Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

August 24, 2010

Beauty continued

Filed under: Uncategorized — Miss Plumcake @ 2:46 pm

I’m really interested in what’s going on in the comments section of yesterday’s beauty post –although I haven’t had time to comment– but I did want to make a few clarifications.

When I talk about beauty, I’m not talking about the industry, although I find it really interesting you can fake being pretty, because you can and the biggest signal of that to me is  the current crop of models on the runway.

I’m almost always on the side of sympathy for the model. It’s not easy to be a good model, but back in the day models used to have to be pretty.

(Plus they looked so bitchy! Here Lisa Fonssagrives wears a cockfight on her head and STILL puts the Haughty into Haute Couture)

Not anymore, at least not for editorial work.

Now generally speaking you can be as mudfaced as freshly baked sin as long as you are very very thin and very very tall you have a decent shot at at least getting the call.  As commenter Harri P noted, you can bleach your hair and diet yourself away to nothing and by “industry standards” be considered pretty or beautiful.

I must admit, I’m guilty of some of it too. I haven’t had any aftermarket work done in the medical sense (yet! I’m still holding out for a third eyeball in the middle to balance out the other two) but I’ve got a laser hair removal appointment this afternoon and let’s not forget about my eyelash extensions.

And you know, it’s a lot easier to fake beauty if you’re wealthy. Is there a class element to it? Does that affect how you feel about the whole shebang?  What do you think?


  1. Dear Plumcake, I tried to send you an e-mail on a different topic BUT your mailbox isn’t accepting messages …

    Comment by Nancy — August 24, 2010 @ 3:14 pm

  2. @Nancy: that’s odd. I haven’t had the chance to check it since Sunday, but everything seemed to be going okay then.

    Comment by Plumcake — August 24, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

  3. Yes, there is definitely a class element to it! I was surprised that some commenters expressed annoyance that “beauty can be bought.” At first glance, that ought to make beauty more egalitarian and/or fair, and less a chance product of biology. But then I thought no, it just means those with money have a better chance of being “beautiful” than those without, and that’s not really egalitarian, either.

    Comment by marvel — August 24, 2010 @ 3:58 pm

  4. FYI, I tried a second time and again got this message:

    The following message to was undeliverable.
    The reason for the problem:
    5.1.0 – Unknown address error 550-‘Mailbox quota exceeded’

    Comment by Nancy — August 24, 2010 @ 4:01 pm

  5. Yes there is most definitely a class / money element to all of this. The definition of beauty as described by popular culture (Not Fashion) has become much much narrower in the past 30 yrs following a mostly WASP idea.

    I actually think the whole push toward thinner people is really a problem of society gearing itself toward being photographic and the constant bombardment of celebrity images. What matters is how you look in a random picture, on facebook, etc. Mix that with the American love/hate relationship with sexuality and I feel you get some very weird / distorted views of acceptable body size.

    Comment by txbunny — August 24, 2010 @ 4:11 pm

  6. I do believe that it is far easier to fake beauty if you have the money for it.

    That said, I think it is just as easy to be clean, neat and relatively put together no matter what. Growing up we did not have a lot of money. My Mom bought clothes for herself rarely and only when necessary. She did not have the “latest” styles but she had clothes that fit and looked nice on her. She didn’t wear TONS of makeup but she always put some on every morning.

    Mom does happen to be beautiful – she was a pageant queen back in the day. But, she never let a tight budget get her down. She also demanded respect from people – she has told off many a retail salesperson for being rude to her because she didn’t “look” like she had any money.

    I know that this is part and parcel of how I was raised but I think how you put yourself together* is more about self-esteem than how you want others to treat you. And that self-esteem gets translated by others into their actions towards you somewhat. I also know that when I am having a low self esteem day I interpret others actions as more negative than I do when I am having a good self esteem day. On days when I’m feelin’ fine and sassy, I could give a shit what others do because I am not about to get brought down.

    *This means whether you want to wear makeup or not, wear the latest fashions or not…just how you present yourself to the world in a visual sense. I know plenty of people who are gorgeous and fit “beautiful” who don’t wear a lick of makeup or expensive trendy clothing.

