The naked truth

2009-01-21 12:28

Chris Roper

Quite why Minki van Der Westhuizen's parents named her after a small, slender whale with a curved dorsal fin and a porcelain white belly, we'll never know. Perhaps she was a chubby baby.

But what we can know is the amount of piffle generated in the press by that very same belly being prominently displayed on the pages of Marie Claire magazine.

For the last three years, Marie Claire has featured naked celebrities letting it all hang out to highlight social issues, with this year an emphasis on domestic violence. Every year, very similar criticisms are levelled in letters pages, on talk radio, and around drooping office potplants.

Although levelled is perhaps the wrong word. There's nothing level about most of the criticisms. Skewed would be a better word. For example, there's always someone who believes that showing a celebrity's tits in fact promotes rape, inciting uncontrollable lust in potential rapists.

Given that there's apparently a rape every nanosecond in our beloved country, it's difficult to know where the busy rapists of South Africa would find time to read Marie Claire. But leaving that aside, the enormously irritating thing here is that people who make this argument really can't seem to see that it's the exact same thing as saying that a woman in a short skirt was asking for it.


It seems a very simple tenet to hold, that women should be allowed to wear whatever they choose, or choose not to in the case of Minki and her fellow naked celebrities.

Now before some of you mail me and start ranting on about how out of touch with reality I am: would I send my 12-year-old daughter out into the streets of Cape Town wearing only a pair of lederhosen and Hello Kitty nipplecaps? No, I probably wouldn't, especially if I actually had a daughter.

But there's a big difference between that, and a naked celebrity in a magazine forcing the chittering classes to think about the very real problem of domestic violence (and more about this later).

I read a letter somewhere or other (and I paraphrase) claiming that the bountiful flesh on display in Marie Claire was "provoking perverts". Now Marie Claire is a quality publication (I have to be careful here, as most of the editorial staff are friends of mine), but I have to say, I don't see it as being top of your average pervert's pornography shopping list.

I suspect if we scratch a little deeper here, we'll discover that a lot of the fuss is because it's sweet Minki, everyone's favourite non-practicing virgin-next-door, flashing her national treasure breasts. Sure, some scandal rags have whined on about Christina Storm being sprayed copiously with her boyfriend's big ol' hosepipe, but otherwise nobody really cares about the gaily happy partnership of fashion designer Craig Port and clinical psychologist Bryan Hellmann (I have to say, you look at that guy's muscles and "shrink" is not the first word that springs to mind), or the comedic stylings of Soli Philander's blissfully domestic penis (actual penis not pictured).

Stop and think

Another reason people have reacted badly to the naked celebrity shoot is because most of us would rather not have to think too much about domestic violence, which for most South Africans is just one of a host of violences we're reminded of every day.

For some people, the kneejerk reaction to this has been to say, I can't see how showing your naked body in a magazine can make a jot of difference to domestic violence. There are two answers to that. The obvious one, which you'll find explained at the end of the article, is that the photographs get auctioned, and all the proceeds go to POWA.

Most critics of the shoot don't pick up on this because, in true South African fashion, they haven't actually seen the pics. It's such fun condemning stuff, why bother to actually find out what you're pissed off about. And before you think I'm being holier than thou, I include myself among those South Africans who condemn first, and apologise later, but hey, we can all strive to improve.

The second answer is that an intervention like this naked celebrity shoot raises awareness. If Minki's breasts can cause one person to donate money to POWA, it'll make a difference. And if any of us have the wit to read a little deeper, you'll notice that we don't actually see those breasts. We see far less of them than we would on a beach, for example. What we do see are her husband's hands cupping them, and I'm sure we can take a message from that that's a little more sophisticated than "sheesh, he must have BIG hands". Look at some of the pics.

  • Chris Roper is Editor-in-Chief of, and blogs at He knows that Minki's name is actually Willemien, and that she is not remotely like a whale.

    • Graeme - 2009-01-21 13:00

      I purchased the mag for my girlfriend because I hadn't seen a cover so tastefully done before. The pics are really good (we discussed bidding on some of them) and the result is awesome. Some South Africans must just grow up.

    • Mike F - 2009-01-21 13:05

      What connection does posing in the nude in Marie Claire have with highlighting domestic violence against women and children. Where does domestic violence happen most? Is the message reaching the target audience where domestic violence happens the most. Shouldn't publications like Marie Claire rather be focusing on educational workshops in communities on the ground where domestic violence is rife. Me thinks this is just a marketing gimmick to boost the sales of a glossy mag.

