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Jessi M’Bengue on Model Clarity (Even When the Lines Are Blurred)

   Jessi M’Bengue is a beautiful young woman who was born and raised in Southern France. On a modeling Visa, she came to New York to pursue a creative lifestyle; while her passion is creative writing (mostly songwriting), she has become a successful fashion model. She is most well-known for being the only woman of color in Robin Thicke’s music video, Blurred Lines (featuring Pharrell). This provided an easy introduction for me as interviewer: I watched the video (that I had never seen until I was asked to write this interview) and was struck by Jessi’s beauty and playfulness.

   While backward-pedaling on a bicycle, running about with an over-sized syringe, and playing with enormous fuzzy dice, Jessi seemed comfortable playing the part of a topless beauty in the Robin Thicke music video (I still can’t get over the fact that he’s Alan Thicke’s son i.e., the father from Growing Pains). When asked how she felt being topless, Jessi replied that she is very comfortable with nudity; she has done incredibly artistic topless photos in the past and, as a French woman who thinks that a woman’s body is beautiful, she had no problem bearing her breasts (and why should she..? They’re perfectly perky!).

   Clad in only a G-string, white platform tennis shoes and a gold lamé scrunchie, Jessi saw the video as a job (one that she is very grateful for and that she tried to do her best at) and nothing more; she tries not to take the modeling world too seriously. While she feels blessed and flattered to have so many fans, she feels that one shouldn’t be put on a pedestal, especially for one’s physical attributes.

   As far as feminism is concerned when the Blurred Lines video is mentioned, Jessi is adamant in the fact that, when a woman makes a decision that is right for her, that is a feminist act in itself. No one participated in the video without wanting to and, for Jessi, it was a lovely working experience. Jessi tries to remain as creative and positive as possible and, in the end, this will keep her real.

   When it comes to dealing with the way the public perceives her (mostly as a sexually attractive young woman), she remains grounded by accepting the good and bad within herself. As cliché as it may sound, real beauty, according to Jessi, does not exist within the pages of a glossy fashion magazine but within the person who is seen as an object of beauty. Beauty comes from self-acceptance. Accepting the good along with the bad in one’s self is something that will remain timeless. Trends and fads seen in fashion magazines are transient; they usually fade overnight. The real knack at appearing beautiful is to possess an inner calm. Jessi believes that to remain quiet on the inside, one must accept who they are on the outside.

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by Katherine Sloan