I don’t like making fun of the dead. And, even more than Mick Jagger, I have no special insight into why fashion designer L’Wren Scott took her own life. Using, apparently, a noose made from a silk scarf. That fashionista detail, I must admit, really gives me pause.
Scott’s death on March 17, 2014, naturally set tongues to wagging. I overheard several sensible people I know, one of whom had attended a social function at which Scott was present, speculating that her desperate act could be blamed on a negative body image. After all, she had worked both in Hollywood (as stylist and costume designer) as well as in the world of high fashion, two realms where you can never be too rich or too thin. A quote attributed to her caught my eye: “I've never met a woman who thinks she's got a good enough figure.” Then there was the perhaps meaningful fact that she was facing a Big Birthday. On April 28 of this year, she would have been fifty years old.
All this is purely speculation on my part. Perhaps whatever destroyed her spirit had nothing to do with her appearance. She was 6’3” and a former fashion model, so perhaps she had the chutzpah to look however she chose. Certainly the fact that for thirteen years she gave satisfaction to Jagger, one of the world’s most interesting men, should have validated her sense that she had a lot to offer. Maybe, as some have speculated, she was depressed over business reverses, or health issues, or some such.
But I continue to be haunted by the notion that a life in showbiz (or on its fringes) requires women to be obsessed with their looks. Years ago, I knew a performer who wanted to make it big. She had loads of musical talent, but someone must have told her that she’d be even prettier if she improved the line of her chin. Next thing I knew, she’d had a drastic surgery that broke her jaw and required her mouth to be wired shut for months. The end result: she looked really nice, but of course she hadn’t looked bad to begin with. And I’m not sure that the change advanced her career one iota.
I also knew a former child star who quit the industry in her teen years. Decades later, her sister told me that one reason she’d said goodbye to her career was the pressure she faced in late adolescence to undergo breast augmentation. One young actress who succumbed to this pressure was Mary Elizabeth McDonough, well-known as the middle child on The Waltons. In her memoir, she recounts how she agreed to silicone breast implants, then years later found herself battling lupus, perhaps an aftereffect of the surgery.
We all know that tall, blonde, lithe Gwyneth Paltrow pretty much meets Hollywood’s standards of female perfection. But even she is capable of feeling insecure. I interviewed Gwyneth for The Hollywood Reporter when she was carrying her first child. Hoping to make an emotional connection, I commiserated on the discomforts of late-stage pregnancy. She plaintively told me how tough it was for her to see on TV another tall blonde glamour girl—Cameron Diaz—looking gorgeous, while she herself felt as big as a house. Obviously, Gwyneth got her pre-baby body back, and then re-made herself as a lifestyle expert. Now that she and her hubby, rocker Chris Martin, have decided on “conscious uncoupling,” as she so coyly puts it, I hope she’ll remain satisfied with who she is, no matter what she looks like.