For those who simply want to look at the pictures, the words that follow may be thought of not as bits of language but as bits of Styrofoam, packed around the images they accompany to keep them from breaking. The pictures are precious, though they could not be called rare. The sweet creature they show is the new Top Model, who is among the most extensively photographed, and certainly is one of the most expensively photographed, women on earth.
Top Models are not elected or anointed, but every couple of years the ball of flaming gas that is the U.S. communications industry indicates that a new One is at hand. By assuming office she becomes the nation's muse, our new moon. In earlier manifestations, the Top Model was Lisa Fonssagrives, Suzy Parker, Jean Shrimpton, Lauren Hutton. Now, lambent in the pages of Harper's Bazaar and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, ineffable on a talk show, utterly right at the right disco, a splendid beacon in the mind of every wistful teen-age buyer of eye enlarger and cheekbone sharpener, a poster pinned across Farrah's, a secret smile on the face of a dozing commuter, her name is Cheryl Tiegs.
Hear this: "The new bold beauty is round, she is not scrawny. She's sexy, earthy. She has fire and excitement in her eyes. Her body looks healthy, and strong enough so you could wrestle and roll with her." So says Francesco Scavullo, a Manhattan-based fashion photographer. He is right; the great-blue-heron look of the early '60s has been consigned to outer darkness. Hollow chests have been replaced by noticeable and often visible breasts, and haughtiness by a sometimes even more disconcerting look of warmth and directness. Artificiality is out and naturalism is in: wind machines to fling hair about in a suitably natural manner have become as important as print dryers in the studios of the fashion world's fashionable photographers.
Scavullo's description of the new naturalism fits several tall, smashing models—Rene Russo, Lisa Taylor and Patti Hansen, a freckle-faced 21-year-old from Staten Island, whom he photographed nude for a 24-page story coming in the April Vogue. It certainly fits Lauren Hutton, whose gap-toothed, T-shirt-and-nothing beauty in the late '60s made the earlier exoticism seem airless and unexciting. But Hutton is spending more time with her film career now—she has made eight movies—and there is no doubt that Cheryl Tiegs, who is taller, blonder and more gracefully lush than seems either possible or fair, is the most striking embodiment of the natural style that Hutton started.
There are no short, stubby brunettes in California—it is an EPA regulation—so Tiegs' kind of beauty is called, in the shorthand of the business, the California look. It is not simply a matter of height and blondeness and blue eyes. Her cheekbones are set wide under a tanned breadth of untroubled forehead, and the result, by some trick of geometry, is a face whose expressions are astonishingly warm and open. Her great length of shank and neck give a powerful impression of health and muscular strength, and there is a sense of physical well-being conferring a benison on her. Some other beauties suggest the inviting possibilities of evil. Tiegs' clear and uncomplicated healthiness suggests that there is no such thing.