While I have obviously been aware of media storm around the LA Clippers' owner, whose racist comments to his alleged mistress found their way into the public realm, it’s not the sort of story I tend to follow closely.
But I did a double take yesterday when I saw, on an airport TV tuned to CNN, the headgear the alleged mistress has been sporting in public lately: a bizarre-looking, face-covering visor. It stopped me in my tracks: What the hell is that thing?
When I got home I was pleased to learn that I was not the only one who was curious. Gawker helpfully explained that Vanessa Stiviano (that’s the alleged mistress) was wearing a “solar visor,” pointing to this 2004 post about the “craze” for this object in China back then, describing it as: “a typical sun visor with a swivel down piece of dark transparent plastic which shades the face from the summer sun’s harsh glare.” (This source suggests that the object is of South Korean provenance, although it does not offer details.)
But let’s put aside the question of how this object came into existence. What I’m interested in is how Stiviano is using it: Not to protect herself from the sun's glare, but rather from the media glare. In other words, she is misusing, but I’d say rather effectively. This is a pretty good object-use hack.
And the aesthetics are, in my view, amazing: Unlike the traditional coat draped over a bowed head, or whatever, this visor allows her to do more than thwart perp-walk aesthetics. Instead she rather brazenly defies paparazzi culture. And indeed she seems to know what she's doing, as she pairs her weird Darth Vader headgear with overtly camera-ready outfits — from semi-blingy-business attire to ostentatiously "casual" combinations of silly T shirts and cutoffs.
Moreover, she evidently owns at least three of these objects — one with white (or maybe light grey?) highlights, one black, and one red.
And interestingly, in almost every picture I’ve seen, she’s prominently clutching some kind of image-making device: either a smartphone with an attachment I don’t understand (as above) or, below, an enormous camera.
It is as if her jarring, sci-fi look is not merely defensive (anybody who cares to can find a million pictures of her face online right now) but a blunt provocation — meshing a public presence, an absurdly privatized face, and gadgetry for documentation. (In the images I've seen, she's never documenting anything, just brandishing some gizmo that could do so if she cared to.)
Obviously it’s the privatized face, and the object privatizing it, that makes the resulting documentation of her so compelling. Perhaps Stiviano is revealing a strategy for the many who are uncomfortable with a world of CCTV cameras and Google Glass? This object privatizes the face in a manner that’s undeniably a protest (stop taking pictures of me!) and just as undeniably a confrontation (you cannot resist taking pictures of me wearing this object!).
Perhaps some day we will all wear these strange quasi-masks whenever we venture outside? Not only do they confound security cameras and the latest facial-recognition technologies — but no one will be able to see whether we are wearing Google Glass.
(Post script: Others have pointed to these Amazon-available variations on the full-face visor, made by Sovis. However, this is not what Stiviano appears to be wearing, and I welcome tips about the relevant brand in this case. Hers appears to say "Sport" along the forehead. Update May 3, 2014: Via comments and email, looks like the proper object/brand can be found here and/or here. Image now inserted below. Thanks!!) (Now, if anybody can explain her phone/attachment ... )