Seane Corn has been twiddling with her image.

Arguably the most photographed yogini in America,  Corn regularly shows up in, or on the cover of Yoga Journal lithe, coiffed, blissful and airbrushed to forever-young perfection. She’s been on the cover four times and she’s a hot icon for an industry that raked in $5.7 billion in 2008. Highly sought after to present at yoga and other conferences, Corn is everywhere. In print ads and articles, but also at every yoga conferences and workshops.

This was Corn on the cover of Yoga Journal last month:

 

Seane Corn on the Cover of Yoga Journal last month

But Corn presents a very different persona in ads for her program, Off the Mat Into the World. In the first days of Off the Mat, Corn and her partners Hala Khouri and Suzanne Sterling posed nude, draping themselves seductively around each other – it was confusing. I was used to seeing her perfectly styled and postured – but not peddling soft porn.  Was she advocating openness and acceptance of alternative lifestyle choices? Or was she trying to sell yoga to inappropriate yoga guy type men? What was Off the Mat and why in Kali’s name were they naked? There was no clear message except that they were trying to provoke a reaction. They must’ve – the ad never reappeared.

But recently Corn has become very clear in her ad’s messages – written in  boot-campish fonts – the no-nonsense, and certainly no bleached (tooth, hair or otherwise) ads were posing serious questions – Are you enough of a yogi to care about world suffering? Do you care enough to do something? There were no smiles and there was no styling – clearly, self-promoting was secondary.

It’s hard to see in this scan, but check out the dark roots and normal person face on Corn (left):

Off the Mat Ad

Corn with Hala Khouri and Suzanne Sterling

What does her shift mean? Corn’s work with Off the Mat appears authentically seva-driven and as her project grows her image becomes more somber and serious – at least the one she has some control over in her marketing, clearly this image would not make the cover of YJ. She has helped raise nearly a half million dollars for AIDs in Africa and poverty in LA (a drop in the $5.7 billion bucket, but noteworthy nontheless). Still the messages are mixed.

And the question remains: Can we take her seriously as a fearless advocate for the downtrodden when her image is one of the most common tools used for selling yoga? It will be interesting to see how her image evolves in coming issues and ads.