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Pop CultureSeptember 21, 2015

Television: Rachel Hunter’s Tour of Beauty, Week Five – Rachel Eats a Camel

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Alex Casey recaps Rachel Hunter’s trip to Dubai, during which she falls in love with a camel and then eats it.

This week Rachel went to Dubai, the beautiful city “that grew out of the desert”, which is an extraordinary euphemism for “was built by slaves.” Travelling to the United Arab Emirates, it honestly looks like a bit of a hellscape of horrible sand and spiky skyscrapers. “How could you not have an overwhelming sense of wellbeing here?” Rachel asks a nearby camel, eyes welling up with the sands of 100 Pihas.

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Our first stop in Dubai is to venture deep into the desert (by camel) and sample some local delicacies. It’s all dates, all the time. And when it’s not dates – it’s camel. Rachel is phased by this news, visibly upset at consuming the very creature that brought her into the desert in the first place. “I looked at their eyes today… I mean how can you…” she mutters, staring across the savannah with teary eyes again. Someone get the lass some goggles, that sand is really reacking havoc on her eyeballs.

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A local woman tries to lure Rachel out of her camel-meat funk through the majesty of camel dance. Someone needs to tell her it’s all too soon. “Do you want to dance more?” she asks Rachel. “No” says Rachel, en route to a fully blown camel-based depressive spiral. Her hosts give her a strong drink of camel milk to drown her sorrows, and she loves it so much that she jogs into town to buy a camel-cinno and then a camel ice-cream. Cue a kiwi callback for the ages:

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We find out down at the market that, according to Prophet Mohammed, black cumin seeds are THE CURE TO EVERYTHING. Call the police, call the pope, and call off the tour. A charismatic honey vendor with an alarmingly Liverpudlian accent supports the black cumin seed movement, sprinkling them through his own delicious honeys. “I just blinkin’ love honey” he reflects. He has many good and beautiful catchphrases, and is a highlight of the tour thus far:

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Rachel meets with a university student to learn how to dress appropriately. This is an excellent segment, exploring the reasons that women in Dubai cover their bodies. It’s not about the men telling them what to do, it’s not about an embarrassment of the flesh, it’s about them holding their own bodies sacred. “I would put this on when I don’t want to talk to people” Rachel says, layering up in various pieces of black cloth excitedly.

This is where the Tour of Beauty really soars, when cultures and ideologies seldom explored are given a chance to speak for themselves. Burka-wearing women are a prime opportunity for this, something that Rachel admits she has “only ever seen on the news”. Much like a lot of the audience, including myself, a lot of our views on the burka come from either scaremongering stories or aggressive think pieces written from women on the other side of the world. Just like South Korea’s obsession with plastic surgery, it’s easy to place judgement on superficial decisions without an understanding of the wider context.

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In Dubai the reasons are both religious and traditional, rooted in the belief that your body is sacred. A woman tells us that men never tell them what to wear, they freely choose how to dress themselves. She sneaks a leg out, and shows her pale blue skinny jeans. Rachel is fully covered apart from her eyes, and reflects on how she feels to the camera. “It’s amazing how vulnerable you feel when the rest of your body is covered up” she says, eyes darting around uncomfortably. For a woman who has made a career out of her appearance, to have it stripped away from her has a palpable effect. She seems nervous, hastily wanting to shed the layers. Now this, is really interesting television.

But it is not to last. Rachel visits a high concept fashion store, to restore some of the razzle dazzle. A local designer has merged high concept fashion with traditional garb. “I feel pretty” Rachel says, swirling around in a sparkly pink dress. She is adorned with a giant gold necklace. “Good if you’ve got an old neck,” she grins. Order has been restored.

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As with every week, I am taking stock of all the things I need to achieve the ultimate, global ideal of beauty and youth. Feel free to copy and paste it into your own shopping list as it grows exponentially:

  • camel milk
  • camel meat
  • dates
  • blue balls
  • cumin seeds x 1000
  • twinkly burka
  • goat milk
  • goat meat
  • figs
  • smooth red wine
  • radioactive spring
  • mystical turd rock
  • boob sticker thing
  • caviar face mask
  • liposuction
  • fillers
  • fricken’ lasers
  • brow lift
  • peace bandanna
  • gooseberries
  • bullfrog tea
  • cancer-preventing soup
  • red lipstick
  • red nail polish
  • BB cream
  • dry shampoo
  • Trench coat
  • Scarf
  • Face wine
  • Body wine
  • Drinking wine
  • Large steak, fries, cheeses and pastries
  • None of these and just vegetables ^
  • Skunk perfume

Click here to watch Rachel Hunter’s Tour of Beauty on TVNZ Ondemand

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