BY DESIGN : Say What You Will--They Go for the Bronze


Many years ago Coco Chanel declared pasty-whiteness unfashionable, and so it must be.

Never mind that sun exposure heightens the threat of skin cancer; a tan is still regarded as a sign of good health, fitness and beauty.

But while the prospect of dealing with melanoma--or of someday having skin with the look and feel of genuine leather--has scared many of us into maintaining our natural pallor, others will never give up their glow.

Matthew Lesniate, 41, of West Hollywood has been devotedly tanning since his youth in Pennsylvania. But don’t brand him a sun worshiper; he prefers a tanning salon--one of 200,000 in the United States--two to three times a week. “I feel healthier with a tan.”


Like Lesniate, swimsuit model Trisha Della Rocco, 30, prefers the booth to the beach. A sun-drenched body not only keeps her in work, it’s written into her contract. A California native, she remembers long days of frying under the summer vacation sun.

“People still get the notion I lay out all day,” says Della Rocco, of Costa Mesa. Actually, it’s just 30 minutes, three to four times a week. But that misperception pales compared to the annoying admonitions from people who haven’t seen a day of sun in their lives, she says.

And the snide remarks get worse as the calendar changes. Friends Eric Bader, 30, and Monica Cody, 31, of Laguna Beach, say they get hassled for their out-of-season tans. Their memberships to a local salon are another source of put-downs.

It’s not so much about looking good, Cody insists, as it is about feeling good.

“During the rainstorms [last winter], I was the only happy person around,” she says. “And I love the meditational experience. You’re giving yourself a half an hour off, which means a lot when life is so crazy.”