Self-Conscious In Front Of The Camera: Are You Obsessed With Highlighting Your “Good Side”?

January 14, 2013  |

According to Gawker,

Ladies and gentlemen, prepare your sympathies: when Mariah Carey was 19, someone (probably Tommy Mottola) drilled into her head that her left side is her “bad side.” She has struggled with this affliction of knowledge ever since. She said she was doing better with it (“I don’t care anymore,” she lied in 2009), but then someone went and put her on the right in this setup for an American Idol promo interview on Wednesday.

You can see that it provoked as close to an existential crisis as she is ever likely to let on having in public. What followed were two and a half minutes of her squirming uncomfortably. She looks like a calf in a veal box with horse hair. She won’t look at the interviewer, she’s turned away from the rest of the group, she appears to have a medical condition.

It is, in a word, hilarious.”

Hilarious is an understatement. Mariah Carey clearly looks uncomfortable, going as far as to use Randy Jackson shoulders as leverage to help steady her self as she positions her body, almost in the opposite direction of the interview. Then there are the other incidental funny things happening in the clip, all involving Carey. First, there’s the rather glib eye rolling she gives while her co-hosts speak on the various virtues of being an American Idol judge. And then there are those flaps, which are sticking out the side of her very formal black and white maxi-dress, obviously taken from the Degrassi High School’s Pop a Molly I’m Sweating-Under the Sea Class of 1989 Senior Prom-fashion line, now available at Kmart. I’m not quite sure if those hoops are part of the design or if she had decided to just stick the straps down into the sides of the dress, to give it that the-bodice-of this-dress-is-obviously-too-small-for-my-tatas-so-let’s-make-pretend-this-is-a-strapless-dress-feel?

Now before we all brush this off as typical shade thrown at a diva, there is a larger point here that involves more than pointing and laughing hysterically at this poor, poor soul known to the world as Mariah Carey. In fact, this bit of humanity from Carey makes me appreciate her even more – not in some “oh she bleeds just like the rest of us” sort of naïveté. Carey has always seemed a little, er…what’s the word that rich people use to describe what common folk call crazy? Hmm…eccentric. Yet in this two-and-a-half minute video we get to see that there is indeed a methodology to the madness. Certainly, we can all sympathize with the neurosis, which can arise from wanting to highlight our “good sides,” right?

My editor handed me a photo. It was a group shot of the staff from our weekly newspaper. We had taken the picture at our 2006 holiday party. My editor decided that he would run the picture, along with some blurb about seasons greetings or some other holiday wish to usher in the coming 2007 year. I tried to hide my displeasure, but couldn’t help wincing. My broad shoulders made me look boxy; my round face only seemed to draw attention to my chubby cheeks and the poor lighting cruelly emphasized the very faint dark shadows around my eyes. In short, I felt like it wasn’t a very flattering photo of me. But not wanting to be the selfish and shallow one, who is only preoccupied with her own looks, I shrugged, said that the picture was fine and passed it off to the next coworker for inspection, who squealed over-enthusiastically. I guess she was fine with how she looked in the picture.

Carol, a middle aged white coworker, came up to me and said, “I notice that you really didn’t like the picture?” I nodded my head in confirmation. “My face looks extra fat,” I said, feeling very self-defeated. She looked at the picture, examined it further and said, “oh I see.” Being a fellow descendant from the pie-face clan, Carol said that tilting my head upwards and at a sharp angle, would help to not only thin out my face but also add some definition. I started incorporating that bit of advice into my picture taking. Along with the advice of a former “model” friend of mine, mostly known for strutting the catwalks of various local church fashion shows, who taught me that crossing my right leg over my left while arching my back would help to elongate my frame in pictures. It may sound like a lot to do and be conscious of just for the purpose of a picture, however, there is nothing worse than having your bad side imprinted on record for generations to come to see. And truly it is no trouble at all as I got it down pat to the point that the moment someone says “picture,” I instantly snap myself right into pose, giving the camera instant Naomi Campbell. At least that is what I think I’m giving the camera. For all I know, I could look as “eccentric” as Carey does in the video…

But sometimes our consciousness of how we are perceived externally, especially in front of a high definition camera, can go beyond wanting to be seen in our best photographic light. Recent research suggests that we might be biologically prone to viewing sections of our face more appealing, particularly the left side, which is found to be more emotionally evocative. And for some (almost five million Americans alone), it is a extreme dislike of the body, which goes beyond hating that flabby tummy or cellulite on the back of your thighs. Body dysmorphic disorder tends to make people view their bodies in exaggerated, often disfigured ways. Now, I am in no way trying to diagnosis Carey, but I can imagine the mental stress, which probably spurred from being in a profession where your looks are constantly valued as important, if not more, than your actual talent. Heck, I was stressing over a picture of me in a newspaper read by only a few thousand people, which, by the way, a couple of folks actually said I looked rather pretty in.


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