    • Smokey-Smurf - 2009-01-21 13:09

      How can people not like them? I'll never understand.

    • VG - 2009-01-21 13:09

      I'm all for raising awareness, but I'm afraid I still don't see the point. Yes, the eauctioned pics go to charity -but there are definitely other ways to raise money: auctioning off signed t-shirts, a date, a custom made dress or something. No problem with nudity, just think its a rather predictable/boring/formulaic way of drawing attention to the mag( not the issue at hand which is completely overshadowed by the hullabaloo)

    • Red Camel - 2009-01-21 13:13

      Dont see what the fuss is about. The magazine is sealed in plastic and can't be viewed by minors. Very tasteful pics with nothing sexual about them. I'm a big fan of Marie Clare (i'm a man), since the rest of the mag is very classy and with very well written articles We as South Africans have bigger things to worry about than semi naked celebs. Maybe we can kick up the same noise everytime a toddler gets raped in this country!?!

    • Met Uysh! - 2009-01-21 13:16

      I don't get what people's problem with nudity is. Its much lighter on the stomach than violence and draws more interest than someone with blood and guts pouring out. I loved the pics, but I have to object to Solly's picture. Reminded me of Mr Burns!!

    • good grief - 2009-01-21 13:18

      The pictures are AUCTIONED??? Imagine "Hi honey, I was the highest bidder for naked Minkie! Where should we hang her? She did it all for you!" I don't imagine many women ( for whom this article is ostensibly championing) would be thrilled. I think your defense is just so much crap. Only IMO.

    • Kimberley - 2009-01-21 13:22

      Brilliant column Chris!

    • Chris - 2009-01-21 13:24

      I went out and bought the mag 15 minutes ago just to say what the furore is all about. Firstly, Marie Claire should be sued for false advertising. The ''naked issue''...? Please, a couple really ugly and saggy boobs?? THat's not ''naked''. Secondly, what is Christina Storm on about??? Yes, she's facing the camera, but its NO full frontal. The shadows black EVERYTHING and yu can't even tell is she has bush or shaven clean. They are making a huge fuss out of this to sell the mags.. COme on!

    • Lx - 2009-01-21 13:26

      Perverts who rape do it to control and not because the saw a naked woman. Reading Marie Claire and seeing a nude figure does not make you a pervert -- Maybe -- perverts are created by the lack of seeing people in the nude and understand their urges when they are young!

    • Mark - 2009-01-21 13:26

      Minki nude? You show me where Minki is ''nude'' in that shoot. Hell, I seen more of her in skimpy bikini's than her in this ''apparently Nude Issue''. I was robbed of R28!! And now all these issues are nothing more than generating press and headlines to sell the issue. People want to see what the fuss is about so they go buy it. Then you get no nudity.

    • MarcD - 2009-01-21 13:29

      Celeb, scmeleb, who cares?

    • Lee - 2009-01-21 13:30

      I reckon these celeb woman are bored, surely if the photographer is snapping away at you in your garden with a hose you know those are the pics that are going to be in the magazine - unless the photographer slipped something into your morning tea and you have no knowledge that said garden romp ever took place, then this photgrapher does not work for the above mentioned magazine. Christina, Minki come on chics this is just a way of mouthing loud that you did a charity shoot.

    • Pangea - 2009-01-21 13:37

      You will find that most the people who complain about nudity are generally fat and ugly. So it has more to do with envy than anything else. They cannot stand to see a beautiful person naked as they hate their own body when they stand in front the mirror.

    • MattP - 2009-01-21 13:40

      Absolutely...whats more is that not only is she not completely exposed...Its her HUSBAND covering her up. I cant see anything wrong with that and its for a great cause. Nuff said

    • Jan-Dri - 2009-01-21 13:41

      Bought the mag for my Fiancee after all the WOO-HA, and must say she ogled more than me! Pics are in good taste and artisctic. I have to add this though, I wouldn't have bought the mag if not for FREE media publicity.......

    • Johnnie - 2009-01-21 13:43

      I don't see how Marie Claire discourages domestic violence by showing the pics, but I also don't see why people are angry about it. Who cares? We are all naked under our clothes! And what about porn-publications that show many more naked people in every issue? Surely one soft-porn issue in one extra magazine isn't going to suddenly cause a wave of lusty rapists. I mean, if you were a "sex-maniac" would you buy Marie-Claire or Hustler?

