Nassau Weekly staffer: Can the Nass have free seats to the fashion show tonight so that someone can review it?
Event chair: No, it hasn’t been arranged, it’s impossible… But I will personally buy you a seat if you can guarantee me some sweet-ass press.
Operation Style put on their annual charity fashion show on Friday on the Frist South Lawn. It looked like a benefit in a second-rate but affluent suburb, or a production at a private school looking to increase its endowment. There was a giant white tent, lovely models, nice donated items. There were even cheerful announcements: the silent auction is in the back, remember to buy raffle tickets. The tent was impressive; it covered most of the lawn. And it was teeming with people.
Maybe because it was pre-frosh weekend and there was nowhere to go, but even if there had been, who could have resisted the spectacle? There were darling shirts(1) and posters, plus the tickets were free and it looked like there might have been food inside. Turns out there wasn’t food, but there was loud music, courtesy of Rafe Corkhill’s spinning.(2)
Operation Style put the event on to raise money for—isn’t this charming?—Operation Smile, sort of a Doctors without Borders (Médecins sans Frontières) that performs plastic surgery. I don’t mean to belittle their work—they do good things, we’re talking corrective surgeries in third world type places – they perform like cleft palette surgery and harelip surgery. It’s important to fix these life-changing deformities and all, but why the student group chose to put on a fashion show to benefit the cause is beyond me. Beautiful, thin, four-limbed, bright-eyed Princeton students earning money for deformed Philipino infants.
Last year’s show featured an especial ironic treat: a guest speaker from the Operation Smile organization itself, who was a South Asian island type. We saw a slide show of his life and he had a goiter the size of a football growing out of his neck. It was honestly the grossest thing I’ve ever seen – in or out of a circus – in my entire life. Anyway, he took the stage between modeling segments, so it’s like Oh! What a gorgeous Theta! and then Oh god! What a hideous and crippling deformity! It was mostly awkward, but also a little appalling.
In any event, this year Operation Style managed to jettison that section of the evening, effectively divorcing their fashion show from its worthy beneficiary. The organizers decided against raising awareness of Operation Smile’s cause or educating their audience about it. Instead they opted for this strategy: mention buying a smile; inform audience that above-mentioned buying a smile is for a good cause; and suggest that buying a smile is important. What is this smile?
I’m still not sure what a cleft palette or harelip is, but if it’s anything like that goiter from last year, then buy away. This hardly-even-vague connectedness to Operation Smile involved neither advocacy nor service to people in need. It didn’t involve sacrifice on anyone’s part except that of the University, which financed the production. Rumor has it the Projects Board forked over $15,000—and what for? Since the fashion show only recouped $9000,(3) it looks as if Princeton spent the money as part of a larger effort to train students to give and attend benefits. And hell, Operation Style is peopled by sorority girls anyway, with diamonds so big in their ears that they droop. And Teddy van Beuren, but we’ll get to him later. So this year they dropped both the ties to the Operation Smile and any fat people from their show. Students of all body types were invited to audition, but it seemed as though only girls with BMI’s below 15 were chosen to participate. At least last year they did have that one obese fellow no one had ever seen before—maybe they picked him up on Route 1?—in a sea of anorexic honeys. He definitely pulled up the average weight.
Anyway, Friday evening wasn’t warm enough to be pleasant outside, but it was hot as hell inside the tent. Robert Wei Wong ’06 insisted upon smoking a cigar on stage and I insist that I could smell it from where I was standing. They brought out some second-rate student groups to entertain: we had the Footnotes, Naacho, and Raks Odalisque belly dancers. I’ll be honest: they didn’t really show me much.
Unlike the entertainers, the models were all top-of-the-line gorgeous: water polo guys, a few football players, unclearly affiliated well-muscled fellows (probably in Cap), a handful of Thetas and Pi Phis and then a bunch of exotic looking types who may or may not have been in diSiac. They probably weren’t in diSiac, but that’s what they looked like: dark-haired Lolitas of unclear ethnic heritage and thin build.
Categorically I enjoyed the student designers’ participation—authentically communal or democratic or student-participatory; and the designers were good at what they did. They had some nice dresses and things. And then the final student designer was a man by the name of TVB. Young TVB didn’t actually make any clothes; I just wanted to clear that up. He went to a thrift store (rumor has it that it was Red, White, and Blue), and bought some polo shirts, and some jeans, and some blazers.
The jeans he just cut off until there was about 4 inches left and didn’t do anything to make them into skirts and then just put them on the girls and their asses were hanging out and the girls wore these with the polo shirts, which he had spattered with paint and/or bleach. Like a little Jackson Pollock. The blazers and suit components were also spattered with paint—pink paint, white paint. There may or may not have been an angel motif with like wings, but I think he must just have gotten lucky with dribbling the paint.
