Sunday, March 1, 2015

Behind Blonde Eyes: Inside The Fractured Mind Of a Belinda Reborn

Nobody knows what it's like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes

- The Who, "Behind Blue Eyes"
So, when Belinda Carlisle quit doing coke in 1985 (although, as it turns out, not once and for all), a funny thing happened. She started to look a little ... different. And not a "bad" kind of different. I'm not talking a Lindsay Lohan, I-need-a-blood-transfusion different, or a Marlon Brando, I-just-ate-my-pet-chihuahua different. I'm talking more like an "if Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Redford, Brigitte Bardot, Sean Connery, Amy Adams, and Ryan Gosling all had a baby together" different.

Now, particularly in the early Go-Go's days, I would have to say that Belinda already looked pretty good, and if you dare to disagree with me, I will secretly begin stealing your mail every other Thursday. But at the dawn of her solo career, Belinda's appearance rendered terms like "good-looking" woefully inadequate - insulting, even. All of sudden, completely out of nowhere, Belinda Carlisle became ... laughably attractive. She became depressingly attractive. She became so attractive, it was, for all intents and purposes, a joke. Well hardy-har-har. I'd be laughing more if I wasn't writhing in pain. Some of us find late '80s Belinda Carlisle so attractive, it actually hurts to look at her. I have to shield my eyes while I'm watching her videos, the same way I shield my eyes when I glance at the sun.

When I first discovered, via YouTube and other sources, the unfathomable attractiveness of late '80s Belinda Carlisle, I had to ask myself a number of questions. First of all, how did this happen? How did she go from looking like a quasi-lesbian Florida retiree to a living, breathing, reanimated Barbie doll? Some at the time speculated the utilization of surgery, but the woman has always denied it, and I'm far from an expert on such matters, but it seems like her face looked healthy and "naturally" good, not sickly and "artificially" good, the way many celebrities' faces tend to look after a procedure or two. Many wondered if she deliberately tried to "re-package" herself in order to "make it" as a solo artist, but as far as I can tell, the fact that her physical transformation coincided with the start of her solo career was more or less an accident (albeit one her record company certainly appreciated). Nope, I think all that happened is that she quit doing coke and finally settled down with a decent guy.

But here is what I truly wanted to know: "What does it actually feel like to be that attractive? Is one aware of how attractive one is? Does one not really care? Is it annoying? Is it satisfying? Just ... what's it like?" Deep within the caverns of Lips Unsealed, my answer lay waiting for me. And it was even more complex than I'd anticipated. For in providing the answer, Belinda merely raised more questions:
... after cleaning up my act, I saw a profound physical change. I lost the bloat I had from doing coke and drinking every night, especially from my face. I also lived a healthier lifestyle, eating better and working out. I started my day in the morning, a positive change in itself, as opposed to ending my day at that time, and I hit the gym with a trainer, lifting weights and running. All in all, I shed about twenty pounds and received lots of compliments about the way I looked.
Wait, I thought earlier she said that coke helped her stay thin. I guess coke can be whatever you want it to be, but I digress. So, life was an endless stream of awesomeness, right?
... I realized that I photographed well and was considered pretty even though I didn't feel that way about myself.

No, when I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw me at ten years old, wearing the polka-dot dress my mom had gotten on special at Sears, the one the kids at school knew was my only outfit. Or I saw myself a year or two later in a sleeveless hand-me-down that was lime green with flowers and let me believe when I put it on and did my hair in pigtails that I was pretty like Marcia Brady. Yet then I ran outside just as a car carrying some kids from school drove past and one of them yelled, "Hey, fatso!"

Despite being almost twenty-eight years old, inside my head I was still that girl, scared, awkward, and full of shame and insecurity. I definitely didn't see the beauty other people kept saying I had turned into.
So what we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is the rare instance of a woman who, on the outside, looked like this ...

... but on the inside, still felt like this:

You see, this is why I don't find the laughably attractive Yuppie Belinda insufferable, like I find so many laughably attractive people. This was not a woman who had "always" looked perfect. This was not a woman who'd never lacked confidence, who'd never felt like an outcast, who'd never had to fret about her appearance. I look at laughably attractive Belinda Carlisle and, somehow, some way, I see ... myself. Am I insane? I see a frog who became a princess. I see someone with the personality of an art-school geek, who accidentally ended up in the body of a supermodel. And I see comedy, lots of comedy. She goes on:
There was nothing like being a boutique and hearing women whisper, "Isn't that Belinda Carlisle? I didn't know she was so pretty." (Hey, I didn't know it either). I also heard people say I looked like a young Ann-Margret, whose starring roles in Viva Las Vegas and Bye Bye Birdie had made her one of my favorite actresses.
But I had mixed feelings about such compliments. All through the Go-Go's I never lacked for boyfriends, but the press constantly referred to me as pretty and plump or cute and chubby, which bugged me. Then, as I started to do some early interviews before my album was close to being released, I began to hear the flipside, that I was slim, svelte, and sexy, like a new, hot Belinda Carlisle.

I knew it was all well intentioned. But why did my size even have to be an issue? I was confused enough. Couldn't I just be liked for being myself?

Good question.

No easy answers.
Geez. Sounds kind of ... fucked up. When the media makes comments like that, they're not really thinking about it all that hard. I mean, what is the "self"? Is it the way a person looks? Is it the things a person does? When we like someone, what is it that we're actually "liking"? If Belinda records an album in the woods, and there's no label there to release it, does it make the charts? Were her dreams as empty as her conscience seemed to be?

Honestly, I'm just a bored blogger with a silly '80s pop singer obsession. I'd hate to fuel our society's fixation on the superficial physical appearance of celebrities but, in the words of the great Abraham Lincoln, "Screw that shit."

No comments: