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By Jean Stanula, Special Guest Blogger to The Body Logic
After an intense workout, I stand in front of the row of coolers in the 7-11, seeking a beverage to quench my well-earned thirst. My eyes scan row after row of liquid satiation searching for the 20oz that will really hit the spot. When my eyes trace the clean and precise curves of the Smartwater bottle, settle softly on the ocean blue label, an image of Jennifer Aniston – beautiful, confident, relaxed – seeps into my brain and I reach for the bottle. I know I’ve done it, and maybe I scold myself a little, but I think Jennifer Aniston is a trustworthy character, and she just wants me to drink this delicious, clean, perfect water.
It is an undeniable fact that celebrity and popularity affect every arena of our lives. This is nothing new – humans have been worshipping both Gods and men that seem to embody a betterness, a higherness, a coolerness, forever. In present times, we most often recognize the negative aspects of this hero worship – children killed attempting a professional wrestling move or a skateboard trick, young people acting out violent song lyrics, or our desensitization of domestic violence issues that we see so often in celebrity tabloids.
Once in a while, and I’m not saying Jennifer Aniston’s promotion of Smartwater counts in this camp, we find celebrities using their influence as positive leadership. I’m talking about the great global goliaths who have raised money and brought awareness to important issues such as Lance Armstrong, Bono and Bill and Melinda Gates. When celebrities find causes close to their hearts and use their influence to get us to wear yellow or buy red, their influence manifests itself as philanthropic guidance rather than the useless over consumption that results from sneaker ads or car endorsements.
Sadly, it seems that many non-profits and important causes can’t get proper promotion or financial support without the backing of an actor, athlete, or recording artist. I picture all of these organizations like puppies huddled together in a cardboard box, pawing and whimpering, stretching to be seen and plucked from obscurity by someone whose face can be found on a t-shirt. I wish consumers would also pay attention to organizations without celebrity endorsements, but I certainly can’t deny the effectiveness of such … If Lance Armstrong could do for poverty, homelessness, religious intolerance or issues of equality what he did for prostate cancer in this country, there is no doubt we would be living in a better world.
All causes can’t be as “popular” as HIV/AIDS or breast cancer, but some celebrities took a stand this past week to bring attention to really important issue – the portrayal of women and girls in the media. Joining together with worthy organizations, Girl Scouts of the USA and The Creative Coalition, a handful of celebrities such as Felicity Huffman, Seth Green, Rachael Leigh Cook and Chuck D. spoke out. They even took the time to recognize their absurd power in media, asking viewers to “Watch What You Watch.” Here’s the video:
It is awesome to see these recognizable faces taking on the issue of the media’s portrayal of women and girls. And, I have to say, it’s great to see men taking part in the promotion, too, which reminds viewers that an issue about women isn’t solely a women’s issue. They urge us to be more socially conscious, more media savvy, to take off the blinders we all sometimes wear when we want to just “enjoy” TV, magazines and movies. The campaign reminds us to filter and reject some of the media stream in which we are constantly treading because we do what celebrities say (right?) so we should do this too. We should be smart. Think smart.
As a strong supporter of the Girl Scouts (an organization which, for the record is not at all affiliated with the bigoted Boy Scouts of America) I am happy to see them enjoy a little celebrity backing. The issue of the mental and physical health and safely of women and girls should be just as “popular” as some of America’s favorite charities. Hopefully, this campaign, and others like it, will stick in the minds of consumers when they witness inappropriate or offensive portrayals of women in media (just like Jennifer Aniston does in mine when I see a bottle of Smartwater) and inspire them to think twice about buying what the media is selling.
Jean Stanula is a non fiction writer, blogger and nonprofiteer with an interest in issues of equality. She is a weekly columnist for The New Gay, where she writes under the catchy pseudonym Not Your Average Prom Queen, and sporadically records her
personal ramblings and creative writing at That Makes Me Nervous.
When I was 12 and again when I was 18, in the process of losing a significant amount of weight, I’d hear it a lot. “Wow, you’re so thin!” – “Your belly is so flat.” – “Your thighs got so much slimmer!” I’d beam upon hearing those words, but I didn’t know how to respond. I wondered how the person delivering the “compliment” expected me to respond. But I would quickly translate the comment to mean, “You look better / prettier / hotter / more worthy of my attention or affection.” Given that, the only way I could think to reply was with a genuine “Thank you so much!!!”
