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Curvaceous: Queen Latifah
Absolutely every body

17apr03

IT'S time to celebrate curves and cleavage again, says VANESSA McCAUSLAND.

Queen Latifah flaunts it, Kelly Osbourne cranks it up, Renee Zellweger had it, then lost it, Marilyn Monroe enshrined it.

It's the sex siren factor; the cleavage and the curves.

Voluptuousness has always been an ambiguous currency in Hollywood. It's been the subject of endless ridicule for those such as Oprah Winfrey and Kate Winslet, whose currency fluctuates, and whose grip on their very public lives is somehow interpreted through the size of their thighs.

Renee Zellweger gained just as much publicity for the astounding slimness of her body in Chicago as for the performance itself, especially after her buxom embodiment of Bridget Jones.

But with full-bodied, full-strength pioneers such as Monroe, Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor behind them, a new breed of curvaceous Hollywood goddesses are sashaying boldly on to the screen.

Latifah has brought busty hip hop attitude to her new role of movie diva. Her warmth and sauciness, long acclaimed in the music industry, has finally ignited Hollywood, with roles in Chicago, Bringing Down the House and Brown Sugar.

Nia Vardalos made My Big Fat Greek Wedding, complete with beautiful bulges and blunders, the film of 2002.

Kelly Osbourne showed a whole generation of girls that being big, being a chic rocker and appearing on the cover of glossy magazines, was a killer combo.

And what mere mortal watched a heavily pregnant and newly curvaceous Catherine Zeta-Jones at this year's Oscars without their jaw dropping at her sheer sexiness?

The voluptuous screen siren is on the comeback. And nobody is celebrating these conquering curves more than Patricia Cardoso, who directed Real Women Have Curves, a film being compared with My Big Fat Greek Wedding in terms of its quiet success and bold statements.

The shapely Columbian has a problem with Hollywood stick figures. And it's personal. Her whole life her mother has compared her with the likes of Twiggy, Julia Roberts and Jennifer Aniston.

The force of these comparisons has inspired Cardoso to add her own chapter to Hollywood's genre of breakaway films, where big is fabulous, beautiful and distinctly unapologetic.

"Hollywood is definitely changing. Movies that have actresses that are not skinny are making money," says Cardoso.

Cardoso's Real Women Have Curves is the coming of age story of 19-year-old Ana (America Ferrera), a proud wrecker of the body barriers her mother enforces and a rekindler of lived-in beauty.

It's a real-life version of Jennifer Lopez's Maid in Manhattan. But this is Ana from the block, not Jenny, and she's as sexy as fellow Latina babe Miss J. Lo, but with more bum, breasts and attitude. And what's more, she doesn't need a rich senator to show her who she is. "She is definitely very confident about her body," says Cardoso of her 17-year-old leading lady Ferrera. "She knows she's beautiful and she is beautiful."

Ferrera follows in the curvy, sexy, cutting edge footsteps of Hollywood youngsters Christina Ricci and Thora Birch.

"The idea for women that we can be beautiful but different is so powerful," says Cardoso.

But there's clearly more than just a celebration of cleavage and real women's thighs at stake. These Hollywood divas are standing up to an entrenched fat-hatred within Western culture.

Carmen's (Lupe Ontiveros) frustration with her daughter's comfortable body image peaks when she grabs each of Ana's breasts, exclaiming with disgust, "They must weigh 8kg each!"

"Ana stands up for herself and that makes her even more beautiful," says Cardoso.

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