DAILY DOSE OF HOPE – BLOG – NAIMA LETT
The Sexy Conflict – Part II
Tia Mowry © Vibe Vixen
Wow, did I open up a can of worms this week.
Specifically in my blog To Be or Not to Be… Sexy. That’s the Conflict! about our adventures in Hollywood navigating our faith and the industry’s perceived standard of sexy.
I merely scratched the surface; but in a few words, it appears I entered into a dialogue that’s been raging all summer. Who knew? I was simply commenting on my recent conversation with a casting director and seeing Sparkle.
The article, Too Hot for Christianity?, in EEW Magazine (Empowering Everyday Women of Faith & Color) sums up the debate and asks the question “Is a sexy image ‘too hot for Christianity’, or is it just a part of the nature of the business for women in the film and entertainment industry–Christian or not?” The editor sites quotes from fans who question why Christian actress Tia Mowry (Sister, Sister and The Game) would pose sexily on the cover of Vibe Vixen (photo above).
I haven’t met Tia yet, (though I’m constantly asked if I’m her or her twin), but I do know that her Vibe Vixen cover story coincided with the release of her new pregnancy & mommyhood book, Oh, Baby! and the second season premiere of her Style Network reality show, Tia & Tamera.
If Tia’s cover shoot was anything like the cover shoots I’ve done, she was styled by the magazine’s stylists and photographed by the mag’s photographer.Then the mag’s editors chose the shot that they thought would sell the most magazines. Did they accomplish their goal? More income for the magazine and more exposure for Tia’s book and show?
Let’s be honest. The issue is not that Tia posed sexy on a magazine cover. There are women who are on magazines with a lot less clothing. The issue, for those who have vocalized their disapproval, is that Tia is a professed Christian and goes out speaking to churches and has built a platform on a brand that is wholesome and then she poses sexy on a magazine cover. If people of faith didn’t know her faith, they wouldn’t care one way or the other.
Could Tia have chosen not to take pictures in that particular outfit in the first place? Of course.
Did Tia think that other Christians would question her faith because of the outfit? Of course not.
To my faith fam outside of Hollywood:
Please understand that every artist of faith does not feel the same way you do about what’s appropriate or inappropriate within their closets. They are not making decisions based on what you think about them. They are making decisions based on the advancement of their careers and goals and their artistic team i.e. agent, manager, stylist, publicist, etc. They are trying to eat and pay rent and become stable in an industry where 99% of professional actors made less than $10,000 in their craft last year.
I said in my earlier blog that a well-known casting director confirmed that in order to be considered one of Hollywood’s leading ladies, women had to be perceived as internationally sex-able. Meaning, in order for women to be considered bankable to domestic and foreign film markets, there’s a perception that men all over the world need to want to sleep with them, i.e. Halle Berry, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, etc.
This is where the conflict enters for Christian women in the entertainment industry, particularly those of us who serve in vocational ministry and leadership. As sexy as we feel and know that we are, we don’t have the luxury of running around – in good conscience – intentionally trying to make men all over the world desire to sleep with us. We cannot – in good conscience – purposely get dressed with the intent to make men lust after us so that we get a better film credit.
As followers of Christ, we are called to love the men who are not our husbands like brothers (1 Timothy 5:1-2). This means that we care enough about them that we make a decision to not use our sexiness as a tool of career advancement. We are called to be the best artists we can be, make connections and trust that God can advance our career in the way that honors Him.
I read a quote recently involving a Grammy Award-winning female artist who is Christian and sings secular music. Her husband/manager said that he was so proud of his wife’s dramatic and sexy weight loss, because he wanted “every man to want her and every woman to want to be her”. Mad confusion! What Christian husband wants other men lusting after his wife? We in the LaLa need your prayers.
And to my faith-filled Hollywood insiders:
I understand that we are all in different stages of growth along this path with God.
I reached my convictions very early, just having graduated from Howard University, while pursuing a professional theatre career in NJ/NY. God called me to serve Him in vocational ministry, and I instinctively understood that nobody would take me seriously as God’s representative if the characters I chose to portray or the clothes I chose to wear seemed contrary to His word coming out my mouth.
Some people of faith are still tripped up over how Denzel Washington could be Christian and do Training Day or how LoLo Jones could be Christian and pose in the buff for Sports Illustrated.
This is the conflict that many of us face, and I get it. We love the Lord, and we want to work as artists. We don’t want people telling us what to wear or what roles to choose. You may even be wondering, “Why do Christians even care so much about what I’m doing?”