    Comment by Miss B — August 24, 2010 @ 4:34 pm

  7. I think external beauty can be faked using all sorts of product and treatments, thus it isn’t genuine. Beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors etc and no one person or industry should be trying to force a homogenized notion of beauty onto us. Hence, if you know that the industry is force feeding you a fake notion, you’re not really brainwashed. The other day at my library, I did a little make-up class for some preteens. The first and last thing I stressed is that you have to accept and like your natural looks before wearing make-up. Make-up is to enhance and to have fun with, not something you use to create something that isn’t there.

    Aside from the Elephant Man and Jabba the Hut, I don’t think anyone is truly ugly. I teach that to my kids and I believe it. (But, I also understand that my 5’10”, lighter skinned, weave wearing, 125 lb, counterpart will be perceived to be more beautiful than my short, brown skin, 208 lbs, short hair self.)

    Comment by brooklynshoebabe — August 24, 2010 @ 4:51 pm

  8. brooklynshoebabe, you made me wince just a teeny bit with your comment that you feel more attractive when your skin is lighter. For the life of me, I’ve never understood what colors have to do with attractiveness. I can understand bleaching/dyeing hair and/or wearing colored contact lenses for FUN, but definitely not in pursuit of beauty. The most classically beautiful famous women are known mostly for the exquisite shape of their features and span a range of colors (e.g. Halle Berry, Charlize Theron, Catherine Zeta-Jones). Would any of these women be less beautiful of they were a different color? Is a plain girl more beautiful with different color eyes? I just don’t buy it.

    Comment by wildflower — August 24, 2010 @ 5:52 pm

  9. Is there a class element? Absolutely. But I do find that increased spending on being beautiful tends to result in increased appearance as a certain, very narrowly defined definition of beautiful (slim body, big boobs, thin nose, big long hair, expensive designer clothing, etc.). If I may build on what Brooklyn said so nicely, you need a lot of money to create something that wasn’t there in the first place.

    On beauty in general: I’ve always thought of natural beauty as analogous to any other culturally valued asset like athleticism or skill with numbers. Everybody’s born with something, and there’s no shame in using what you’ve got to get what you want as long as you have some integrity about it. If you believe the greatest gift you have to offer the world is being (to quote Little Women) “decorative,” then invest in being decorative and find a way to exchange that for something you want but don’t have. If you’re not born with that particular gift, but you want to reap the benefits of it, then you’ll have to invest more or find a suitable substitute. I’m not saying I don’t think the priorities of American culture are out of whack in regards to appearance–they are–but complaining that someone else is unfairly more beautiful is about as effective as complaining that someone else is unfairly more intelligent. However beauty is defined at a particular moment in a culture, it’s always going to be a prized posession.

    Comment by Evie — August 24, 2010 @ 5:58 pm

  10. The whole discussion on beauty is interesting to me. My mother had small pox when she was six that resulted in a heavily scarred face. She almost lost tip of her nose too. Growing up, I was always surprised if someone in the extended family commented along the lines of ‘Poor Ma-Violet, was so pretty before she turned so ugly’. Because it never occurred to me or my sister that our mother is ugly.

    My mother never considered that her scarred face is a liability for her. She was also poor growing up and gained a few pounds after we were born. But, she commanded the room whenever she entered. She had a vivacity and presence that can hardly be ignored. She would be impeccably dressed, never followed fashions, hardly any make up and always made an entrance. She used to say that people will quickly forget ugly/pretty once you radiate confidence and have right status symbols.

    So, I always thought that perception of ‘beauty’ thing is a cultural issue rather than an aesthetics issue. I consider myself an ordinary person and trying to develop my own style as a combination of fit/comfort/price/life style. But, trying my best to become the most beautiful version of me isn’t on my list of things. (Yet?)

    Comment by Violet in Twilight — August 24, 2010 @ 6:29 pm

  11. I do see a class element AND an age element. When I was twenty-ish and thirty-ish, I was beautiful. (Really. Strangers would tell me so). And it took little effort. Now over forty-five, there’s the hair colorist/stylist (3 weeks is best), the aesthetician, and if needed, the derm, the manicurist, and the massage therapist for recovering from the excercise. (The metabolism slowed down too). At times, also the personal trainers.

