Thursday, May 24, 2012
Reflections - Vanessa Del Rio
Growing up in the 70s and 80s I feel I grew up in the golden age of women. I grew up as the Women's Movement was taking hold, where Black women wearing their hair natural was natural, and before boob jobs became affordable to the masses. I grew up in East Orange, N.J., a working class, predominately Black middle class town, but I went to private school in Montclair, N.J. that was predominately white. So I had two frames of beauty reference - Soul Train and American Bandstand. Soul Train won out every time!
When I discovered "dirty magazines", the women I was most attracted to were Pam Grier's spread in Players Magazine and anything with Vanessa Del Rio. Vanessa was the epitome of female sexuality for me growing up. A woman reveled in her pleasure: both giving and receiving. Her power lay in the fact that she seemed to be enjoying the "work" she was doing. She was in it, of it, but also above it all at the same time. She was blessed with body, and with talent, but she didn't let it rest there with her natural ability, she went for it in every scene. To frame it in a sports analogy, she was not content to just be a talent, but she wanted each scene she was in to "win" and for everyone in the scene to win. It was team first. She was the Bill Russell of porn. However, unlike Bill, Vanessa was never truly given her due in her industry, because that industry was shortsighted with prejudice. But in the end how many porn stars have a huge critically acclaimed book featuring their life in words and pictures - so far: just Vanessa.
When I decided to do a photography project featuring women of different ages, sizes and ethnicity's's I had Vanessa in mind. Why didn't I see the Puerto Rican women I grew up seeing on the bus in Newark, the Black lunch ladies at school or the Asian women at the Carry-Outs in photobooks I was looking at. Why weren't they represented in the galleries I was going to in D.C. while in college? So I set out to photograph the women I enjoyed looking at, the everyday blessings God has graced us with.
As an adult male in the new Millennium I am proud to see that all types of women are getting their due in advertising and in other media, especially the Internet, more so than I can remember when growing up. Whatever you want to see now you can find. And I'm glad that Vanessa is still here (because so many folks she worked with are not) to receive the adulation she deserves. And while Vanessa is not as well known or as universally heralded or admired as Marilyn Monroe, she has - unlike Marilyn - come through the fire of our times completely whole. Viva Vanessa: "veni vidi vici."
"Vanessa Magnified," Copyright Vincent lee Smith 2011