Equestrian Living - Dressage Rider & Makeup Pro Leslie Munsell embraces the concept that less is more.
We first met Leslie Munsell at an Equestrian Living photoshoot in Wellington, Florida. It was an ambitious shoot for a gatefold cover featuring many of the top riders, owners, and trainers. That day, Leslie, tall and regal, was wearing her makeup-artist hat rather than her headgear of choice - a riding helmet.
To me, doing the Body Issue is bigger than looking at an athlete's body. It's more about the story we are telling of overcoming my fear of doing this. I had a fear of being naked in front of others and a fear of being judged. So to me, overcoming that is the biggest thing. Someone may look at me and think, "Why would you have insecurity?" Well, this is real life and I'm human, and these are the things that I deal with that many others might deal with.
When I was young, my belly button was an outie, and I never even wanted to take my shirt off when we were at the swimming pool or outside during water fights. The only people who went into the pool with their shirts on were the kids who were overweight -- and me. I knew that I was different. I knew from all the kids I had seen that nobody else had what I had. No one else had an outie. Even when I got to high school, I didn't want to do swimming class because I didn't want people to see my feet -- as an athlete, my feet were a little rougher -- and my belly button. I had my doctor write me a note to say that I couldn't do swimming, and the first day I sat down and watched everybody else and it just looked so fun. I eventually was like, "I've got to do it, I got to do it."
I was just never comfortable until about four years ago, when I started feeling comfortable with my body overall. As you go through life, you get more comfortable with yourself. It's like everything else with life -- you change, you grow. People might think it's simple, but for me it was hard to even feel comfortable walking around naked when it's just me and my wife. So the thought of doing it at a photo shoot in front of people [laughs] -- it was like, "No way ever."
In my underwear line, Naked, we have this thing called the "Naked Truth" -- and my naked truth, I always say, is me being my authentic self. That became a part of me doing this shoot. I'm like, "You know what, nothing is clearer than this, being my authentic self." Right here is just me baring it all. This is as authentic as it gets. I always joke when I'm with people, "I'm always naked now" [laughs]. I'm always naked in my everyday life. That's because I either have on Naked underwear or no clothes at all.
I don't even view my belly button now. I make jokes sometimes when I'm doing an interview or taking a photo and I'll say, "I'm making the outies cool." I'm representing for all the kids out there who have the outies.
“I want to feel like a dainty woman when I’m with a man,” a coworker says. She’s tall, she’s blonde, and I can’t possibly think of anyone more feminine, but I let her finish. “I want to look up when I kiss a man, not down.”
Without missing a beat, another coworker pipes up, “Well, you don’t have to stand up to kiss him!” Laughter erupts all around.
Whether we’d like to admit it, the issue of short men still perplexes even the most progressive-minded daters. No pun intended, but we all know that “size doesn’t matter”—or at least we’ve been espousing this rhetoric for some time now. We know that disregarding a potential boyfriend based upon his height is not only a scant judgmental, but quite frankly, ineffective. If you’re like the rest of us and just trying to get a text back, then you know firsthand that the modern dating market is competitive, confusing, and ultimately deficient in quality prospects; no need to make it even harder for yourself by ruling out the “The One” simply because he doesn’t have to duck to enter rooms. Because truthfully, isn’t the root of this stigma surrounding shorter men rooted in gender conventions that assert that a man is supposed to, well, dominate a woman in both stature and presence? The idea that women feel more precious—protected, even—tucked under the arm of a hulk of man? It feels antiquated just writing that.
Now I certainly understand people have their tastes—my best guy friend, who stands at 6-feet-7, won’t even consider dating a guy below 6 feet, but as Vogue.com’s Fashion News Director Chioma Nnadi stresses, it’s ultimately about a connection. When dating a swaggy but diminutive Cuban salsa dancing world champion in her 20s, she was unfazed by his slight stature. “When we made out, he wouldn’t take off his Buffalo high-tops, but I still fancied the pants off of him! As long as you’re confident, I’m not going to rule you out,” she says.
Vogue.com Market Editor Chelsea Zalopany couldn’t agree more. Of course, standing at 6 feet tall herself, she has a different outlook on height when it comes to dating shorter men. “As a conventionally taller woman, I’ve come to find that, of course, tall, dark, and handsome is not discouraged, but not a requirement,” she says, noting that a man who doesn’t mind her wearing heels is a bona fide keeper. “I’ve never dated a guy I wasn’t taller than in heels. But it’s not middle school anymore, where I towered over just about everyone and hated it. Now I take pride in my Amazonian stature!”
This writer is no Amazon—I’m a paltry 5-feet-5—but like Chelsea and Chioma, I think confidence and a good head on your shoulders is really what it’s about in this declining dating economy. Yes, an NBA hopeful never hurts, but isn’t a man who is open to the idea of a woman physically and proverbially looming large in their relationship a catch? So for a night out with the guy you may have initially written off because he seemingly “fell short,” why not wear a pair of Marc Jacobsmetallic leather platform ankle booties and see if he can stay in step with you? Stoop to give your man a kiss in a pair of towering Alexandre Birman patent booties, rewriting the gender binaries to alluring results. Or try a pair of Roger Vivier strass-buckle slide flats for an evening together: You’ll soon be seeing eye to eye with your mate.