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Keep Mum She’s Not So Dumb

Photo: The National Archives

If you watched this year’s Emmy’s you may have seen Sofia Vergara, standing on a rotating circular pedestal while the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences president gave his usual blah, blah, blah speech. For the audience, Vergara’s infamous curves were an entertaining distraction to an otherwise boring part of the show. Afterward, women’s groups and online sites like Salon and Jezebel criticized the bit as “super sexist” and “pathetic.” Seriously ladies? Me thinks thou hast taken political correctness too far! If you want to talk about the unwilling sexism women encounter in the workplace, the board room, or raising startup capital, then step aside, because I can go on until you tell me to stuff a sock in it.


Ms. Vergara was clearly in control, having fun with her tongue-in-cheek portrayal of a sexy car show model, hired to make us walk past the Honda and take a closer look at the Mercedes. The only thing under this model’s hood, however, is a savvy comedic understanding of her own image; something that’s made her wealthy, beloved and the winner of numerous Emmys.

From the first moment Sofia Vergara came onto the screen, she’s charmed us with her humor, her beauty and her ability to laugh at herself. Even better, there’s never a hint she thinks she’s “all that.” Since her first Diet Pepsi commercial, she’s skillfully underscored her sexy, flirtatious nature. In her first Cover Girl commercial she playfully said, “I want to look natural… not naked.” Her Kmart commercial last year begins with her drawing a bigger bust and hips onto a sketch of a skinny woman, wearing Vergara’s new Kmart clothing line.

The man onscreen next to her says, “I think you’re drawing yourself, again.”

Puzzled, she looks at him and replies, “What are you talking about? Make it va-va-voomier! More is more! Every woman… Every body… Work what you’ve got!”

This is not a woman who’s being taken advantage of. To the contrary. If anyone’s taking advantage of her persona, it’s Ms. Vergara. With a wink and a grin, she seizes the opportunity to celebrate the things that make us talk about, and like her in the first place.

One of my favorite pieces of graphic art is the British World War II poster, “Keep Mum, She’s Not So Dumb!” While the beautiful woman languishes on the sofa, the British officers discuss the war, oblivious that she’s a spy. Like Vergara, the sexy, blonde is not just pathetic eye candy. She’s on a mission, and she knows exactly how to get what she wants.

As this new crop of feminists are crying “sexist,” may I suggest that instead, they keep mum? From where I stand, the only one who’s not so dumb is Sofia.

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8 thoughts on “Keep Mum She’s Not So Dumb”

  1. Seriously, if I looked like Sophia…..damn straight I’d be doing the same thing. All this political correctness and these sites Salon but more especially Jezebel..Now I may be wrong but…Isn’t the connotation of the word Jezebel like a loose woman….easy….you know A Jezebel!!
    Much ado about nothing.. Alli

    • EAK, you have me laughing! Brilliant observation. Brilliant! And I’m right there with you! I’d be asking my agent to get me as many commercials and licensing deals as possible. She’s not so dumb, and she’s certainly not being taken advantage of. xoxoxo, Brenda

  2. Fascinating, though I didn’t see the show. Brenda, a few things to consider: wouldn’t it have been great to see a woman deliver the speech and have Channing Tatum provide the eye candy?

    The undeniably va-voom Sophia is of use to marketers, and vice-versa, given that the average size of US women has only been increasing. She serves a purpose. While she does so with wit and grace, that “sending up of the image” is not her idea; she was •cast•. The talent does not come up with the concept; a savvy ad agency created that KMart commercial. She is the compelling, believable delivery system.

    So while we applaud her performance, let’s also be realistic about what the entertainment and advertising industries do, and how they sideline women the moment they pass their best-by date.

    • You make some great points. Unfortunately this speech is always delivered by the president of the Academy, who this year, is a man, so having male eye candy on the revolving pedestal wouldn’t have had the same effect.

      While Sofia may have been cast by an agency, we don’t know whether she and her agent were the ones giving them the push. Let’s not forget she’s a smart businesswoman who’s creating an empire of branded product lines. In the case of Kmart, she’s selling HER line of clothing, carried by Kmart. We don’t know about Pepsi or Cover Girl, but there again, she was in the driver’s seat. She could have said “no.”

