Women More Beautiful Than I

When I attend a concert, I don’t think: Wow! With a few guitar lessons and some willpower, I’ll be playing up on stage in no time.

When I go to a great restaurant, I don’t think: Wow! With the right ingredients, I’ll be cooking a five star Beef Wellington.

But when I flip through a fashion magazine, I think: Wow! With those jeans, eye-shadows, hair gel and willpower, I could look like that.

And that is usually tall and thin with long hair and clear skin

This is where the argument for a more realistic models usually begins. But why? Why do the models have to change?

The best singers, writers, and painters are showcased in CDs, libraries and museums, but most people will never have a best-selling song or book. Every time I hear a song, I don’t lament my terrible singing. Wouldn’t it follow that the look of models, height, weight or face structure, would be a small percentage of the population that was showcased?

We can argue that art and beauty is in the eye of the beholder and end the debate. But we aren’t taking down museums. Could so many people agree on a great painter because we are told? Or is it because we hold in us some standard to good work. What’s wrong with these models being more beautiful than me? Even before Photoshop. Artist are born with the gift as well as taking the opportunity to hone it. I don’t hold it against models to have been born tall or thin and been noticed and to learn to show their best sides.

Yes, I believe we are all beautiful. And creative. But some are more creative than others. Why is it offensive to us that some women are more beautiful than others?

Perhaps, the problem is not in which models are chosen, but that we believe a model’s beauty is attainable and important to our very worth as women.

When I took art classes, I didn’t expect to become Picasso. I expected to be able to draw a semi-decent still life. I didn’t think there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t be a famous artist.

But when I put on jeans, I expect my stomach to be flat. And I feel bad that it’s not. I feel unattractive. I feel wrong.

Why do I see an extreme and exotic beauty as possible, even necessary to my happiness?

The issue may not be what we find beautiful but how we find it beautiful. And how we use beauty.

Beauty is often not admired for its own beauty. It’s used to sell something. And that something is often available. I can go to a local store and buy it. And the implication is by purchasing and using this foundation or soap or shoes, I can look like the model. Even though the model is just wearing the product because she happens to already look a certain way.

It may have began as natural by-product of advertising since the purpose of an advertisement is to create or make obvious a need or desire that can be satisfied with said product. They chose beautiful women to sell the something as usual but in this case it’s a product that makes us better looking. And then they sold us the beautiful woman instead.

Maybe it go deeper. Perhaps, it is a survival instinct to want to be beautiful and attractive. To want to look good enough to mate. This instinct, coupled with a culture that uses beauty to sell products and creates products to sell beauty, builds the perfect storm of twisted notions and skewed self worth.

What I don’t believe is that the problem lies with the typical model body frame being found in only 2% of the American population. It’s the same percentage of want-to-be published writers actually getting published. I don’t think the issue is that the typical woman weighs 23 pounds more and is 6 inches shorter than the typical model. The root of our struggle is that we believe the typical model is the typical woman. Or could be with just a little more willpower.

At this point in our cultural norms, it seems impossible to re-frame models as musicians or artists. Their bodies as talents that they were born with and learned to use as most people with gifts learn. I fear that today’s models are too entwined with the products and fashion in which they sell. I don’t know if another solution beyond shifting to more typical bodies to sell products while bombarding the next generation with the knowledge of Photoshop and the three hours of makeup and hair it takes for even the most beautiful to look like a fashion model.

But I worry that we are missing the point.

I hope that, someday, we will not think that an unattainable beauty is just a product or diet away from the women that we are. I hope that we won’t believe that the most beautiful woman in the room is also the most terrible. Or the most lucky. I hope that we able to just put her looks on par with the woman next to her who can sing or dance or play guitar or was born into a wealthy family. A stroke of genetics and a good teacher. Or investor. Or hairstylist.

I don’t want another person’s beauty to be hidden from magazines so I can feel better about myself. Or find something else to lament.

I want to notice her beauty.

And move on.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

31 thoughts to “Women More Beautiful Than I”

  1. I have a 13 yr old daughter, and as much as I know that its my job to not be negative in any way shape or form … I will remark that I could do with losing a few pounds, or goodness I feel old today.
    I do it because I am human and I see my flaws and I battle with willpower.
    But we talk about health, and doing right by our bodies, but we cheat and go for ice cream and make sundaes in the kitchen. We watched The Devil Wears Prada together, and she thought it was hilarious, she knew it was out there but not a typical reality.
    We even watched the youtube video where they speed up several hours of a makeover on a teenage girl til she was ‘perfect’ for a billboard … and we talk. We talk a lot.
    Enjoy your body, its strength and its beauty, look what you have done with it already.
    Enjoy your mind, look at this writing.
    Enjoy your creativity, look at this blog you created …
    You are doing great .. and thus we come to the end of my post within your post 😉

  2. bravo!

