The Closing Ceremony Supermodel Problem (& Why It Isn't A Problem, Really)

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Last night, the world was treated to the extravagant spectacle that was the '12 Olympic closing ceremony, which was complete with A-list stars and blockbuster reunions. Amidst the fanfare and celebration — and during a tribute to one of the most recognizable Brits of all time, David Bowie — some of the most recognizable models in the world came out, strutting their stuff to "Fashion," of course. Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Lily Cole, Lily Donaldson, David Gandy, Karen Elson, Jourdan Dunn, Georgia May Jagger, and Stella Tennant paraded out, wearing British designers like Alexander McQueen, Erdem, Jonathan Saunders, and Burberry.
For fashgeeks everywhere, it was pure exhilaration, with Kate's bedroom eyes and Naomi's fierce gait reminding the world why they are appropriately dubbed "the Supers." But for those viewers who were just tuning in for a post-Olympic celebration, confusion immediately appeared. Why were these women, famous for their looks, being feted during a extravaganza revolving around sports? Hadley Freeman at The Guardian wrote, "Seeing models strut in six-inch heels looked a little less impressive after a fortnight of watching extraordinary athletic feats, not least because those who performed them had to stand on the sidelines and watch some women walk about in clothes." Looking toward Kate Moss' past, Piers Morgan angrily tweeted, "I suspect Kate Moss might fail her drugs test later." And most pointedly, Yahoo! Sports pointed out — using a barrage of irritated tweets — how the models emphasized unhealthy appearances after seeing healthy girls for the last 17 days.
All of these points are valid, of course. The curious choice to celebrate a popular notion of "beauty" within a sports arena is normally quite problematic. To have Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell at a sports ceremony feels entirely counterintuitive, especially given the lifelong commitment the onlooking Olympic participants have made to athletics. Except, of course, this isn't just a sports ceremony.
The Olympic closing ceremony is a pop-cultural event, where the history and celebration of a host country is glamorized, poked fun at, lauded, and adored. To see those iconic (yes, iconic) fashion models, along with the designers that helped make London Fashion Week an international event, was a visual treat. The closing ceremony celebrates nationality, the human experience, and pop culture — and pop culture includes fashion just as much as it includes music (and sports, too). Believing that creativity and achievement in fashion is a worthy endeavor is one of our most stringent tenets, and Britain should be proud of its contributions to fashion, too. The closing ceremony is about patriotic pageantry, and for Britain, fashion is a part of the national myth, and one that has helped define England's identity.
Even though she once helped popularize "heroin-chic," Kate Moss has not only moved beyond that moment, but she showed off her curves and continued a British tradition in a golden McQueen dress — almost like a, dare we say it, Grecian goddess.
Photo: Andrew Cowie/Colorsport/Corbis

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