    The class element is the money and time for this stuff. Does it make me “beautiful?” Not sure. I do enjoy these appointments. I feel better kempt. I fell more attractive. And it takes less time overall to prep if your hair, skin etc are basically in good shape. But, it is difficult when always comparing oneself with, among others, oneself when younger. Sigh.

    Comment by Debs — August 24, 2010 @ 7:34 pm

  12. @Debs – if you feel better doing these things to take care of yourself, by all means continue!

    Comment by g-dog — August 24, 2010 @ 7:58 pm

  13. @ wildflower:

    I’m going to make two very large assumptions here and pray I don’t permantenly impale my foot into my mouth.

    I first assume that bsb is black/africanamerican/spanish…..someone with more melanin than not.

    I second assume that you either don’t have an intimate relationship with a good many women of color from the south.

    Dating back to the days of slavery when white masters raped their female slaves, the thought process of the slaves was that the resulting children were “better” because they were “lighter” and closer to being white. Let’s not EVEN discuss the resulting grade of hair. That is an entire blog..not entry….blog….of its’ own.

    For some unknown reason, this thought process has persisted throughout the years. In our community, even today, a great many people think that the lighter their skin is, the easier it will be for them in life, and unfortunately, this is the case in a lot of areas such as work and dating. I’ve even seen mothers that prefer a lighter complected child over a darker complected child.

    I could go on and on, but I hope I’ve covered the basics.

    The next time you think about it….see how many models you can name that are darker than Oprahs complexion.

    Comment by Jeanine — August 24, 2010 @ 8:28 pm

  14. I’m glad you brought up the class element because I think that also plays into shifting standards of beauty. Once upon a time when food was scarce, a plump figure was a sign of wealth and beauty, now it is the opposite. When upper class women did not work in the sun, a pale complexion was necessary for the truly fashionable. Now those who have the means to pay for fashion and beauty treatments have a better chance of being considered “beautiful” by society.

    This simply demonstrates to me that beauty is an artificial human construct and not a biological marker. Does it mean we treat it as less of a currency or value it any less as individuals? No, but it is good to be aware for our own self-image.

    Comment by Eilish — August 24, 2010 @ 8:49 pm

  15. I think money probably does come in to it, at least once you’re past 40. When I was young, it was a little mascara, a little lipgloss, and out the door. That seems to be the case for most young women — less is more, for sure.

    Nowadays, I spend my money on the best tools (I LOVE my Clarisonic) and products (LaRoche Posay) I can afford, with the goal of keeping my skin in good shape — so I can still get away with as little makeup as possible, though after years of rosacea that means a bit of foundation, which I’ve never liked — and having my brows shaped and tinted. And I pay to get “reblondified” via highlights, since my natural color is now muddier than in my youth, and with greys.

    Heredity also comes into it, I think — my gran’s 97 and she is still gorgeous and going strong. So I’m in this for the long haul!

    Comment by Rubiatonta — August 24, 2010 @ 9:22 pm

  16. In addition to the comments already posted about class, let’s talk about WORK. I’m going to look more beautiful (less run down) on a day I work 8 hours in an office, for example, or even more so if I don’t have to work — than I am if I’m on my feet, running around waiting tables, or cleaning up after people, or any sort of physical labor. Not to mention, if I’m not working a physically exhausting job, it is easier to afford better quality food and a gym membership.

    Comment by Catherine — August 24, 2010 @ 11:34 pm

  17. Beauty is authority. We’re naturally attracted to those who exercise power, and if you’re lacking in traditional beauty, you can counteract it with the authority that comes from confidence, wealth, age, education, sex appeal, a prestigious job, etc.

    A pretty teenage model has beauty, but as she gets older she’s going to have to supplement that with substance if she wants to maintain her prestigious place in society.

    Comment by smark — August 25, 2010 @ 10:00 am

  18. Bravo Smark! Wonderfully expressed. To me beauty is an art form – which can be learned and practiced by anyone. Merely winning the genetic lottery will get you ahead – for a while – but it doesn’t last.

    One of the joys of being (cough-over40-cough) is seeing women who depended solely on their looks suddenly hit the wall of ‘not so cute anymore’. That’s when spending all those years actually learning ya know – stuff – and building a career and having a personality and a sense of personal style makes the difference between a sad creature trying to look 20 and a woman who can turn the heads of 20 and 50 year olds.

