Queer Eye for the Straight Guy…for women?
That was my immediate reaction when I happened to see the ad for this while watching RuPaul’s Drag Race 2 ( I don’t care if you judge me, that show is GREAT). TRANSform Me is a makeover show with a twist – transgendered women acting as style consultants to women. From the synopsis on VH1:
TRANSform Me is a makeover show in which a team of three transgender women, led by the inimitable Laverne Cox (I Want To Work For Diddy), rescues women from personal style purgatory. Laverne and her ultra-glam partners in crime have undergone the ultimate transformation, so they’re the perfect women for the job.
They’ll travel the country in their tricked out fashion ambulance, siren blaring, and swoop into scenes of fashion disaster. They’ll not only make women look better but feel a whole lot better about themselves. It’s about discovering one’s inner personal style.
Laverne and the girls will cruise from boutiques to beauty salons in search of just the right look. And they won’t pull any punches with their subjects–or each other!
Each episode of TRANSform Me will cover the makeover of one woman who’s written to the show asking for help. The subject expects to be made over for a reality show–but she doesn’t know it’s going to be by three transgender women.
According to Cox, being a transgendered women uniquely qualifies the cast to assist women who are struggling with their personal image and style:
“‘Transform Me’ is a show about everyone who’s ever felt that the person they are on the inside isn’t quite reflected in who is seen on the outside. Transgender folks are in many ways the ultimate example of this. We’ve taken extraordinary steps to bring who we are on the inside…out, and we’re committed to helping other women do the same thing. If we can do it, anyone can!”
I find all of this notion fascinating because it ties in with something I had noticed watching Drag Race.
I want to issue a disclaimer here: I know there is a world of difference between a drag queen and a transgendered woman and I am not trying to equate the two at all. Also I am not an expert on all things LGBTQ so I may make missteps trying to articulate myself. If I offend someone please tell me and I’ll try to fix it.
There’s a a lot of pronoun mixing on Drag Race, and most of the contestants seem happy to be referred to as either “he” or “she”. Even out of drag it’s not unusual to hear contestants refer to each other by their persona names. However, there is a marked shift to the third person when a contestant describes his female persona. “Oh she’s a diva. She’s bourgie. She’s a southern belle.” At first I just wrote it off as part of the caricature, an expected bit of narcissism given the over-the-top personalities involved. But after reading the blurb for TRANSform me I started to give it a bit more thought and realized that due to my privileged position as cis-gendered and heterosexual I’d given very little consideration to what is takes to construct a female identity. How do they – drag queens and transgendered women alike – decide what kind of woman they’re going to be? In the case of drag-queens how much of their female persona has analogues to their male persona? For those who are transgendered, how does the portion of their lives lived and being interacted with as men inform the identity of women they become? For both, how does female gender as it is performed in society impact what they think they should look, sound and act like as women?
Which isn’t to say cis-gendered women don’t do this too. At one point I was adamant that I would not be piercing my ears because I thought it would mean that I was a vain girly-girl. There was a certain type of woman I didn’t want to be. Particularly because this post related to a makeover show I’m fascinated by this idea of how we navigate and choose the signifiers of what kind of women we want to be via our clothes and style. Watching cis-gendered women be assisted in this performance by transgendered women ought to be interesting provided it doesn’t descend into gimmicky nonsense (they travel in a fashion ambulance?). Will the source of the advice make a difference? I’ll be watching on March 15th to find out.