That day, I started a campaign with my parents to obtain a Totally Hair Barbie, even though up till then I’d only had a few basic dolls, one Skipper and many hand-me-down Barbies, since my green-party parents were not very enthusiastic about the American ‘teenage fashion model’ with pink plastic accoutrements. Once I got one, the best thing to do was go over to my neighbours’ house, where two of those dolls lived with the two girls, and add mine to their pair, so we could play with a Total Hair extravaganza set of three dolls, twisting the different strands and braid them together in a sort of octopus-like hair situation.
The surplus of time and money of the Upper East Side clientele is mirrored in the quiet and calm behaviour of the store personnel: it is a Veblen-esque type of conspicuous consumption which shows off the privilege of the leisure class: a dressing down of your high economic status, and squandering time just because you can. These leggings and sports bras in muted colours are markers of status and wealth, an opulent lifestyle expressed not through golden logos but mesh fabrics. The group habitus of these women shapes the bodies and local economics of the area, which is densely populated with plastic surgeons and athleisure stores, mirroring each other in the quest for physical perfection.
Carmen Miranda’s brief life span ended abruptly in 1955. Known as ‘the Brazilian Bombshell’ throughout her life, she was trapped between two cultures which both claimed her, yet did not allow her to determine her own artistic path. In America, although she learned to speak English well, she was not allowed to speak with a less ‘tropical’ accent, lest she get in trouble with studio bosses. She was obliged to keep making use of sexual innuendos and exotic onomatopoeia (‘chq- chqchq- crrrr- ch ch ch’), which famously resulted in her being commodified into a logo for Chiquita Bananas. Her association with bananas blocked her from being taken seriously as an actress, which she sang about: ‘I’d love to play a scene with Clark Gable/ With candle lights and wine upon the table/ But my producer tells me I’m not able/ ‘Cause I make my money with bananas.’