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FASHION / VIDEO VOGUE : 'She' Visions : Sexy Looks Aren't Anti-Feminist Statements in MTV Special

November 02, 1995|MAUREEN SAJBEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For those who think the cable channel MTV is nothing but misogynist rap videos and juvenile "Beavis and Butt-head" episodes, "A She Thing Weekend" will be a revelation.

The two-day program, which begins Saturday, focuses on women's contributions to music and society, and offers up a surprising take on fashion's coexistence with feminism.

"I didn't want to create the impression that a feminist is dour and without sex," says Lee Blake Sebastian, who produced the two-hour keynote special "Ain't Nuthin' but a She Thing." "We're saying, 'Throw your stereotypes away. Don't cage me in by telling me what I should look like.' "

This two-hour program (airing Saturday at 1 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.), includes new music videos by artists including Salt-N-Pepa, Annie Lennox, Vanessa Williams, Patti Smith, Melissa Etheridge, Queen Latifah and Sinead O'Connor, plus documentary-style mini-profiles on such inspirational women as potter Beatrice Wood and Gloria Steinem.

For Salt-N-Pepa's title track video, director Ellen Von Unwerth filmed the rap divas as mechanics, firefighters, astronauts, cops and glamour girls. Dressed by stylists Derek Khan and Patti Wilson, the trio turns out in gussied-up uniforms as well as Dolce & Gabbana black safari jackets and boots, Gianni Versace glamour suits, Judith Leiber handbags, a silver Thierry Mugler dress, and several million dollars in jewels from Van Cleef & Arpels.

The message of female empowerment isn't lost in the mix, Blake Sebastian says. "Their fans know they enjoy being sexy," she says, "and they know their audience is women."

Other videos also take issue with stereotypes. When stylist Kelle Kutsugeras and director Randee St. Nicholas began creating the "Hard Times" video for Queen Latifah, they wanted to incorporate masculine and ultra-feminine elements, but putting the singer and her female band in men's suits seemed too obvious.

Instead, they paired a soft, girl-next-door hairdo on Latifah--more like one seen on her "Living Single" TV character--with a black slip dress, a long Ellen Tracy overcoat and men's black shoes. Band members wear men's shoes and sock garters with a mix of thrift-shop finds, lingerie and items by Jean Paul Gaultier.

"It's not an exploitative use of lingerie, not a man's vision of lingerie," Kutsugeras says. "It's a woman's. It has more to do with character than stereotype."

Proceeds from the special's sound track, now in music stores, benefit the Shirley Divers Foundation for Women, a charity fund named for the record industry executive who died of breast cancer in 1992.

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