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      think pieces Isabelle Hellyer 28 February 2016

      the venus of la: blac chyna and the impossible hourglass

      If we look beyond the tabloid headlines written about Blac Chyna we find a woman 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. 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. At that moment, at that time, she had 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 LA.

      Today, 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. In 2006 (or thereabouts) she augmented her breasts, then her butt — the latter procedure was illegal, so Chyna has declined to detail it. 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. 

      "It wasn't like making something out of nothing" she explained of the procedure, 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, which implied was that her heritage was mixed, noticed it earned her a premium from men in the club. In essence, she changed herself until everything was large enough to fill out the shape of a star.

      She quickly became King of Diamonds' Queen, telling Richardson, "It was easy for me, I think, 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, simply because nobody else looked quite like her. Even those who didn't find Chyna beautiful had to admit she 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 journey to Hollywood geared into overdrive in 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 that Chyna wasn't really a dancer, she was the dancer. Soon after the namedrop 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, even appearing on a couple episodes of the family's show. Chyna had arrived. 

      This isn't to say Drake "found" her. Neither did Tyga, nor Nicki nor Kim. Nobody did, Chyna demanded to be recognised, 'cause she was one of kind. That is, until everyone started to look a little like Chy. 

      She didn't invent the hourglass figure, of course — she herself credits the local trans community with giving her the idea. She did, however, near-singlehandedly introduced Hollywood to the enterprisingly augmented body. 

      Chyna's body wasn't the one she was born with, it was the one she chose to have, which makes it all the more significant.

      It's fair to wonder, at first, why it is that Chyna exemplifies this new American ideal more so than any other bombshell who grew famous in 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 creating something real. As she told Richardson: "I wanted it to be dramatic." Something more ambitious than 36-24-36. 

      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 makes it all the more significant.

      Consider that when Chyna underwent her first cosmetic procedure, in 2006, it was well before VICE had tuned into illegal ass injections, before the Kardashians turned juggernaut, before Nicki Minaj had even signed a record deal. (When Richardson suggested Minaj might have been inspired to change her body after meeting Chyna, she replied "Yea, I think so.")

      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 cursory look at the gossip rags would suggest women in Hollywood have fat transfers in similar numbers. Ordinary Americans are dying in the underground pursuit of the impossible hourglass.

      Meanwhile, the ghost of pre-fame Chyna lives online. You can still find, with relative ease, shaky phone footage of her dancing. In one video, Chy records herself practising in Ugg Boots and sweats while the club is closed. And so, the Venus of our time won't be dug up by archaeologists, she'll be cached.


      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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