The male models provided meaningful genital work to complement the ass-cheek work of the ladies. Student designer Teddy Van Beuren made particular use of the male package in his concept. His models came down the runway in clothes he “designed.” Let me be explicit: by “design,” I mean that he splashed things he bought at Red, White, and Blue with some paint.(4) He had the models wear these items with just tighty-whitey underpants. There was no explanation.
The first group of models, big masculine fellows, walked to the end of the runway and settled the question of the black-white phallus divide forever. Black men do have bigger penises, and I know because such penises were jiggled in front of the entire audience. We’re talking a right-handed jiggle: grab package, work it up and down, smile, walk back down the runway. Assuming they did it on their own, though, it was a fine display of camaraderie and male equipment.
TVB really distinguished himself at the end of his set. Whereas the other student designers had stepped out from behind the back-stage area, given a little wave, received a little cheer from the audience, and retreated into oblivion, Teddy walked all the way down the runway, flanked by two large male models. He was topless, wearing pants of his own design, and sporting what appeared to be a tremendous erection. I’m not sure what happened, but it looks like he was just so pleased with himself that he spontaneously busted. At the end of the runway, the boner threatened to violate the integrity of the pants.
So he was standing there with his man-servants, one on each side. One wore tighty-whiteys and a jacket; the other wore tighty-whiteys and a vest. First the vest-model removed his garment and placed it on TVB, and the jacket-model followed suit.(5) So they’re standing there mostly naked, and TVB is wearing a full suit of Jacob-Savage-at-a-formal-event light blue fabric spattered in pink paint and he starts doing his best P. Diddy. He spreads his arms, smiles, flashes peace signs, soaks up the love that everyone has for him, and for his work. He’ll be missed next year; Princeton will not be the same without him.
Much less enjoyable were the emcees, Robert Wei Wong ’06 and Dara Deshe ’07.(6) Dara had trouble spitting out the Operation Style necessities: that was hot after a modeling or entertainment segment, and buy a smile at any other time. Also, she didn’t bother to learn the names of the volunteer models. When they took their curtain calls at the end, she called all the Asian females “CeCe Chang.”(7) The emcees sat on stage in armchairs and blazers and jeans and they sipped fake martinis or maybe the martinis were real but in any event they were in martini glasses.
And RWW would light up a cigar. I’m not sure who was making this sort of creative decision. Actually, since the event chairs all walked the runway at the end of the evening, I could give you a pretty damn good guess. What I mean is this: I’m not sure what depraved sensibilities governed the benefit. It wasn’t tasteful, and it wasn’t appropriate for an event that in theory existed for the benefit of poor, disadvantaged people. What should have been an others-minded community event became the Operation Style show – the organizers’ toast to themselves.
Not to be outdone by fellow UCC member TVB, Lauren Lyon made a splash of her own. When she first took the stage, ostensibly for the dual purposes of drawing attention to herself and also exhorting the crowd to buy a smile, she took the microphone and asked if anyone had seen the large, black purse that she had lost. Then she asked the crowd, “Who will stand up right now and donate a whole smile?” A smile costs 750 bucks. This event was targeted at college students; it’s astoundingly pompous and insensitive to think that a student in the crowd would stand up and pledge. The organizers could have at least pretended that they understood that not everyone is rich.
This mode of fundraising also serves to glorify those who donate – again, what happened to tastefulness, sensitivity, anything reasonable at all? Four adults obliged Ms. Events Chair and stood up. She looked surprised and delighted (like she had just gotten a pony for Christmas), even though whispers spread through the tent that two of the donors were her parents.(8) An event for a worthy cause dissolved into affluence-mongering, wealth-glorifying, and ass-ogling.
So the University spent $15,000 on a charity event that brought in $9000. That nets a loss of $4000.(9) Why didn’t the University just write that $15,000 check to Operation Smile if it cared so much? Because some girls wanted to put on a show. So let some rich kids spend other people’s money and put themselves on display for a good cause. Let them put on a fashion show to benefit physically deformed children, for god’s sake. Let them miss the irony that the deformed children are judged because of their physical appearances. Operation Smile’s beneficiaries are ostracized, they can’t find work—and we stand on the Frist South lawn, lucky judging the lucky.
(1)The event organizer said EVERYONE at the gym is going to be wearing them, just you wait and see.
(2)Too bad it wasn’t Teddy van Buren spinning. I heard he can spin.
(3)The estimate of $9000 was reported in the Daily Princetonian. I’m assuming it’s wrong. I’m also assuming that the figure is too high, as the Prince is in league with all things evil.
(4)I could do that. You know, I could even do better than he did. He only used pink and white. I could have used many colors of paint.
(5)Haha! “Suit”: this is a great pun.
(6)Though the Nass does not officially endorse candidates for student government positions, the author would like to throw her weight behind whoever is running against Dara Deshe, even though she heard that he’s in MIMA.
(7)Michael Lohman was not pleased.
(8)Rumor has it that Mommy and Daddy sat separately to give the impression that they gave two individual donations.
(9)The Nass keeps ape cosmonauts with abacuses on hand for just this sort of analysis.