Every day, interactions like these have young girls and women on the fast-track to associating their weight with their worth. But at least now, there’s a growing conversation about the problem … specifically in Good Girls Don’t Get Fat by Robyn J.A. Silverman, Ph.D. Based on the dissertation she did at Tufts University, the book looks at the various forces that chip away at girls’ body image and explains to adults how they can best influence daughters, nieces, sisters, cousins, students to embrace varied body types and “thrive at any size.” While the book seems to primarily focus on the body image challenges facing adolescent girls and young women aged 16 to 21, I bet — for better or for worse — women of all ages can relate to the “Good Girls Don’t Get Fat” myth.
Below, a powerful trailer for the book that really drives that message home …
I love that Dr. Silverman doesn’t seem to think it’s fair to place the blame solely on anorexic actresses on primetime teen soaps and reality shows; damaging “Be/look/act skinny!” cover lines on magazine covers; Hollywood or even the fashion industry. As she notes, we’re also to blame for our daughters’ and our mothers’, friends’, our sisters’, our daughter-in-laws’ poor body image and low self-esteem. So what can we do?
Today, tell a woman you love why she’s beautiful … inside. Tell her that she’s witty, she’s brave, she’s charming, she’s brilliant. She might just start to feel like a rock star.
“Girls who see themselves in terms of strengths, who feel supported by those they love and have come to a place of acceptance about their bodies, are the ones who flourish,” writes Dr. Silverman.
Are you flourishing?
I admit—I tried on approximately 3 outfits this morning before settling on a bright turquoise and pink dress that I picked mostly because it was sans stain, sans wrinkles and when I looked at myself in it, I didn’t feel like I was walking through a hall of carnival mirrors. Blame hormones, our boyfriend for throwing a dry-clean only top into the dryer or a full moon (we’re feeling the effects of one right now, btw). Whatever the case, sometimes we just don’t like how we look. Sadly, according to one survey, at least 80% of women are unhappy with what they see when they look at themselves in the mirror. Seems like we could all use a self-confidence pick-me-up…or several. Here are 10 quotes to inspire us to love our reflections—and ourselves—a little more today.
1. Margaret Cho – “In our culture, we don’t see people out there with normal-looking bodies. We should all feel beautiful. If you feel beautiful, you will be more political, more active in trying to stand up for yourself, you’ll be in more control of your life, have more sense of power over what you’re doing.”
2. Drew Barrymore – “God made a very obvious choice when He made me voluptuous; why would I go against what he decided for me? My limbs work, so I’m not going to complain about the way my body is shaped.”
3. Gloria Steinem – “Each individual woman’s body demands to be accepted on its own terms.”
4. Christina Hendricks – “I guess my mom raised me right. She was very celebratory of her body. I never heard her once say, “I feel fat.” Back when I was modeling, the first time I went to Italy I was having cappuccinos every day, and I gained 15 pounds. And I felt gorgeous! I would take my clothes off in front of the mirror and be like, Oh, I look like a woman. And I felt beautiful, and I never tried to lose it, ’cause I loved it.”
5. Lucille Ball – “Love yourself first and everything falls into line.”
6. Lady Gaga – “When I say to you, there is nobody like me, and there never was, that is a statement I want every woman to feel and make about themselves.”
7. Sophia Loren – “Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical.”
8. Amber Riley (from Glee) – “You’re not your dress size, you’re not your shoe size, you’re not your pants size. If I’m going to wear a name tag, it’s going to say ‘Amber Riley,’ not ‘Fat Girl’!”
9. Laila Ali – “By being an athlete, I have uncovered so many other ways to express my beauty. Being a strong, fearless woman makes me feel beautiful.”
10. Dr. Lissa Rankin – “Believe in yourself. Love yourself. Be whole. You know you already are.”
What makes you feel beautiful?
Last week, all the buzz was about vaginas. This week, I’m wondering about penises. Maybe that’s because my friend, Lissa Rankin, recently posed the question on her Facebook: Does size matter?
