Christina Hendricks: Unwitting Poster Girl for New Brand of Beauty

Effortlessly embracing her curves, "Mad Men" star embodies new brand of beauty.

Feb. 17, 2010 — -- Christina Hendricks has captured something.

The Tennessee-born "Mad Men" actress glows on the cover of New York Magazine's Spring Fashion issue, clad in a white lace bustier and matching panties. Her auburn hair twists down and around her body, reminiscent of Botticelli and a goddess-brand of beauty.

Of course, it's not unusual to see a photo of an actress semi-nude on a newsstand. Throwing an arm or a strategically-placed accessory over one's breasts has become standard operating procedure for pretty girls posing for glossies (see: Jen Aniston, GQ, Jan. '09; Rihanna, GQ, Jan. '10).

But in an age where images of same-sex models making out (hello, Armani) and oiled up actresses slithering in the sand (Eva Mendes for Calvin Klein) seem almost mundane, Hendricks' portrait stands out.

There's skin. There's fat. There are curves. There is a woman, a real, gorgeous woman, fronting a fashion magazine. How long has it been since that happened?

For years, up and coming female stars have attempted to evoke the aura of Marilyn Monroe, Bettie Page, or more beauties from a bygone era who oozed sex and sensuality. Take Lindsay Lohan's forced mimicking of Monroe's "Last Sitting" for New York Magazine's 2008 fashion issue. The hair, the makeup -- that was easy to fake. But the body, the allure? Not so much.

Hendricks is the first woman in a long time -- certainly, this millenium -- to embody the aesthetic of the pinup and The Big Hollywood Star so effortlessly. And the fact that Hendricks doesn't care about the "body issue" makes her all the more appealing. She's winning acclaim for her work in "Mad Men," she's slated to appear in three upcoming big-screen features. She wants to be known for her work, not her figure, even if that's what's currently captivating everyone.

"It kind of hurt my feelings at first," she told New York Magazine. "Anytime someone talks about your figure constantly, you get nervous, you get really self-conscious. I was working my butt off on the show, and then all anyone was talking about was my body!"

"It might sound silly," she added, "but I didn't realize I was so different. I was just oblivious. Sometimes I would go on an audition and someone would say something like, 'Girl, you're refreshing!' That was it."

"Refreshing" is an apt adjective for these times. It's as if Hendricks is being poured over a celebrity-watching public that began quenching its thirst for curvy, normal, non-famished women with Beyonce Knowles, Jennifer Hudson, Kate Winslet and the like.

Slowly, the fashion world has started paying attention to that desire to see normality too. Glamour magazine's photo of "plus-size" model Lizzie Miller drew a flood of fan mail last year; V magazine dedicated its entire January 2010 issue to voluptuous women wearing designer clothes.

Of course, there are detractors. In January, The New York Times infamously quoted a stylist who said, "you don't put a big girl in a big dress" in reference to Hendricks' ensemble at the 2010 Golden Globes, and initially ran the critique alongside a disorted image of her.

Hendricks' husband, actor Geoffrey Arend, stood up for her, as did a bulk of bloggers.

"I was just upset about the whole Golden Globes dress thing. I thought she looked so gorgeous," he told People magazine. "And that New York Times blogger saying that … It's so ridiculous. ... What was nice was seeing the entire internet come after that blogger. That was really cool. It was the first time I saw just a solid block of 'You're crazy! What's wrong with you? You should be ashamed of yourself!'"

There are indirect affronts to the woman Hendricks represents as well. As this story is published, stick-thin models continue to strut down the runways of New York's Fashion Week (where Hendricks has been spotted), holding up fabric like living, breathing coat-hangers.

But Hendricks seems to transcend all that. Whether she wants to or not, she's touched on a collective desire for a healthy conception of beauty. Give the girl more magazine covers -- give her ad campaigns, give her more roles, give her more press. Considering the attention her latest one has gotten all over the Internet, it's clear the people want it.