This year, Esquire did something brave and wise: they gave the assignment of covering their appointed Sexiest Woman of the Year to "writer at large" Chris Jones. What they got was a beautiful article about the sport of bullfighting, with accompanying photos of Penélope Cruz.
The piece – headlined "Penélope Cruz Is The Sexiest Woman Alive: A story about Madrid, the Plaza de Toros, bullfights, and the Sexiest Woman Alive" – is 3,000 words long. Jones has devoted almost 2,000 of those words to the topic of bullfighting. Oh, you're saying to yourself right now. Well, Penélope Cruz is from Spain. She's probably really into bullfighting. I bet Jones went to a bullfight with her! Original and interesting choice of venue for another drab celebrity profile.
False, dear reader. After a large portion about bullfighting, we finally meet Cruz. She is not into bullfighting:
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.
Ah! "Sunday's entertainment." It appears that on an all-expenses paid trip to the northern suburbs of Madrid, Chris Jones decided to take a break from drinking tinto de verano, eating tapas and going to the upteenth Picasso museum and check out a little bloodshed. And who could blame him? Certainly not Penélope Cruz, who seems merely confused about his choice of activity.
In this meditation on bullfighting masquerading as a profile about Penélope Cruz (or is it the other way around?) what do we learn about Penélope Cruz? For one, she eats:
She stabs her fork into her first thick slice and cuts into it with her knife.
She speaks four languages and dreams in many more.
She is very beautiful:
She is impossibly beautiful.
But ultimately, she is an enigma, a constantly shifting shape not nearly as easy to write about as bullfighting:
After more than two decades of public life, Cruz has managed to remain a mystery.
But truly, who can blame Chris Jones for his love of bullfighting and his awe of what Cruz looks like, when the actress gives him so little to go on? A list of things she will not discuss includes her relationship with her husband Javier Bardem, her children, her recent work or her stance on the Israel/Palestine conflict. Jones is simply making lemonade out of lemons. He's a truly American man, one who, instead of sitting on his ass while on vacation, turned it into work.
Faced with so little to work with after blessing Cruz with such an honor and receiving nothing in return, the rest of the editorial team at Esquire paired Jones's fair and balanced coverage with the highest quality work they could find. Alongside those words about bullfighting and photos of beautiful woman Penélope Cruz is some content by another noted lover of bullfighting and of beautiful women. You could call him the Chris Jones of his time.
Images via Nico/Esquire