Susie Rushton: Out and About

'Partly out of curiosity, I wanted to investigate what the attributes of the ideal derrière are these days'
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The Independent Online

You might ask what I was doing last Wednesday in a club in Leicester Square at the UK Best Bum Finals. In fact, ahead of the big night I have four identical conversations that go like this:

Me: Guess where I'm going tomorrow night? The UK Best Bum Finals.

"Friend": Oh, are you a judge?

Me: No...

"F": So why are you going then?

Me: Aren't you even going to bother pretending that I might be up for the big prize?

"F": No.

I was never going to be a contender. I spend too much time sitting on mine and not enough applying those really expensive French firming creams that almost certainly work just so long as you also have plastic surgery. But, partly out of curiosity and partly because I kept on hearing about an "amazing crack" at the Tate Modern, I wanted to investigate what the attributes of the ideal derrière are these days. I reasoned there could be no greater experts than the judges of this competition (which shouldn't be confused with Rear of the Year, a prize that since 1976 has garlanded only the celebrity bottom).

Minutes before the parade begins, I find one of the judges, Mike Esa, an events organiser, at the bar. "I'm not looking for an overly athletic muscular bottom," he muses, as we survey the crowd of half-cut junior marketing men who have gathered to watch the contest, "For me, it should be womanly. Even a bit of cellulite isn't a problem for me." Aw shucks, Mike, stop it. You're making me blush. We're soon joined by fellow judge Stefan Leibole, who works for Sloggi, the underwear company running the competition. Stefan has spent six months sifting through the 25,000 photographs of male and female behinds that were sent in via e-mail during the first round: "And it wasn't a nice job." I ask him to define his assessment criteria. He splutters and can't really say. This is a man bedazzled by bottoms. Come on Stefan. You must have a preference. So long as it's not actually hanging down, he says, he's not too picky. And then the cruel truth comes out: "But, you know, it's also about the face. In most cases they do not have both." Mike agrees. Primarily, the winner should have a good bottom, they tell me, but they should also be reasonably athletic all-round.

It's so unfair. The six men and 10 women who were to dutifully shake their proverbials up on stage ("Leeeeet's give a cheer for the loverly Rachel, she's 21 and she admires Kylie's bottom...") think they are being judged on the texture, form and individuality of their bottoms – not whether they've got a cute nose or can do one-handed push-ups. I leave, wishing Mike and especially Stefan luck in their difficult task, thinking there's no honesty in this world any more.

****

I lied, actually, about what I was doing there. I went simply because I'd been invited. Lately, I've been spending too many evenings socialising with real friends and putting my hand in my pocket, and it just doesn't feel right. So I decided to accept every invitation that London could throw at me.

It's quite a week. I traverse the capital's cultural peaks: a brain-troubling contemporary dance production at Sadler's Wells where two limber men drag rubbery mannequins made by Antony Gormley around the stage and I, heroically, manage to stop myself from shouting out profanities.

Possibly more suitably, I visit its valleys: the opening of the new Crocs flagship store in Covent Garden, where they gave away a pair of the new sheepskin-lined "winter Crocs". Think Ugg boot grafted on to Croc and you've got it.

By Thursday I find myself in the stalls at the Royal Albert Hall watching Fashion Rocks, a charity event where a dozen pop stars sing and models sashay in synchronisation. I am the grateful guest of Westfield, a shopping mall. Now, the worlds of fashion and music don't mix as well as you might think. Each requires completely different scales: fashion invites you to pore over the cut of a cocktail frock, but Razorlight are best appreciated from half a mile away. Luckily, between each performance there is a gap of 20 minutes to allow the audience to stand up, walk around, and critique each others' outfits and Botox injections. Nobody else seems to be wearing their winter Crocs yet, so, heh, I feel smug that I've nailed that trend early.

The evening is agonisingly slow. Uma Thurman and Samuel L Jackson read the autocue without enthusiasm. They make a couple of scripted gags about Pulp Fiction, in case we'd forgotten that either of them ever had any talent. The Fashion part of Fashion Rocks is rendered pointless since the models are on the other side of the Albert Hall and you'd need binoculars to guess what colour their outfits are, but the Rock bit, I have to say, is making me tap my fully-lined winter Crocs. Iggy Pop, Shirley Bassey, Lily Allen and a dozen others do their hits. I decide to liven things up by scoring bottoms for pertness, personality and all-round fitness. Hmm let's see. Who might possess a rump that would pass muster with Stefan and Mike? Claudia Schiffer – nope. Johnny Borrell – no. Naomi Watts – unlikely. Any of the teenage models onstage – you're joking. Iggy, who must bloat out to a size zero only on his "fat days" – least of all. This special celebrity heat of the UK Best Bum Finals has to be cancelled because none of the entrants actually has any bottom at all. And that, I put to you, is all that fashion and music have in common.

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