Why? Because they see us as high-profile representatives of them and the God we all serve. As soon as we name the name of Christ, believers and non-believers start judging our decisions to see if what we do lines up with Christ’s message. That’s just the truth.
I feel great about my body as a woman, wife, minister, actress, model, dancer, and healthy vegetarian. I feel great in my clothes. I love style. I feel great about being sexy with my husband, and we enjoy each other. God created sex and within our marriage, there are no boundaries. We have freedom. But it would be irresponsible of me to use my freedom to trip other men up (1 Corinthians 6-10).
I understood this also when I was single (after all the ups & downs of dating and dating-gone-bad… see my book, Confessions). I felt great about my body, but did I need to seductively expose it to men who were my brothers in the faith? If they were truly my brothers, that would be like encouraging incest, right? I’ve never compromised my style, but as I’ve grown in the Lord over the years, and I have matured, I’ve become more aware of my responsibility to help men treat me as their sister, friend and minister.
Ladies, if we choose to publicly flaunt very low cut tops or super high cut bottoms, it creates a real distraction. When men stare at our bared bodies, they are not listening to anything we say about truth or God or anything else for that matter. As I said in my previous blog, we are not responsible for men’s issues of lust and sin. We all have to work that out with the Lord. But neither is it right for us to encourage, desire or exploit men’s lust for our gain.
What about when we get a gig? Is it alright then, because we are practicing our craft? What about when we’re on the red carpet? Shouldn’t we be sexy? The advice I give to artists of faith who contact me (advice that I live by) is to first pray over every opportunity, ask God what He wants and if what we’re doing brings Him glory, consider the long-lasting ramifications and if what we’re doing will cause newer believers to stumble, and explore the intent behind it.
I’ve portrayed good guys and bad guys, but all of them have been clothed. I think that’s the real issue for people of faith. Body parts and public sex. When we start disrobing and simulating sex onscreen, it causes mass confusion. If I portray a ballerina dancing in leotard and tights, nobody cares because my body is covered. When characters were taken as slaves with brief nudity in Roots, nobody cared because it was historic like National Geographic and non-pornographic.
I recently posted a fun Olympic-type pic from a commercial photo shoot I did as a track runner. Nobody cares because it’s just somebody running, no lust. But if I posted provocative honeymoon pictures in a sexy bikini, folks would be up in arms. My faith in Christ would not be any different. But people might question my faith because they’d want to know why I, a Christian minister, would feel the need to expose myself? They might ask, “Why would you want men to see all your body unless you want them to want you?”
Could there be a deeper issue here that’s rooted in acceptance? If all we’ve ever been taught, through our community, media and culture, is that we are accepted only when we are sexually desired, then should we be surprised at plunging necklines and hiked-up hems? If superstars build their platforms off sexy, why would we think to do otherwise? There’s a whole shift and renewed mindset that must occur.
The Bottom Line
I believe that we, as artists of faith, have to do more than just try to be sex-able in order to be Hollywood’s leading performers. I’ve seen the Lord soar careers to the Academy Awards of His daughters who could care less about convincing Hollywood of their sex-ability. We don’t have to wear paper bags and look sour, but we also don’t have to sell sexy over our faith. We can be confident in our own sexuality without selling our souls for roles.
We have to have a solid foundation built on more than our bodies, especially since work is fleeting. A recent Hollywood Reporter article explains how the new A-List is not an A-List at all. It’s a Hot List. And the young leading actors on it are HOT today and NOT tomorrow.
Some of the most sex-able leading ladies have had a tough time navigating an industry that so quickly disposes of them – Marilyn, Dorothy, Elizabeth. Halle Berry, who has been named to People Magazines’ Most Beautiful list the most (at least 11 times), is trying desperately now to move to France where photographers cannot take her or her daughter’s photos without permission. She was run off the road by paparazzi while pregnant, has been stalked and had her home broken into, and is constantly caught on camera cursing photographers out for invading her daughter’s privacy. Halle is fighting for custody of her kid and could care less right now whether men around the world want to sleep with her.
The bottom line is that we need to do all for the glory of God, 1 Corinthians 10:31-33:
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God…For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.”
Let’s care more about the good of many. Just because we have the freedom to be sexy and let it all hang out doesn’t mean that we should opt to do so, particularly if it detracts from our ability to be effective witnesses.
Those are my candid thoughts.
What are yours?
RESPOND TO BLOG
Comment below, or
Twitter – @naimalett