    I think the problem is deep and tangled. for one, I don’t think the model aesthetic reflects what would make sense for evolution. the aesthetic is pre-pubescent and emaciated, not good for survival of the species. I also think it’s a problem that not even 12 year old models who are 6 ft tall and 80 pounds can even achieve that ideal of perfect beauty or best or whatever. when I worked in fashion, the people I knew with the lowest self esteems were the models. oh they seemed vain and confident on the outside but the torture they did to themselves belied that.

    unlike those with the best talents, I don’t think we should aspire to an ideal that is completely unattainable without masochism, photoshop, and a team of stylists.

    but you are on to something. when we sell something that is both subjective and unrealistic, an ideal that cannot come in a bottle or a diet or a pair of jeans, it does something to the psyche. but think of the psyches of those selling it. I always feel sad for them.

  3. I agree with everything you said. Unfortunately, and like it or not, our society is based on appearance. Call it human nature, call it the work of marketers, call it the work of the devil. It’s the way it is. Just look at the newscasters, the singers, the actors, or anyone in public positions. If there had been no televised debates in the 1960 presidential elections, Kennedy would not have won. Why? Because he had the handsome all-American look. I’ve seen some of the greatest singers in the world who are overweight, and you’ve never heard of them because of it. Let’s face it, right or wrong, people with looks go further, in business and in careers, and studies have proven it.

    We’re bombarded with this message from birth. Subtly, accidentally, and intentionally. So it’s easy to understand that on one hand academically we know it shouldn’t matter, but on the other we just can’t help it.

    But your article is a step in the right direction.

  4. Bravo! I think you captured the feelings of a lot of women …. and the “hypocrisy” of the modeling industry vs any other talent industry …. it is hard as a woman to take mind over matter and realize that it is such a small part of the population that has that look …. that it usually isn’t obtainable … but for some reason we keep reaching ….

  5. I think the difference is that the fashion, beauty industry sells the belief that with the right pair of pants, the right make-up etc, etc we can be that person. It’s different than an artist or a musician for example, because they aren’t selling what they do, they are simply displaying it. The distinction is subtle, but it exists.

    To be perfectly honest, there are very few models that I look at and think, wow, I could look like her. Honestly, more often than not I don’t want to because I don’t actually think they look real. Does that mean I don’t want to lose wait, or that I had a few less blemishes absolutely not.

    Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. But self-worth is something completely different and so much harder to achieve. Advertising dimishes our self worth by sending the constant message that we aren’t good enough, that we need something or to do something to be better.

    Really good post Alex. Well done.

  6. I think….


    I think it makes me feel less worthy because it’s within my grasp. I can’t make myself taller, so I never worry about my height. But I could be working out more. I could take the time to blow dry my hair. I just don’t. So when I see models I see my own failure and laziness reflected back at me.

  7. Very good point to argue or state. I believe my only concern with models in magazines now a days is the ones that look sick. The ones you can see their ribs. But I agree I think we could learn to just enjoy their beauty and remember that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Most important thing is for Moms and Dads to teach their sons and daughters that beauty comes in all different forms. That the beauties in the magazines are just one type of beauty.

  8. Models have never made me feel insecure or judgemental about myself.
    But at a restaurant… I am all over being better than the chef.

    I am raising daugthers, so positive self-image and confidence are always on my mind. My current feeling is that the best way to accomplish this is by saying positive things about myself and about them. No more “can we just fix your hair” or “I am getting fat”
    Work in progress.

  9. Agreed. My favorite part of this post is your fessing up. Because I feel the same way. I don’t WANT to care. I don’t want to compare myself. And yet…. I totally do. Hopefully my girl will be better than me.

  10. I think if models we the most beautiful women around, I would love to look through fashion magazines. Instead, I see starved pain. Angles that do not look welcoming. But the clothes look great. The makeup flawless.

    I guess I look at those pictures and think, if i had a make up artist and a clothing designer working on my face and frame, I’d look amazing.

    However, even in my thinest days, I have never looked like a model. That kind of beauty is not mine. However, I do feel beautiful. Just more in a Botticelli kind of way.

  11. I have never thought about like this. This makes total sense. Yes, appreciate beauty. Don’t resent it, but embrace it. Realize it’s being used and abused to sell things. Call it out as to not let it seep into the self-esteem and move on. Appreciate it for what it is. Love the comparison to a talent or what not. That is so interesting. You’re right. Just because I’m amazed at someone’s music I don’t go buy a guitar thinking I can be the next rock star. Oh wait, I did do that once. Oh well. I can dream?

  12. Thank you for providing something thought provoking for me to read this morning; for putting my brain to work in how I view and evaluate myself and my talents.

    I think you are marvelous.

  13. This is a sticky one. Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with you that we should change the way we think about these models in order to feel better about ourselves. But at the same time, the media is saturated with subliminal messages that only pretty will get you far, only pretty will make you happy, only pretty will help you succeed, that while there are a handful of us who are delighted in the pretty that we already are in ourselves, there are those others who will always struggle to believe that they will be enough. Not when they keep getting snubbed for a promotion or an audition or even their place in line because they’re just not as aesthetically pleasing as others.

    This change has to come from within, but it also has to come from the top down, where influencers no longer try to victimize our already fragile ego and capitalize on our insecurities to sell their products/services.

    I like the way you think, but for real change to happen, more have to think this way, and more importantly, they have to believe it too on order to defeat the very real and dangerous power of the media.

