The analysis of Ewa Chodakowska phenomenon
Ewa Chodakowska has grown her popularity by putting on her blog movies with fitness exercises. She was one of the hundreds of bloggers who were doing such work. Although, she was the only one who became famous in that time and the first Polish celebrity fitness instructor. Now many people wonder what it was that made her so special?
The thing is that Ewa is not a star-type fitness instructor. Firstly, she’s not very “attractive”, what is almost indispensable feature of every star who appears in visual media. Comparing her for example to Jillian Michaels, by whom she is inspired, we can see the difference. Julian has a typical appearance, which could be even called a classic beauty. Ewa’s pulchritude is quite controversial; her face is not representing the typical features of the beauty canon.
Secondly, she is not a professional trainer, what is quoted as a big defect, especially by her enemies, who are pointing her errors. Because as an every star Ewa has a lot of them. Anyway, this could be also a measure of her success, but in my opinion more interesting than her foes are her supporters. It is a good word for describing people united around this phenomenon. “Support” is a main conception of Chodakowska’s ideology of fitness. And now we have become to the answer for a question which has came out at the first paragraph. Ewa Chodakowska became a celebrity because she has a special way of presenting exercises, not because she is special, pretty or competent. This way is based on the ideology, which goes beyond the realm of fitness. It is something more. For now we can call it a lifestyle but later it will be shown that it is something even more. Although let’s not anticipate the facts…
The phase that could be called an axis of whole ideology is “Change your life with Ewa Chodakowska”. Not shape, not image, life! It is based on her own example. As she said, before the training she was a “formless mass”. In 2006 her weight was 55 kg (she is 168 cm high) and 67 cm in her waist. Now her weight is 50 kg and she has 61 cm in her waist. That, as she says, had changed her entire life. Her figure became ideal. But what exactly does it mean “ideal”?
Every person has his or her own image of “ideal” (figure). But for Chodakowska’s ideology it is important to visualize it, in herself. In this way her followers can see how they should look to become happy, to be like Ewa. In that way the visualized ideal model of figure can not be questioned. As Ewa says on her facebook fanpage: “I eliminate negative comments from malicious non-belivers. Everyone thinks by himself! Before you say I do not believe SEE AND TAKE THE CHALLENGE!” As we see there is no place for polemic or pluralism on Ewa’s fanpage. If someone has another opinion, which doesn’t fit to the “positive thinking” and faith in Chodakowska’s method, can not be able to say that. This eliminates alternatives and designates doctrine as a myth and that way it makes fitness a new pop-cultural religion, in which Ewa Chodakowska is a new goddess.
Celebrity mentioned in one interview, that her image is absolutely natural. When the reporter asked her, why do people react on her with such an enthusiasm, she says: “I’m authentic (laughter).” Indeed, her appearance is very natural, authentic and simply sweet. Her message to her fans is that they can always count on her support, and she knows that she can count on them. She marks it even in her videos, where she talks a lot, saying things as: “I am proud of you”. She is proud because a girl is trying to change her life by controlling it. But what has an exercise to a life change? This is a hitch, because exactly… nothing. Changing a figure doesn’t involve changing the whole life. This is the myth that Ewa sales. By the visual construction based on the her own story, she implicates that taking control of body means taking control of life. It means a new life, where the girl will be more attractive, self confident, full of energy.
This is nothing new. Marketing is using this trick for decades. Good advertising is actually based on myths. It has one goal – to sale the product. But the most successful selling doesn’t offer only a concrete article. It needs to give something more – a sensation that the product is absolutely necessary to live, that it can change something in a person’s life, that it unites people. In that way a person becomes a part of a community, which is the main role of the myth.
Ewa Chodakowska is not selling exercises which, as many of her enemies say, are made in a wrong way. She sales a promise of the new life. A girl who believes in her religion thinks that not only she will be unattractive, if she won’t have a figure like her goddess, but also and most of all she will be unhappy, her life will be worse. She needs to train with Ewa to live, it’s absolutely necessary. In this way a visual identity makes a sensation of a huge power which even change life. It’s nothing new. The mythical patterns in primitive societies were based on the same rule. Society were obliged to imitate their gods by reconstructing they acts in a visual rituals. Otherwise the world would be destroyed.
- Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion., U of Nebraska Press, 1996.