Diligent reporters on the front lines of sexiness have broke news to Esquire about the sexiest woman alive on their admirably regular, yearly basis. But this year, this year is a special sexy year. It’s not just one woman who is the sexiest creature alive. It’s one woman, a small band of matadors, and a throng of furious male cows.
Esquire’s Chris Jones wrote a sexy mixtape that launches from eating a bloody steak lunch with Penélope Cruz to the bloody gouging of bovines in a bullfighting arena in Madrid. He uses blood as a connective liquid.
The article, headlined “Penélope Cruz Is the Sexiest Woman Alive,” opens with a lingering opus on the movements of bulls’ muscular “heaving” haunches and the men brave, athletic, and nimble enough to challenge them. These men are poured into costumes “just as tight and spangled and sexual, revealing each ripple and coil.” Their “growing intimacy” with the bulls is like a violent romance, in which they “become familiars in each other’s heat, the way boxers know even the things about each other that they have kept hidden from the rest of the world.”
And here, about a thousand words later, Esquire introduces the conspicuous Cruz connection.
Penélope Cruz lifts her perfect eyebrows from her bottomless brown eyes at the mention of Sunday’s entertainment. “The bullfights?” she says. “The bullfights?” she says again, as though she has never heard the word. Her mouth turns down at its corners.
She is impossibly beautiful. When she walks into a room, men start walking into furniture. Up close, however, she becomes almost hard to look at, like staring into the most unflattering mirror. When we meet strangers, we begin scanning their faces for their strengths and vulnerabilities, for the lights and scars that will tell us something about who they are and the life they have lived. Cruz has no physical flaws, the bent noses and crooked teeth we would normally use as signifiers. Her face contains no secrets, at least not about her. But her face tells you and the room plenty about you. If you want to feel like the world’s most judged man, sit down at a table in a restaurant with the Sexiest Woman Alive.
Could we say that facing her beauty is not unlike challenging a bull? Oh, you, astute study of all that is sexy, have drawn out this like blood pouring from the shoulder of an enraged beast. Next, Cruz orders a steak, rare and “crimson and gleaming.” Perhaps she is the bull, perhaps she is the matador. The metaphor is open. She uses a knife to consume her meat.
Now, seekers of knowledge on contemporary sexy beings must ready their heels for a quick turn back to the bullfights. People and bulls are fighting. Their fighting is elemental and performative.
But don’t get too comfortable in this contained violence, for we visit Cruz one more time. She offhandedly quotes Hamlet and mentions that she feels overtired (a Sexiest Woman Alive theme!) and just wants to return home to her children. Jones writes:
She has little more to say. She picks her splattered white napkin off her lap and rises from her chair. All that remains on her plate is a bone and a puddle of blood.
And a flick of the cape and we are back in the arena of cow death. The bull dies.