Immediately, I thought of this clip from Sex & the City, in which Samantha is crying to Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda that the man she’s dating is too small. Remember?
When I shared the clip with Lissa, she pointed out that it was sponsored by ProExtend, “a penile enlargement device and adjustable traction apparatus,” which she noted, feeds off the insecurities of men. It’s true that there’s an entire industry of gadgets, pills, supplements, exercise regimens, etc. aimed at guys who are self-conscious about their size.
I started to think about how there are so many double-standards between the sexes when it comes to what’s attractive. We all know how screwed up it is that chubby Seth Rogan is considered geeky-sexy and gets cast as the endearing lead in a rom-com. And in Superbad, gorgeous Emma Stone fawns all over tubby-as-Hell Jonah Hill. Doubtful we’d ever see hot guys going after a similarly overweight actress. (With the exception of John Waters’s nutty Hairspray, of course.)
But there’s one case in which big is in. When it comes to what’s in our pants, it’s true that men have to put up with more pressure to conform to some unrealistic Boogie Nights size standard. Granted, we women have to confront other absurd ideals having to do with Brazilian waxes and odor, etc. But these issues don’t get nearly as much screen time as the penis size meme.
I do feel bad for guys who feel like they have to measure up (pun intended) to what they see in movies or porn. They should feel confident and happy with their packages. (Because women usually are!) But, honestly, I kinda don’t feel like spending too much time boo-hoo’ing for them. We ladies are targeted with images that aim to chip away at our body confidence just about all day every day—from cover lines that scream, “How One C-List Celeb Dropped Her Baby Weight in 5 Seconds!” to Facebook ads that tout breast implants, lipo or even wrinkle cream. From the time that we’re able to dress ourselves, we’re almost on autopilot, trying to amend what isn’t up to pop culture par about our outward appearance. At least guys can keep a VIP (Very Insecure Penis) under wraps in public.
What do you think—am I being too harsh? Maybe we should start a campaign for Penis Confidence? 🙂
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In honor of the fourth season of Mad Men premiering this week, the Web churned out how-tos on throwing your own themed viewing parties, character studies of smooth-talking protagonist Don Draper and of course, odes of love to The Queen of Curvy, Christina Hendricks. Right now, everyone seems to have a girl crush on the voluptuous redheaded actress. Because, well, she’s gorgeous. But she’s also unconventional! *gasp!* She’s the anti-Kate Moss! *sqee!* She’s DEFYING SOCIAL STANDARDS! *faint* Her size 14 hourglass figure apparently stands for so much more than a flashback to a time when women weren’t hell bent on looking like “tits on a stick.”
Yet, I can’t help but agree with this article from BBC News Magazine that asks:
“Christina Hendricks…has been identified as the woman with a body others should healthily aspire to. But how realistic is it for women to look like her?”
By aspiring to look like Hendricks—who is said to possibly measure in at 38-32-38 and wears a C-cup—we’re just collectively chasing after a different yet still unattainable model of perfection.
Hendricks may be blessed to have a flat tummy along with a “pow, pow, pow” booty and “wow, oh, wow” boobies, but in the real world, women with Hendricks’ figure have larger stomachs and wider waists to match their generous bosom, says a psychologist from the National Centre for Eating Disorders who is quoted in the BBC story.
For these real women, looking like Hendricks would likely require a mega-rigorous diet and exercise. Or, at the very least, uncomfortable undergarments! And let’s face it, Mad Men fans from Millenials to Boomers, are not going to regularly stuff themselves into ribcage-choking corsets or girdles to attain a perfect hourglass. (Thanks to Sara Blakely, we get to pull on a pair of relatively comfy Power Panty Spanx and go!)
Breath-robbing aside, I’m personally not a fan of anything that drastically transforms my body into something that it’s not. Just this past weekend, I picked up a pretty strapless bra at Victoria’s Secret. I was all about it, until I realized that it’s part of their new “Miraculous” collection, which basically has enough padding to stuff a king-sized comforter. It adds THREE WHOLE CUP SIZES! This bra could catapult my pear shape into mini-Hendricks hourglass terrain. But I’m not down with such obvious faking. Even though it’s not “in” or “ideal,” I’m simply more comfortable being little in the middle—and ontop—while havin’ much back.