    • Gus - 2009-01-21 13:48

      There are plenty of other ways to raise awareness (and money) about domestic violence. This is all a publicity stunt by Marie Claire, and clearly it has worked. I dont see how Minki's tits and Christina's ass will do anything about the issue at hand. I have no issue with nudity, but this is a weak attempt by Marie Claire.

    • Jdawg - 2009-01-21 13:50

      i come from a magazine background and no matter what clever (or not-so-clever) idea you come up with, there will ALWAYS be people that will call you on it, either good or bad. but you know what, sometimes you have to just go for it and i applaud Marie Clare for having the balls to just go for the nude shoot. i think it's completely tastefully done (i.e. not porno) and if some people cant see the point, then cry me a river. bottom line - message is being spread, money is being raised.

    • Judas Priest - 2009-01-21 13:50

      I loved all the pictures! I showed the magazine to my boyfriend, and he agreed that even though they are naked, there is nothing sexual about the pictures and that they actually potray a tenderness between these couples (which is the whole point). I am sure that the people who object to these pictures are the type of people who switch of the lights when they change clothes, not to see the sinfulness of their naked bodies...

    • Abused - 2009-01-21 13:51

      You get paid for writing this? What gives you the credentials to write about the relationship between abused women and pictures of naked women. Do the quality of comments above reflect your readership - explains your lack of insight. If the topic at hand is abused women, you have to ask yourself if using pictures of naked women is the best way to promote the cause. I suspect there are better ways. Marie Claire is clearly more concerned about selling magazines than supporting the cause!

    • Kal-El - 2009-01-21 13:52

      A nudity edition draws more attention than a t-shirt signing edition. The more attention, the more sales, the more money for charity and more marketing for the mag. Look, all companies which take part in charity benefit themselves to some degree and their is nothing wrong if you benefit when doing something good. Point is, this very discussion is free advertising to them and this all helps. Please do not criticize when other people do something for the good of others just because you do not necessarily agree with the format for whatever reasons. Rather use that energy and do something yourself.

    • Jules - 2009-01-21 13:59

      I also don't get why people are complaining about this.. It's a shame really, these same people don't shout this loud about more important issues - like the kids dying of starvation in Africa.. And although I agree with your stand point, don't you think you have a bias view anyway "as most of the editorial staff are friends of mine"

    • Rom - 2009-01-21 14:06

      People are fussing over nothing! It's for a good cause. I think that women would not mind buying th pics. And to Mike F, domestic violence happens everywhere not only in poor areas....wake up!

    • Mel - 2009-01-21 14:20

      I havnt got much to say besides why did Minki not tell Constant to push her tits up instead of pulling them down.

    • Ellen-Marie van Eyk - 2009-01-21 14:24

      Isnt' it surprising that such an uproar over breasts and what it has to do with awareness, actually lets people talk about awareness and domestic violence? Maybe that is one of the reasons for the articles in Marie Claire - it gets people to talk about stuff no one wants to!

    • chops - 2009-01-21 14:28

      sells. Magazines will always find ways of justifying it.

    • ness - 2009-01-21 14:34

      As long as there are negative or unhelpful associations with naked pictures in magazine, regardless of the intention, there will be people who oppose that thing. They have the freedom and right to oppose something that expects intention and reception to be on the same page. Statistics tell us, they are not.

    • Buffy - 2009-01-21 14:35

      the concept is brilliant, yes it raises awareness and hopefully will think about donating money to a brilliant cause instead just focusing on the issue for 16 measily days a year... I would be interested to see if the conservative outcry comes from the same people trying so hard to sneak a look at whatever is being flashed in Heat magazine, while standing in supermarket queues??? At least this has a valid purpose...!

    • VRossouw - 2009-01-21 14:47


    • Steve - 2009-01-21 14:53

      It's not the first time Marie-Claire has promised something and not delivered. A few years ago they advertised a charity Ball whicg my girlfriend and I attended at considerable expense (R300/head). It turned out to be a dinner and "pop" music. Misleading advertising; never again..quality my ass.

    • Paul Jonah - 2009-01-21 14:53

      Why some people find it delightful to reveal more of their flesh than necessary is beyond me. Why so desperate to advertise oneself under the guise of fashion? True, rapists don't need to be 'tempted' by skimpy dressing; they're animals. But having said that, who do you really want to 'treat' to your nakedness? Some mothers even groom innocent kids to go about skimpily dressed. Shame.