      You’re right about women and their “best by date,” although we’re making progress. In addition to Diane Keaton for L’Oreal, last week, designer Marc Jacobs announced 64-year-old Jessica Lange is the new face of his cosmetic line. This may be my favorite: Last month, 68-year-old iconic model and actress, Charlotte Rampling, hooded eyes and all, became the face of NARS cosmetics.

      One of the main reasons we launched 1010ParkPlace is to give “grownup women” a voice, and to interface with brands and advertisers and give them opportunity to reach us. They know we have more money than 20-30 somethings, so we’re taking them by the hand and leading them down the yellow brick road. That said, we could use your help. Please subscribe to 1010ParkPlace and ask all of the women you know to do the same. There’s power in numbers. Thank you!

      • That is my point: why can’t the president of the Academy be a woman? As far as celebrity brands go, there is a wide range of involvement, but the words and music- the celebrity image and the brand- must reinforce one another. (That was the problem with Sara Jessica Parker’s short lived foray into a clothing line.) And few women will say no to the chance for a lucrative cosmetics contract.

        • The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, as well as The Screen Actors Guild, have both had male and female presidents over the years.

          Regardless of where SJP’s shoe line stands (I don’t know. Her clothing line was carried by a store that filed for bankruptcy), or how involved she is, isn’t relevant to whether Sofia Vergara was a victim at the Emmy’s. My point was, Vergara is anything but a victim. Who knows? SJP might want to get a few business, branding tips from Vergara. As women, that’s the best thing we can do for ourselves: Network and give one another a helping hand, instead of discounting one another because we didn’t get it right.

          When three women, particularly of a certain age, are made the faces of major cosmetic brands, we can’t slough it off with “few women will say no to the chance for a lucrative cosmetics contract.” By doing that, we are denying that what we’ve campaigned for has been achieved, instead of celebrating it! Those three women of a certain age, and their achievements, are OUR achievements.

          If we kick these women and their accomplishments to the curb, as being less than, then we’re kicking our victories to the curb. If our daughters have a baby girl, are we going to complain because she didn’t have twins or triplets? No! We’re going to say “Congratulations! Let me know how I can help you teach your baby to walk.”

          • I doubt we are that far apart philosophically, Brenda. Our difference
            seems to be in your assertion that celebrity endorsements secured at 42 represent a victory
            for women. Your charge that I am “kicking women to the curb” and see Vergara as a “victim” is simply inaccurate; those are not terms I used.

            Vergara’s contract is no more a “victory for women” any more than Ellen DeGeneres as the face of Cover Girl was for gay rights, nor is it groundbreaking; Penelope Cruz, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman and Isabella Rossellini come to mind.

            I prefer to celebrate women (of any age) who fight to secure equal wages and reproductive rights, among other issues; rights that continue to be in jeopardy. When I look at my life now versus when I began to work in the ’60s, it’s not Rossellini or Queen Latifah or Vergera who have changed things, much as I applaud their talent, hard work and business acumen and admire their beauty.

            Might we not enjoy the playful, sexy comedic talents of Vergara without making her an exemplar of women’s victories? It is what it is, entertainment and marketing, getting us to enjoy consuming.

          • It’s obvious we’re both advocates for women of all ages, in every aspect of their lives. Sorry if you misunderstood. I didn’t say you see Vergara as a victim. That reference in my previous comment to you was the point of my blog: Let’s not fail to see the multitude of ways women are making changes and getting what they want. Neither did I say you were kicking women to the curb.

            In the bigger picture, I hope all of us celebrate women who move us forward on all fronts, not just equal wages and reproductive rights. These women, and the roles they play, run the gambit from politics, the media, science and medicine, corporate America, fashion and entertainment, to Malala Yousafzai, fighting for education for girls around the world, to millions of women we’ll never hear about. Yes, women our age, and those who came before us, have made enormous changes, but the contributions of younger women are just as important. The beat goes on!

            As far as celebrity endorsements, 60+ Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Charlotte Rampling are INDEED victories for all women. We need victories in many areas. This is just one. As you said, advertising industries “sideline women the moment they pass their best-by date.” Whether we like it or not, we’re a celebrity-driven culture, and if they are the tools that open doors for brands and advertisers to pay attention to 40+, the wealthiest, yet most underserved demographic in history, then I celebrate those women and the brands they represent. And let’s not forget the roles Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters and Oprah have played. Their presence and their voices are making differences in every aspect of women’s lives, worldwide.

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