Still, the occasional or chronic discomfort with the mirror can make any woman susceptible to this infectious idea that the ideal body is a celebrity’s—be that buxom or twig-ish. As much as I appreciate that society is once again embracing a figure that is slightly more attainable than the emaciated type, there’s still a problem with putting any extreme on a pedestal. The deep-end result: Some women are forging undergarments altogether and going straight under the knife, requesting in some cases “head 2 toe” carving à la Kim Kardashian, Jessica Alba, Angelina Jolie and yep, probably Christina Hendricks.
With these cases becoming more and more prevalent, I think it’s time to say, seriously, ladies, let’s get a collective grip. It’s one thing to think, “Wow, she’s smokin’!” (literally, ha), but quite another to go all Heidi Montag on yourself. You oughta feel free to girl crush all you want, but know that the most “ideal” body shape will always been your own.
The other day, HollywoodLife.com asked its readers, “Do You Wish Angelina Jolie Got More Glam For Her Big ‘Salt’ Premiere?” The post goes onto lament Angie’s failure to craft a “dramatic cat eye…smoky eye or…stunning hairdo” for the red carpet.
When it comes to a big blockbuster premiere or award ceremony, we expect our celebs to put on a show 24/7. For women, that typically means haute couture, red lipstick, false eyelashes or hey, if it’s 2001, even a vial of your husband’s blood will cut it. When the snaps make their way onto the gossip blogs, we’ll be damned if we spend our precious time-wasting time clicking through anything short of certifiable eye candy.
But, uh, doesn’t just about everyone agree that Angelina is visually delectable without any cosmetic bells and whistles? In fact, in photos taken of her at the Salt premiere, her minimalist makeup looks fresh, dewy, summery while still formal. Especially in the shots where she’s laughing, the combo is pretty breathtaking.
Below, The Los Angeles Times got up close in HD with the star:
But it wouldn’t satisfy the blogosphere for the ethereal beauty to simply pile on the MAC. The Snarkmeistering Powers That Be also want us to consider the fact that Angie may be, well, starting to look old! Yep, “The Stir” says she is aging and it shows. While the writer has a point about Angie being so darn skinny, the rest of it makes me think, “Give me a break.” She’s 35. She’s a mother of SIX children! And she’s a world traveling movie star. If she was anyone else, she’d have bags under her eyes the size of the Beverly Center. Interestingly, this writer seems to think that the movie star is wearing too much makeup!
Oy, so which one is it? I mean, really, if Angelina is a dud, then I guess none of us has a fighting chance.
By the way, I’m definitely not one of those gals who falls all over herself when it comes to Angelina. But to many, she’s the holy grail of beautiful. Even though I personally think she could stand to eat more, I acknowledge that she’s still a gorgeous woman who doesn’t need a speck of makeup to look anything less than spectacular. So, Hollywood Life, maybe try nitpicking someone who actually screwed up their makeup or plastic surgery. I hear that the tanorexic cast of Jersey Shore is an easy target these days.
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Though I was just turning 11 years old while Angela Chase crushed on Jordan Catalano, I was hopelessly devoted to My So-Called Life. And, like many, was left a heartbroken tween when the revolutionary teen drama was cancelled after only one half-season. So, my ears perked up when I heard that the creator of MSCL, Winnie Holzman is back. With her 24 year-old daughter, Savannah Dooley, Holzman has written the new ABC Family TV show, Huge, based on the novel by Sasha Paley.
Starring Nikki Blonsky of 2007 Hairspray redux fame and Hayley Hasselhoff (yep, daughter of David), Huge premiered on Monday night. The jist: It’s summertime, and that means that at Camp Victory, a weight-loss camp, registration is in full swing. We initially meet Willamina, or Will (Blonsky), who while waiting in line for “before” photos, claims that she’s just peachy with being fat. In fact, she says that she’d like to gain weight while she’s there. We also meet Amber (Hasselhoff), the hot, tall, blonde girl that everyone else thinks is the thinnest one at camp. But she seems to see something completely different in the mirror, as she pinches her belly and posts magazine cut-outs of models as “thinspiration” (cringe) above her bunk bed.
