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her voice

Photography: Jennifer Massaux
Model: Chloe Cmarada
Hair and Makeup: Lily Montemarano
Styling: myself

In the past few months, I’ve found myself working on projects I’d never imagined, and more importantly, working with amazingly successful and driven women to produce projects that are not only surrounded by beautiful images, but a deeper message. 

Working in the fashion industry, I've frequently seen women objectified and gawked at for their looks. Models, actresses and artists alike are judged not based on their skills and abilities, but on how they look. Are they a size 2? Can they bring “the sexy” to set? 

When I first met Chloe on a chilly afternoon a few short months ago, I could instantly tell she was not only incredibly beautiful, but smart, passionate and driven. Her acting abilities are strong and full of emotion, but as she notes, she rarely had a voice as a woman or as an artist. 

Below is a little Q&A with Chloe surrounding a photoshoot we did expressing this idea. Weigh-in in the comments below!

Why did you want to to do this project?

Quite simply, I had felt maxed-out on sexual objectification.  I felt overwhelmed by our culture that continues to obsessively inundate us with images of women as beautiful sexy objects, but simultaneously continues to shame women for their own personal relationship to their womanhood and sexuality. After years of working as an actress and a model, I had begun to feel like my ownership of my body was being taken away from me. I felt like my worth as an adult female was equated to the desirability of my body and the pleasure and interest that it sparked in other people. That's when I met Jennifer, the photographer, 3 years ago on a modeling job.  We immediately connected on a creative level and became dear friends.  It was clear to me that both of us at the time felt our self-expression was being constricted by our modeling careers.  As I watched Jennifer recreate herself as a photographer and great artist, I was struck with her seamless ability to capture images full of sensuality and womanhood without internalizing a very typical male gaze. Jennifer's unique perspective motivated me to create a project where I could explore the captivity of objectification, as well as the ambivalence I have surrounding displaying my body and owning my sexuality. This exploration ultimately allowed me to reveal many of the emotions that I currently have surrounding my career as an actress and my life as a woman.

My decision to ultimately produce a physically and emotionally revealing shoot was born out of my need to let go of the shame that I had adopted and grown to associate with my body and my womanhood.  When a person is treated like a sex object, they lose their autonomy as a subject in the world.  It was important for me as an artist to get to a place where I no longer felt ashamed to share this particular part of myself.  It troubles me that we live in a culture that seems to be obsessed with raunch and simultaneously slut-shames a 20 year old performer for her own exploration of sexuality. 

Are you referring to Miley Cyrus?

Yes, but also to a million women before her and probably a million more to come.  There is something extremely oppressive about an entire world judging a woman on her journey into womanhood and her own sexuality.  I am not saying that women shouldn't be responsible for their own self-objectification.  I just think it is a really complicated issue. It seems to me that we are in a moment where traditional feminism is being shied away from in an effort to feel triumphant in our equality. But truthfully we are doing a disservice to both men and women by not acknowledging this rampant continual sexualization of women in our culture. We are conditioning men and boys to only respond to the sexual and eroticized.  We are removing them from their own humanness, in which lies their desire for intimacy and closeness. Instead we are branding masculinity in our culture as predatory and controlling. And for women, we are systematically brainwashing them into believing their greatest achievements lie in their physical bodies and the degree in which they are willing to comply to a patriarchal script that requires them to always be desirable in both form and function to men.

So, undoubtedly these feelings have effected your life as an actress, yes?

I have spent years frustrated that my physical stature boxed me into a certain sexualized type-casting.  For a long time I felt like a victim in all of it, like this crazy culture, led by the film and television industry that I was so diligently trying to break into, reduced me to a sexy play thing.  But then I had the slow realization that I was perpetuating this one-dimensional casting on myself.  I had arrested my development as an artist and had become solely concerned with how I looked and how pleasing I was to people.  But again, just like I don't want to judge other women in their strides and missteps into womanhood, I also would like to not judge myself.  I understand now that to be the kind of actress I want to be, I need to create fully fleshed out, emotionally rich characters, that are often full of contradictions. I also have learned that paramount in my drive to be an actress is my desire to reveal myself.  Only now am I getting comfortable with the understanding that my body belongs to me, and sometimes as an artist, that is what I choose to reveal.

Are you hopeful that this sexual objectification of women in media will evolve?

Yes.  And this project was a good example of why I am hopeful.  As long as women continue being artists, continue creating from the depths of their individual and unique consciousness, women cannot and will not be relegated solely to their bodily existence. I see more and more strong examples of subversive female artists in mainstream film and television, people like Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling, who don't try and be perfect in their perspective, but instead allow themselves to just be human. I think whether you are an artist or not, the most effective way to promote equality is to be brave enough to be your full self. 

[Chloe was photographed by Jennifer Massaux at the Gramercy Hotel in New York City on September 28, 2013]

[In photographs three and four, Chloe is wearing a Lie Sang Bong skirt and jewelry by Carerra y Carrera; In photograph five, Chloe is wearing a dress by Etienne Aigner and jewelry by 1884 Collection; In photograph six, Chloe is wearing a dress by Lie Sang Bong and a ring by Carrera y Carrera. Bag by Etienne Aigner; In photograph seven, Chloe is wearing jewelry by Carrera y Carrera and Stuart Weitzman boots; In photograph eight, Chloe is wearing a Lie Sang Bong top]



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