Face of Flanders – Hilde Crevits
Whenever you see the phrase “Questions were asked in parliament”, it’s a sign of a serious, weighty matter being taken to the highest levels of the land.
Last week, when the Flemish parliament resumed, it had two pressing concerns. The first was Kris Peeters’ presentation of his government’s policy plans in a time of budgetary crisis. The second was a magazine photo shoot in which a minister was seen wearing some very posh frocks.
The minister is Hilde Crevits, public works and mobility, who had accepted an invitation from Nina, the glossy weekend supplement in Het Laatste Nieuws, to be photographed in a variety of outfits, including a ball gown by Dolce & Gabbana. Nina belongs at the more brassy end of the spectrum of fashion photography, and Crevits, whose everyday look is extremely tempered, was overly-made up and clearly ill at ease.
Her evident lack of conviction, however, wasn’t about to save her from the wrath of her peers. Not since Susannah was spotted bathing by the elders has so much energy been spent on ostentatious denunciation.
The charge was led, to no-one's great surprise, by Filip Dewinter of Vlaams Belang, who considered the participation of a minister in such a shoot to be inappropriate. Dewinter, like others, thought it was too much for Crevits to be modelling expensive dresses at a time when Flanders was in sackcloth (evidently mistaking the shopping habits of Laatste Nieuws readers, who are rarely to be seen frequenting the upmarket boutiques of the Waterloolaan or the Nationalestraat).
Flemish political editorialist Walter Pauli chided the parliamentarians for wasting time on such a piffling matter, before going on to declare the photo shoot “unworthy of a minister”.
Veteran commentator Hugo Camps, a man you would not easily mistake for George Clooney, thought the shoot was “a disaster”. The pairing of Hilde Crevits and Dolce & Gabbana he considered severely: “The mating of an ox and a donkey would have been less painful. The farmer’s wife in Hilde is hard to cover up. Put her in high heels and the whole world wobbles.”
On Crevits’ side, the silence was deafening. Someone pointed out that other ministers like Annemie Turtelboom and Pascal Smet had undergone makeovers for the popular prints. Nobody felt it necessary to point out that far from being a flibbertigibbet, Crevits is a dedicated minister whose intellect is only surpassed by her industry. The elders were determined to cast the first stone.
And then it was all over. As for Kris Peeters and his government’s priorities, well who knows? Was anyone paying attention?