I’ll admit that when I tuned into the pilot, I was feeling a bit defensive. See, I actually went to a weight-loss camp when I was 12 years-old. Here’s what I thought: Based on the first episode of Huge, I have to say that my experience was different in that I didn’t get shipped off into the woods up in Vermont or Michigan. No, admittedly, my grandpa treated me to a slightly more luxe experience: I got to shed my pre-adolescent pounds by the beach, on the campus of the University of California San Diego at Camp La Jolla. I remember reading ads in the back of my teen magazines for camps that were like the one featured in Huge—where kayaking, swimming in lakes and living in cabins were part of the paring pounds fun. But, at Camp La Jolla, we lived in the UCSD dorms, we took 2 mile walks to the most gorgeous shore I’d ever seen in my life, we did water aerobics in a pool and we got healthy, Californian—and as I recall, actually really yummy—meals. And I don’t think any of my peers at Camp La Jolla were sneaking Kit-Kats and chips… Of course, we were slightly scared 12 year-olds, whereas the kids on Huge are bordering-on-brazen 14-16s.
Other aspects of the show definitely rang true: We also did several hours of exercise every day—just like in Huge, although the show makes it out to be torturous, whereas I remember having a blast doing dance aerobics to Madonna’s Immaculate Collection. When we went to the dining hall, we were served our meals with built-in portion control (that’s the point, though, right?) And from the outset, we knew that outside food (like the black market candy that Will sells to other campers) was no question grounds for being sent packing. There were camp romances (aren’t there always?), thinner campers who were considered the hotties (girls and guys…everyone loved a boy named Tyler!), “before” and “after” photos, embarrassing moments in bathing suits and camp counselors who I’m sure had to deal with their share of drama from campers.
Having lived through my own summer at weight-loss camp, it’s easy for me to be critical of false representations of the phenomenon. But so far, I feel like Winnie, Savannah and ABC Family do get it. Which makes me happy, because a show like this is necessary. With up to 33 percent of American teens considered obese, it’s about time that Hollywood shelved stale stereotypes and offered a realistic drama about young people struggling with their weight and body image. It sounds like the mother-daughter creators feel the same way:
“For my whole life, Winnie and I have often watched portrayals of chubby girls on TV and movies and felt really frustrated by the portrayal,” Savannah told New York Magazine. “We would say to each other, ‘Oh my God, of course she just has to listen, and give advice, and have a little crack about how fat she is.’ As two people who throughout our lives have struggled with body image for ourselves, we’ve always been really attuned to how that’s been reflected in the media. In doing this, we wanted to create the complicated look at body image and weight that we had always wanted to see.”
And if the pair can really accomplish that, then I hope this show becomes as big as its name.
While I appreciate that Dove seems to be vowing that they do as they say and say as they do… something about this still seems fishy. If not affiliated with the agency team, then who? A lone wolf photographer who was randomly hired somehow with absolutely no idea re: the values of the Real Beauty campaign? Someone–if only one who is partially affiliated with the company—seemed to get the wrong idea somehow, and I’d like to know why. But, I’m also a snoopy, feminist journalist who can’t stop asking questions. Maybe I ought to be content with this semi-explanation.
What do you think?
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I’m really disappointed in you! Being that I’ve spent a considerable amount of time working in media, being privy to print photography decision-making, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by your recent actions. Still, I’m saddened by the news, according to Jezebel and The Huffington Post, that your recent Craigslist ad reveals your true, not so pretty colors.
The print casting call (below) illustrates that you’re not actually 100% interested in Real Beauty. I’ll give you credit for wanting to photograph women who are real—as in not mannequins, Disney animatrons or Victoria’s Secret models… But, I’m dismayed that you seem to want to feature women who as close to these examples as real comes.
Curvy (you know, whatever that means)? You’ll say “NEXT!” Athletic? Hell no. (Although, I’m not quite sure why you aren’t down with fit chicks.) Women who don’t have “FLAWLESS, beautiful hair and skin”? You won’t even bother. While you were at it, how come you didn’t include a range of acceptable body mass indexes (BMIs) for candidates to adhere to? Maybe that would get you as much press as American Apparel.
