Tuesday, October 11, 2011


You might have to stretch to make the connection between this post and the craft of writing, so I’ll tell you why I’m thinking of Kendra Wilkinson today: I have a book signing later in the week, and all of my beauty appointments have come up on the calendar again. Image rears its tousled head, demanding to be tamed.
As a fan of Wilkinson, I’ve been watching the first episodes of the new “Kendra” season Sunday nights on E! television. A former girlfriend of Playboy poobah Hugh Hefner, she went on to star in her own reality show after leaving the popular series, “The Girls Next Door.”
Kendra gained many fans during “The Girls Next Door” and became a breakout star. I liked her because she was atypical of the Playmates who graced the show. Though beautiful, Kendra was also athletic--not just another girly girl trying to outdo the others for Hefner’s favor.
Don’t get me started on him.
For me, Kendra was the standout girlfriend (of three). She was natural and direct; spontaneous and unpredictable; foul-mouthed; domestically challenged; openly sloppy; and full of fun. She had a big heart. Kendra’s uniqueness in the Playboy henhouse made her highly entertaining.
Part of Kendra’s appeal was—is--a Playmate stereotype: She’s a bit empty headed. For example, in an early episode of her show, she asked her mom how to use a postage stamp. When her mother expressed shock at such a basic question, Kendra’s answer was something on the order of, “Dude, I’ve been living in the mansion since I was eighteen.” In the Playboy mansion, other people mailed the letters.
Kendra was told this season to clean up her act, and I think that will prove to be a mistake. Some acts should not be cleaned up.
On the first show she was called into a meeting by her agent and told to upgrade her image. Though she can look quite glamorous, Kendra is most often filmed at home. Thus, she appeared on TV—and in public--wearing baggy sweats, with no makeup and her hair pulled into a casual ponytail.
She was one of us.
She initially resisted when an image consultant began rummaging in her closet, but on this week’s episode Kendra found a designer she liked. I lost count of the beautiful dresses she wore during the 30-minute show as she plotted, in full makeup, to find her son’s babysitter a new man. The upgraded Kendra and her friend the matchmaker were decked out for TV, chatting in a perfectly appointed home.
Though I could barely take my eyes off her floor-length, nautical-striped sundress, I wasn’t so fascinated with Kendra this week. She seemed a bit cautious and--dare I say it?--boring. Admittedly I dozed, but gone were her distinctive laugh and spontaneous curse words as she carefully picked her way through conversations. I missed them. I also missed the sweat pants and running shoes, because the woman who had worn them seemed to be absent, too. I missed the dance in Kendra’s eyes.
Being grown up is okay. Upgrading one’s image is usually a good idea, as long as we don’t leave the best parts of ourselves behind. If I’m right about Kendra, I hope she finds her best self among those pretty dresses. Better yet, maybe she’ll end up giving the image people a piece of her mind.
Go, Kendra!

This post is dedicated to my Cincinnati "image consultants," whom I love: Tina Elizabeth White at Michelle & Company Salon (hair); Debbie Sebastian at Avalon Salon (nails); and Claude Kayrouz at Identity (face).

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