disturbing." After being Photoshopped into an approximation of supermodel perfection for the cover of a GQ magazine Winslet veraciously complained: “the retouching is excessive. I do not look like that and more importantly I don’t desire to look like that.” Listen to what the GQ editor said in response and take it to heart – and tell your children:

"These days you only get two kinds of pictures of celebrities - paparazzi pictures or pictures like these which have been highly styled, buffed, trimmed and altered to make the subject look as good as is humanly possible. We do that for everyone, whether they are a size six or a size 12. It hasn't a lot to do with body size. Practically every photo you see in a magazine will have been digitally altered in this way."

Want this look? It can't be had surgically, but recovery in a facility can be expensive and ongoing.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Body Lift

ennifer Hudson (26) gained weight to play her breakout role in Dreamgirls. Hollywood had to find an unknown to play the heavy, young singer biographically based on Florence Ballard of the Supremes.
"I had to maintain my weight to keep up, because we had a lot of dancing and performing to do and [my character's] not supposed to be a little you're all just going to have to get used to my jelly," she laughs, "Hey, somebody has to represent the big girls. Why not me?."
Just who are the "big girls" out there? In America, over half of all adults are overweight. Sixty-four percent to be exact. And in the last 20 years it's tripled amongst the 6-19 year-old group, rising to 16% of the population. It's not getting better, it's getting worse in the US.

So it makes sense that bariatric surgery is the new big thing. It's use is restricted to those with a BMI of 35+ or about 100 lbs. overweight. Over 177,000 surgeries were performed in 2006 (6 years ago it was 37,700). The average cost is $30,000 but insurance coverage is available for BMI of 40 or greater (the definition of morbid obesity). Even Medicare pays. Calculate your own Body Mass Index here.

There are two main procedures: gastric bypass and gastric banding. Gastric bypass surgery, involves fashioning a egg-size pouch (90% reduction) out of the top of the stomach and reconnecting it to half of the small intestine. Two feet of intestine go in the bucket. It’s permanent. Patients experience nutritional deficiencies or malabsorption of micro nutrients. Calcium supplements and Vitamin B12 injections are routinely required following gastric bypass. Gastric dumping syndrome also can occur.

Gastric banding is an adjustable restriction using an inflatable band to temporarily create a small pouch at the top of the stomach. Different from the traditional malabsorptive weight loss surgery, eg, Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery (RNY), Biliopancreatic Diversion (BPD) and Duodenal Switch (DS), banding does not cut or remove any part of the digestive system.

The tiny capacity it leaves takes away the choice about eating. You vomit. Another lovely way to phrase it is PB’ing (Productive Burping): regurgitation of non-acidic swallowed food from the upper pouch.

Who’s had it done? Singers Carnie Wilson & Ann Wilson, Star Jones (on Larry King Live 150lbs), American Idol’s Randy Jackson, Al Roker (NBC weatherman), Sharon Osbourne, Anne Rice, Roseanne Barr, (on Rosanne’s advice Etta James went to the doctor in a wheelchair & lost 200 lbs.). Nicole Richie HASN’T nor has Kirstie Alley.

It is not without serious risk: a 50% complication rate and bowel obstruction are two biggies.

After weight loss the hardest part of the adjustment may be emotional.
"I really still think of myself as a very big woman," she said. "My mind hasn't had the opportunity to catch up with the progress my body has made in a short amount of time." Debra Voight, opera singer (44)
There is another major adjustment, as well. One looks like a human sharpei. It's like having a size 26 skin hanging on a size 8 body.

Choosing the type of body sculpture is a balance of compromises, the scar for the excision vs. the benefit of the lift. The body is three dimensional. Body lift surgery addresses the loose drooping tissues circumferentially. It usually involves several stages: lower body lift, breast lift, arm lift, upper body lift. The lower body lift extends the tummy tuck incision completely around the lower torso, allowing re-suspension of the lateral and anterior thighs along with the traditional tummy tuck improvements. A medial thigh lift is also possible. An upper body procedure removes loose skin from the arms (bracioplasty), breasts (mastopexy) and upper torso. Patients wear a support or compression garment for two to six weeks.

Such surgery can run from $20,000 to $50,000 for an entire body and it usually leaves long, visible scars on the arms, chest, stomach and legs.

As to just who in Hollywood has had these post-bariatric surgeries? Star Jones has had public complications during one of her staged procedures. Rumor of Britney Spears staging a "come-back" via a body lift is just that: a rumor and a ridiculous one at that.

Hear Anne live on the Kevyn Burger show NEW TIME: 10:00 to 11:00am every Thursday featuring Knifestyles of the Rich & Famous.