Maybe you read this study from back in March, which found that overweight women don’t like looking at thin models or overweight models. My guess is that if you’re factoring these findings in, you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to deliver exactly what sells to American women who you hope will buy your products. Perhaps you’re under the impression that pseudo-real is the best way to go.
But, you know what, Dove? Personally, I’d be thrilled to see you feature women who look like me or my best friend—short, pear or apple-shaped, blemishes, bumps and all. I’m sure I can find more than few other “real women” who agree…???
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I met Miley Cyrus in the summer of 2006. She was making her premiere appearance as Hannah Montana at a concert in Disney World. Having been told that she was the “next big thing,” I was to interview her for my then job at a teen entertainment mag. My co-worker and I waited patiently for a Disney publicist to escort us into her trailer, where the tween star-in-training was hanging out with her mom, Tish. All I remember is that she was sort of standoffish… Reserved. Not that she only gave me “yes” or “no” answers like some young stars (cough Rupert Grint cough), but she already seemed jaded, not very trusting. She wasn’t going to share much.
But, let’s take a step back for a second and remember that she was 13, for crying out loud! She was a baby. Yet, she wanted nothing more than to be thrust into fame, to be the next Britney Spears… No, she didn’t tell me that, but it was pretty clear from how she was being marketed that Disney aimed to launch her into mega-fame. Sure, via a squeaky-clean sitcom. But how did Britney start out? Oh, that’s right, the squeaky-clean 1990s version of The Mickey Mouse Club.
Fast forward 4 years later, and now 17 year-old Miley is front-and-center for flaunting her girly parts in public and prancing around in barely-there black leather and thick black eye shadow.
My question: This is news? When Britney was 17, she was skipping around in a skimpy Catholic school girl’s uniform pleading “(Hit Me) Baby One More Time.” Granted, when Britney catapulted to overtly sexy “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” pop star status, she had been out of the public eye for a couple of years. She wasn’t even remembered by many as a truly innocent pre-teen. Miley’s not-so-smooth transition may seem a lot more jarring to parents who just a couple of years ago considered Hannah Montana default harmless viewing for their tweens. Nonetheless, given Disney’s track record of rebellious female tween stars, Miley’s new image shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. (Also, news flash: She was “acting out” and flaunting her fragile teen sexuality via mini-photo scandals on MySpace two-three years ago…)
Says Robyn Silverman, a child and teen development expert who blogs here:
“Why is Miley’s behavior so shocking to parents and fans? As a childhood role model, she became a girl-next-door icon. It can be challenging for parents and fans to watch her new, ‘untamed’ persona stomp out the quirky, reliable, relatable Hannah Montana from the past.’’
Fair enough. But, sorry, it’s not really ever 100% about what the parents want. In pop music, entertainment and Hollywood, it’s about what makes money. And, on a more idealistic note, it should also be about what Miley wants. She’s 17. Like every other girl her age, she’s trying to assert her independence. But she’s still growing up, groping around blindly in the glare of fame and trying to figure out who she is and what inspires her. And too bad for you, Puritan America, part of that is developing her sexual identity. (Yes, a young woman does and should have one of those.) As a pop music aficionado, I’m not a huge fan of her blatantly ripping her new image off of every stale Beyonce, Britney, Christina, Madonna and Gaga stereotype. I’m also not a huge fan of her running around without skivvies. And I’m certainly not advocating that 10 year-olds imitate that behavior. But, it’s not Miley’s responsibility to make that obvious to tween girls. It’s the girls’ parents’ responsibility… (Dr. Silverman offers some tips for parents who want to make a “teachable moment” out of Miley’s recent image switch here.)
Hey, there are even mom bloggers out there who agree that the 17 year-old shouldn’t be subject to catty, critical chatter.
And over all the bruhaha and buzz, what does Miley herself have to say for her “controversial” new album and look? “It’s all about breaking free, being who you are and not being afraid to tell the world to back off sometimes, and do your thing and do what makes you happy.”
I’m all about speaking up for yourself and opening up about what you want, even if that’s for “the world to back off sometimes.” I kinda wish that I had met this outspoken, untamed Miley four years ago. I have to say, I’m pretty impressed by her evolution. And I can’t help but think, You go for it, girl.
Are you surprised by The “New” Miley?
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