  14. First of all, this was beautifully written and the post didn’t need Photoshop or a facelift for improvement! 😉

    The problem is how a certain type of man totally expects to date exclusively supermodel looking women. Their standards in appearance is unattainable because the majority of women portrayed in the media are incredibly beautiful whether or not they were enhanced by a form of technology…

    p.s. I said “certain type” because the majority of guys I know will ONLY hit on “super smokin hot chicks” even if they – themselves – are fat, bald, and divorced with neglected kids in daycare… But I didn’t want to offend your male readers.

  15. I love your take on this. It is so true and honest. I saw your tweet yesterday about how this wasn’t going to be popular with people – and I’m sure you’ll get your share of people that don’t agree with this… But I completely agree with it. Thank you.

  16. I never really thought about this subject quite like this. I agree that there is a difference between seeing a beautiful person and a rockstar up on stage in that one I try to attain and feel badly for not and the other I just watch in awe. Crazy. Why do we do that? You make some good points and I’ll add another – our mothers (at least mine). No matter what your mother says, it’s how she acts that sets the standards for thinking and acting.

  17. When my sister and I see a beautiful woman, we say to each other, “She lies to her mother.” Implying that there has to be SOME flaw, darn it. We say this about women of all shapes, height and shoe size.

  18. our preference for beauty, in things and in people, is certainly innate; even little children prefer “beautiful” faces to ordinary ones. from her earliest days my daughter always gushed over pretty babysitters, pretty teachers, pretty girls. it just is.

    nobody looks at the statue of David and thinks, “i should be able to sculpt like that and i’m worthless because i can’t” (unless perhaps, they sculpt too). no one stares at a picasso and hates themself for not being as good a painter as he was. but we look at the beautiful women in those magazines and we hate ourselves, we are disgusted by ourselves, for not being beautiful in exactly the ways that they are. because we ARE expected to be. the world does not demand that i sculpt, or that i paint, or that i contribute real and lasting beauty in any other way, but it expects that i be pretty. and shame on me if i’m not. literally.

  19. You hit the nail on the head. “And move on.” Ixnay on the fixating and self-loathing. I would love someone chubby and short to win the Oscar, you know? I always find your posts so thought-provoking.

  20. This is a great post, but I think it misses the big difference between beauty and those other talents of which you speak. When you enter a room full of people, you can easily point out the beautiful people. They are noticed by all and everybody knows that the beautiful people are being watched/noticed. But, we could stand next to a concert pianist or amazing sculptor and never know it. That difference is huge because at the core, we all want to feel accepted. Right or wrong, knowing that the beautiful people are being noticed makes us feel that they are being accepted (even if we know half the people are bitter toward them and the other half covetous). Yet, if the average person went up to others in the crowd and just started telling them their talents, that person would be considered a braggart and not somebody you want to be around. Accordingly, most people’s talents remain hidden from the world at large. Deep down though, we all wish to have people notice our talents, our beauty, but since our beauty is not obvious on the surface, it makes us want to try to attain that outward beauty (even if we know it is impossible and won’t change who we are.)

  21. I think one problem is that the models are so young. I look at fashion magazines and my assumption is that these women are all in their low twenties when in fact they are closer to fifteen. That right there can create quite a distorted perception of reality.

    On a related note, I saw Padma Lakshami in the park today. She was stunning and I have absolutely no expectation of ever looking remotely as beautiful. But that’s fine with me. She was awesome to see.

  22. I read a book called “Captivating” which said that the three fundamental desires of a woman are to 1) reveal (her) beauty 2) participate in an adventure and 3) … I think it might have been to find a prince. If we think that we’re failing at one of our fundamental desires, it’s sure to produce anxiety.

    Anyway I struggle with that too.

  23. Ok, I am absurdly behind in my reading & commenting…apologies. 🙂

    My thought on this…I think you do make an excellent point, particularly about the ratios of great successes in other fields. Beauty is a gift, like many other attributes. It’s just a really obvious attribute. LoL

    The only real irritation I have with models is that they are so homogenous. Using your art comparison…there are many different kinds of paintings. Picasso is vastly different than Monet who is vastly different from Dali. There are different “flavors” to appeal to different tastes.

    Models? Are pretty much uniformly exceedingly tall and overly thin. There might be slight difference in hair color & facial structure, but on the whole, they look strikingly the same. I mean, Monet has many paintings, but they are all *very* Monet. Same concept. I would feel better if there were more of a mixture of beauty instead of 1 standard. I would just like broader appeal in models. I get really bored with the same ol same ol.

    None of this will make me a model…but my feeling beautiful is a me thing, not a model thing.

  24. I can’t believe I missed this post when it was published.
    “…that we believe a model’s beauty is attainable and important to our very worth as women.” That is the statement that really hits home for me – mostly beauty being tied to our worth as women.
    I think the difference between an artist or singer who was born with a gift, is that if we are lacking that gift we don’t feel it makes us less than. I don’t think the same can be said for “beauty”.
    I wrote about it from a slightly different, maybe same, kinda not standpoint:

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