In the small coastal towns of Australia where I was brought up, to be beautiful was to be tanned. These towns seemed to be solely inhabited by honey-dipped hotties with cascading hair, long legs and loose morals. And to make things worse, this was all being reinforced by the celebrities of the time, like Elle MacPherson, Heather Locklear and, of course, the entire cast of Baywatch. Bronze was where it was at.
And while this worked out just peachy for my golden-skinned goddess of a sister, it didn’t go so well for me. My skin would go a little darker in the sun but it just kind of went a speckledy eggshell colour. And then only after I endured a very nasty sunburn. The speckle would last about a week and then I would be back to pasty again.
So it seemed clear to me that I could never, ever be beautiful. And no boy would ever like me. And I would die alone, face down in a bowl of macaroni with a faithful cat licking fake cheese out of my hair.
But then, something wonderful happened. Or rather, someone wonderful happened.
I had seen her before in Mermaids and Edward Scissorhands but hadn’t really thought much of her. But then I saw Dracula and all of that changed. I admittedly watched Dracula just to perve on Keanu Reeves. But, as lusty as he was (in spite of his shite-house acting), it was Winona who got my attention – I was mesmerised by her. She seemed beautiful, sophisticated, sweet, intelligent and yet still, somehow, incredibly bonkable!
I had an immediate and desperate need to be just like her. But this confused me a tad – how could she be so sexy when she was so – pale? I mean, she was whiter than I was for god’s sake – how could that be attractive?
I checked in with my brother (an expert on all such fab and important things) to confirm whether I was right in thinking that Ms Ryder was indeed desirable to boys. And the answer was, yes. Yes indeedy.
Hmm. Well this changed everything!
Not long after, I dyed my hair the darkest that my mum would let me (Darkest Brown – looked black when it was done but was technically brown so mum allowed it), invested in smoky eyeliner and kept the hell out of the sun.
Aside from saving my skin from evil sun damage, this acceptance of my pale skin changed my whole approach to fashion. I didn’t want to wear wishy-washy pastels or comfy casual wear anymore. I wanted to wear black or vibrant reds and purples that would contrast starkly with my skin. This naturally led to an intense, long-term affair with all things gothic as well some thoroughly enjoyable (and some ongoing) flings with indie, brit pop, rockabilly, punk and burlesque. Looks that all suited – and looked better with – a pale complexion.
And, as it turns out, some boys totally dig pale skin. Suck on that, Pamela.
So thank you Winona. And may God bless your alabaster soul!