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      think pieces Isabelle Hellyer 28 February 2016

      the venus of l.a: blac chyna and the impossible hourglass

      If we look beyond the tabloid headlines written about Blac Chyna we find a very different woman: one who knew what she wanted, and got it before anyone else did.

      Courtesy of King of Diamonds

      Do you remember the Venus of Willendorf? She's a fixture of high school history classes—a small statuette of a woman dug up in Austria in the 20s, known for both her age (30,000) and her body. Her breasts are large, as is her stomach. Her legs are short. Most strikingly, she has neither arms nor a face.

      The purpose of the venus is something scholars still enjoy debating. Some suspect she was a totem to be pegged into the ground, others, a ritual tool. Most salaciously, they called her a masturbation aid. All could agree the Venus was intended to be—and once surely was—beautiful. She didn't represent the perfect woman, but she did reflect the perfect body.

      If the Venus of Willendorf points us to the ideal form of 25,000 BCE, where could one find today's Venus? Try behind the wall of a gated community in Calabasas, the home of Blac Chyna: the Venus of L.A.

      In 2016, we know Blac Chyna as a mother and social media celebrity, who promotes teeth whitening kits over Instagram and becomes embroiled in tabloid conflicts in turns.

      At birth, she was Angela White, a girl from Washington D.C who started stripping under the name Cream at 18—the same time she began enhancing her body. She augmented her breasts, then her butt. The latter procedure is illegal, Chyna declines to detail it, though it's assumed she received ass shots. She's credited the community of transwomen in D.C for hooking her up. "Through me being close with them I got the idea," she told Andrew Richardson in a rare interview: "You had to be cool with the trans-queens; they wouldn't give just any girl their plug." Of course, Chyna wasn't just any girl, in 2006—before she'd even turned 19—she had become an impossible hourglass. It wasn't as if she didn't already have an impressive body. "It wasn't like making something out of nothing" she explained to Richardson, it's just that she wanted more; "I wanted it to be extra noticeable."

      By 20, Chyna was living in Miami and dancing at King of Diamonds—the Strip Club to end all others. She'd given up Cream and assumed the pseudonym Blac Chyna full time, which implied was that her heritage was mixed—it earned a premium from men in the club. She had abandoned Angela White all together.

      Chyna's moniker and body always shifted in tandem, with each change making her more powerful—the ass earnt more, the name earnt more. She intuitively knew what would grab attention. In essence, Chyna changed herself until everything was large enough to fill out the shape of a star.

      She quickly became King of Diamonds' Queen. "It was easy for me, I think," she told Richardson, "because I stood out from the other girls: my body, my tattoos, I had blonde hair at the time." Rappers, magazines and blogs developed a fascination with Chyna that nobody else could satiate, because nobody else looked like her. Even if what Chyna did wasn't beautiful to everyone, it was memorable, which made her very powerful.

      In that sense, Chyna's rise to guest spots on Keeping Up with the Kardashians, five million Instagram followers, and Daily Mail articles—the trifecta of a very contemporary breed of fame—was as inevitable as anything could be.

      Chyna's already quick rise to notoriety was geared into overdrive during late 2010, when Drake rapped "Call up King of Diamonds and tell Chyna that it's worth the flight". The line made it known to anyone listening to Billboard that Chyna wasn't a dancer, she was the dancer. The events which followed the namedrop saw Chyna go from underground phenomenon to American Google Image obsession.

      In quick succession she began dating the rapper Tyga, left Miami for L.A, appeared in a string of videos for Nicki Minaj and formed a friendship with Kim Kardashian—she even appeared on a couple episodes of the family's show. Chyna had made it to Hollywood.

      This isn't to say Drake "found" her, nor did Tyga, Nicki or Kim; nobody did. Chyna demanded to be recognised, 'cause she was one of kind—until everyone started to look a little like Chy.

      See, Chyna's body is the ultimate new American form. That's not to say she invented the shape, but she near single handedly introduced Hollywood to something that had otherwise only existed with the trans community. It's a body that's turned up to eleven: an hourglass that defies gravity—with an emphasis on the booty. It's a shape that can instantly collect one million Instagram followers. It's a body which can't possibly be real, and probably isn't. It's something more ambitious than 36-24-36: it's exactly what Chyna created for herself.

      Chyna then does for the Internet age what the Venus of Willendorf does for 25,000 BCE: exemplify the ultimate, even if it was exaggerated to the point or impractically, approaching impossibility.

      It's fair to wonder, at first, why Chyna is the diamond standard for this new American body when other woman with a similar shape gained fame during the same time period. Yet even within the interconnected network of hyperreal hourglass women that surround Chyna and populate Calabasas, she shines more brightly. The scale of her vision was always different to her contemporaries. She never cared about looking natural, telling Richardson: "I wanted it to be dramatic." Chyna kicked the hourglass into overdrive. Her body is an explicit fuck you, pay me.

      To complain about fakeness is to miss the point: Chyna's body wasn't the one she was born with, it was the one she chose to have, which in a sense makes it all the more significant.

      Consider that when Chyna transformed, in 2006, it was well before VICE had tuned into illegal ass injections, before the Kardashians turned juggernaut, and before Nicki Minaj had even signed a record deal. Chyna introduced the augmentation to pop culture, and while it took time to see copycats emerge, they invariably did.

      Even if women weren't after the same body as Chyna, they wanted one with equal power, that would inspire fascination and obsession. When Richardson suggested Nicki Minaj was inspired to change her body after meeting Chyna, she replied "Yea, I think so."

      There's a selfie Kim Kardashian posted of them together in 2014. They stand side by side in a bathroom with backs (asses) to the mirror. Chyna's body is the more exaggerated of the pair, despite Kim's best efforts: her distorted bathroom tiles quickly gave away that she'd Photoshopped herself, and left Chyna untouched. The image, and the attention it accrued, definitively announced the shape of the new American body. It was what we coveted, consumed and, perhaps most importantly, what we would click.

      Now, most women at King of Diamonds have ass injections. Fusion, a dancer there, told VICE the number sat around 75 to 80 percent. A whole lot of women in Hollywood have undergone the procedure's upmarket counterpart—fat transfers. Some Americans are dying in the underground pursuit of the impossible hourglass.

      The ghost of pre-fame Chyna lives online. You can still find, with relative ease, shaky phone footage of her in clubs. In one video, Chy records herself practising on the pole in Ugg Boots and sweats while the club is closed. Even then, dark and pixelated, Chyna shines. The Venus of our time won't be dug up by archaeologists, she'll be cached. While we've got her, we ought to treasure her.


      Photography courtesy of Blackmen Magazine and Dimepiece Magazine

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      Topics:think pieces, blac chyna, body image, think piece

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