    • Mr.B - 2009-01-21 14:58

      Just a quick word,how come we are quick to judge and questions this,yet we dont make such a big noise when a woman or child is raped or murdered,or towards any crime whatsoever.At least these people are trying to make a statement,typical Govt.anyway always making it our problem.

    • Jaco Wium - 2009-01-21 15:00

      that Minki's hubby's hands had to be so large.

    • Ape - 2009-01-21 15:00

      Is this really such a big deal? We are one of the most conservative countries in the world when it comes to nudity, yet our country experiences far more sexual crimes than countries in Europe, where boobs are commonly seen on the beach and on roadside billboards. Maybe we should just STFU, there is really no connection, our society is just perverted, it's that simple.

    • Julia - 2009-01-21 15:02

      what i find questionable is the shoot itself, which is terrible. christina in those porno heels, craig hinds in what could be a pre viagra ad, soli and his lovely wife perched awkwardly on a stained sofa ? i mean, what was the photographer thinking? the mind reels. media highlighting domestic violence = good. publishing a shoot which veers into the realms of weirdsville in order to boost circulation, and then assuming people would be dumb enough to actually bid for crap like this = very bad.

    • Keen Viewer - 2009-01-21 15:06

      Anyone know the web address of the Christina picture? I'm interested to see what the fuss was about. Purely for academic purposes, of course ...

    • Mike F - 2009-01-21 15:06

      I think she is closer to the truth than the actual "celebreties" she meant to say.

    • tink - 2009-01-21 15:12

      In full agreement here, any attempt at raising awareness for a very real and serious issues should be praised. Everyone complaining about the method should get off their backsides and go find a better way of raising awareness rather than criticize those who tried something! I say well done for getting people to talk about it!!

    • VG - 2009-01-21 15:20

      I said I didn't see the point- and somehow that becomes criticism? geez, someone's hot under the collar for nothing. And no, I don't think a nude issue draws more attention or raises more money from the target audience than a charity auction. READ the column again: the pics are to be auctioned, proceeds from the mags sales do not necessarily benefit the charity

    • high - 2009-01-21 15:38

      The bigger the hype = higher sales figures!!!

    • Bron - 2009-01-21 15:42

      Nice article Chris. I am not even going to bother reading the comments twaddle, as I am sure you are getting numerous moans. But I agree with your angle and appreciate someone having the balls to put it out there.

    • George - 2009-01-21 15:47

      Great article! Hit the nail on the head.

    • An0n - 2009-01-21 15:49

      ..yes I have issue with you lot. Strange hoe the people complaining are usually fat lesbian feminists. This is for a good cause, and of course all this free publicity has raised awareness on the issue far beyond the regular Marie Claire readers. I have not seen the pics, but I am now more aware of the issue.. well done guys. Mite even buy the issue to read the article ..

    • Gadget Geek - 2009-01-21 15:50

      The point of the issue is to create this kind of awareness to domestic violence. Who of you would be dicussing this topic if a boring old auction was held and signed t-shirts and other trinkets were sold. This is the hype that is required to raise awareness. Well done to the celebs and the mag for a great issue I'm sure you raised a generous amount for POWA.

    • darkwing - 2009-01-21 15:51

      I'm fat and far from looking like those stunning bodies. Pretty to look at, but I wonder what impact it really has. There's a culture aspect behind domestic violence that needs to be addressed, before changes will occur. But it was a tittilating article.

    • Jem - 2009-01-21 16:04

      I couldn't agree more Chris! what a storm in a teacup!

    • - 2009-01-21 16:11

      a "storm" in a teacup over full frontal nudity. how much did marie claire pay her to make a fuss (over pics taken in her garden that she did not know was going to be in the mag - come on!) over nothing - because you can't see anything. brilliant marketing campaign - every one went to buy the mag to see "nothing".

    • david - 2009-01-21 16:11

      Very well said Chris, worthy cause indeed. I hope that Minki feels proud for her contribution.

    • Neil - 2009-01-21 16:12

      If I was a pervert I would sue Marie Clare. Minki naked? Please. You see nothing. As for raising awareness for abuse, you see nothing either. All I really see is a struggling magazine trying (as they have done over the last three years)to up (opps) their sales in January when everybody is a bit down, cashwise that is.