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Can you be too sexy for certain situations?

Too hot for a locker room chat? Too flirty to fly? While most of us will shuffle off this mortal coil without suffering from this kind of discrimination, a certain aesthetically pleasing subset of society is forced to suffer the slings and arrows of being too darn easy on the eyes.


FOR THE RECORD:
"Too Sexy": An article in the Oct. 3 Image section about recent controversies over women deemed too attractive for their surroundings said that Azteca TV reporter Ines Sainz is a former Miss Spain. A different Ines Sainz was Miss Spain Universe in 1997. —


"It's not right, it's not fair, it just is," says body image expert Dr. Robyn Silverman. "And since people tend to make snap judgments, women need to think five steps ahead and ask themselves what sort of reaction they might get."

Silverman, who holds a doctorate in child development from Tufts University and is the author of "Good Girls Don't Get Fat: How Weight Obsession Is Messing Up Our Girls and How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It," says the line between self-esteem-building attractiveness and coming across as "too sexy" has everything to do with circumstances. "Something that seems risque in a bank wouldn't be on a beach, so you need to listen to your gut."

Although there's no way of knowing if the women on our list were listening to — or ignoring — said gut, they have been involved in some of the more memorable manifestations of beauty backlash in recent years. Among them:

Too sexy for 'Sesame Street'

The latest casualty of this syndrome is pop star Katy Perry, whose appearance alongside a Muppet was deemed too sexy for "Sesame Street." In a recent videotaped segment for the show, Perry sings a (kid-friendly) version of her 2008 hit "Hot N Cold" while playing tag with Elmo. Her offending wardrobe choice was a low-cut chartreuse cocktail dress with a sheer panel that barely contained her decolletage as she sang in front of a cartoon streetscape. After the video turned up on YouTube, complaints from angry parents convinced the show's producers not to broadcast the segment on PBS. (Interestingly, the singer was wearing something akin to a bridal veil on her head at all times.)

Perry ended up getting a bounce from the whole affair, showing up shortly afterward in a "Saturday Night Live" parody of the whole cleavage kerfuffle.

Too sexy for the sidelines

Last month, the hotness of Azteca TV's Ines Sainz was a hot-button body issue. The former Miss Spain, who has been a sports reporter for the Mexican network for the last nine years, became the center of all kinds of unwanted attention after she went to a New York Jets practice to interview quarterback Mark Sanchez.

On the sidelines that unwanted attention took the form of footballs lobbed in her direction. Afterward, in the locker room, as she waited to interview Sanchez, it allegedly took the form of remarks that made her feel uncomfortable. Still later, it came from groups that called the players' behavior harrassment and pushed for an investigation. (Sainz apparently did neither.)

Although the self-proclaimed "hottest reporter in Mexico" has plenty of flesh-baring, bikini-wearing cheesecake shots floating around the Internet, she described the outfit she wore in the lockerroom as bell-bottomed jeans and a white top. In truth, in some photos posted online, the jeans appear so tight you can practically sequence her DNA from the cheap seats.

Her curvaceous, form-fitting silhouette allegedly managed to trigger something akin to an impromptu rutting season among members of the professional football team. It touched off a TV talk show debate on appropriate dress code and workplace demeanor in the process.

Is she still employed? Why, yes she is.

Too sexy for Citi

At least Sainz's overt hotness wasn't a firing offense. That's allegedly what happened to a Manhattan banker named Debrahlee Lorenzana in August 2009. In a human-rights claim filed against Citibank by Lorenzana, she says that even though she wore a wholly appropriate workplace wardrobe that included pencil skirts, turtleneck sweaters and business suits, she was fired by the company because her sexiness was deemed too much of a distraction to her male colleagues. (The company says the termination was a matter of poor performance.)

Some observers said Lorenzana's was a case of "dressing for success" — trying to get a leg up by accentuating her assets in a male-driven environment. But it bears pointing out that she has reportedly turned down lucrative offers — posing in the pages of Playboy magazine among them — preferring to raise interest in her stalled banking career instead.

Too sexy for Southwest

In summer 2007, scantily clad college student and Hooters waitress Kyla Ebbert found that sexy didn't fly — at least on Southwest Airlines. After boarding a Tucson, Ariz.-bound flight in San Diego wearing an ensemble that included a miniskirt, tank top, sweater and high heels, she was told by a Southwest employee that it was too revealing, and was told she'd need to change clothes if she wanted to remain on the flight.

Although Ebbert ended up adjusting her clothes enough to keep from getting kicked off, she later took her plight to the masses via a TV talk show circuit that included "The Today Show" and " Dr. Phil" — dressed in the offending outfit. But, unlike Lorenzana, Ebbert apparently hopped at the chance to pose for Playboy, appearing in various states of undress in an online pictoral for the magazine just two months later.

Too sexy for the slammer

Don't think the anti-beauty bias stops at the border either. When you start looking around, it starts to feel practically like an international epidemic. From across the pond comes the case of British prison guard Amitjo Kajla. Described as a "petite brunette" with a penchant for wearing makeup and a nose ring, Kajla filed a 2009 complaint claiming wrongful termination because fellow guards — not inmates — had bullied and harassed her for being "too pretty," causing her to quit. Earlier this year, she won an out-of-court settlement.

Too sexy for the show

The Land Down Under hasn't been immune to the scourge of too-sexiness either; in 2005, model Samantha Steele lost her job on the Australian version of "The Price Is Right" game show after producers reportedly felt that Playboy-style photos she'd posed for were at odds with that show's family image. (Perhaps the most interesting part of the story is that Steele's replacement for the job was reported to be a professional male stripper who performed with the stage name "Prince of Darkness.")

Too sexy for the sash

Even in jobs where a certain degree of feminine pulchritude is an unwritten prerequisite, being the wrong kind of eye candy can get one canned for contractual reasons. This is a kind of comely comeuppance that usually pops up in beauty pageants. Miss California 2009, Carrie Prejean, was dethroned in the aftermath of a topless photo scandal (though pageant officials say it was because she failed to appear at events), and, in 1984, Vanessa Williams capitulated her crown as the first-ever black Miss America after nude photos of her appeared in Penthouse magazine. And, earlier this year, controversy began to dog Tami Fakih, the current Miss USA, after photos surfaced showing her working a stripper pole in tight shorts and a bra while participating in a 2007 dance contest.

If there's a moral here, it would appear to be that show business gives participants a license that the rest of us will never possess; beauty queens continue, strangely, to be held to some sort of 1950s standards; and bank employees might consider a shopping trip to Talbots.

The rest of us may simply need to "listen to our gut." Or we might listen to career counseler Nicole Williams, author of the book "Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success." She offers some practical advice:

"You should absolutely use your femininity to your advantage," Williams says. "But it should only be one sexy thing at a time — a short skirt, or a sexy pair of shoes or a top. You don't want to overwhelm people."

Now you know.

adam.tschorn@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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