    Comment by Thea — August 25, 2010 @ 10:26 am

  19. Class element in beauty – always. That’s why it’s always the princess, queen of myth who was the peerless beauty. The scullery maid & milk maid probably had bad diets, less time and less opportunity to work on their looks + with frequent childbirth and hard lives they might tend to lose their looks faster. That being said, in the now the more money you have the more opportunity for the braces, fashion, make-up products, grooming, etiquette, surgery, procedures etc that constitute current notions of beauty. Being in the right class with the right connections allows you to be photographed and ooh-ed and aah-ed over as the newest beauty; you get to be the muse of a particular designer, editor, photographer. Is it fair – no. Is it real – yes. Do we have to accept it – no.

    Comment by Retna — August 25, 2010 @ 10:35 am

  20. People, please read Naomi Wolf’s “The Beauty Myth”. Her thesis, in a nutshell, is that women are kept on the beauty-go-round, always pursuing youth-n-beauty, which takes time, money, and energy, which basically prevents us from having time to rule the effin world. Men have more money, more time, and more energy to pursue and keep power, while we are busy with our nail, hair, and personal trainer appointments. A good man’s suit and shoes will last a decade; a woman’s MIGHT last five years before being outdated. This business, on top of working the second shift as wives & mothers, makes it hard for women to make time to advocate for change and equality.

    Do I wear makeup and dye my hair and buy cute clothes? Yes, I do, because there are both personal and professional rewards for this behavior. If I shlubbed around in sweats and Crocs every day, well, that’s just not even an option where I work, you know? I would, however, like it very much if I could just comb my (graying) hair and put on a suit and still look professional and put-together, which is all it takes for a man to get ready for work.

    Comment by Jezebella — August 25, 2010 @ 11:32 am

  21. I have read The Beauty Myth–it’s nothing new. (Well, it came out a long time ago! But I meant, as someone who read feminist work, it was nothing new then either. Naomi Wolf got attention because she was pretty herself but came out with these retread feminist ideas.)

    I’m not saying that people shouldn’t present themselves well and be groomed–hell, I’m always after my 13 year old daughter to brush her (beautiful) hair and get it out of her face. Now she is a truly lovely girl who makes zero effort to look nice and you can tell she’s in that I-hate-myself teen angst state.

    It’s just that having gone to an extremely feminist college, I used to present myself for dating when I was 20 with no makeup, nice clothes, no heels. Just a pretty college girl, no embellishment. If I wore makeup, a sexy outfit, painted my nails and wore jewelry, men came flocking around. It’s like those things are a hint to men that you’re available or something.

    Now I’m 45, married for 21 years, and I let myself go!!!! JOKE’S ON YOU, HUSBAND! (I kid. I wear makeup now and then. And sometimes shoes that aren’t flipflops.)

    Part of my issue is also chronic pain and illness—it all seems too much effort to get a manicure when I feel like hell.

    Comment by Harri P. — August 25, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

  22. “you made me wince just a teeny bit with your comment that you feel more attractive when your skin is lighter.”

    Wildflower, I believe BSB said her light-skinned *counterpart* would be perceived as more beautiful.

    As for Miss Naomi Wolf and the Beauty Myth…as Harri said, retreads. Even when it was first published in 1991. Her arguments become ever less convincing to me as the years pass.

    Is there a class element? Hm. Perhaps, insofar as those with money have more access to things which make us attractive, and that includes good nutrition, health care and dental work.

    And again as Harri pointed out, men react to certain stimuli and I think that holds no matter what your age. I went out a few weeks ago in a wide-necked scoop tee with a knee-length skirt, flats, and a ponytail. Nothing spectacular, it was HOT outside. But male heads were whipping around in noticeable ways (and believe me, that doesn’t happen when I’m wearing khakis and a polo.) I’m 51 freaking years old! The funny thing was, I wasn’t even showing cleavage. It was just the amount of skin that was showing. Even funnier was the fact that I wasn’t particularly flattered. At first I thought ‘now what the hell, is my skirt tucked into the back of my panties or what?’

    Where was I going with this? Oh yes. I question the notion that women are oppressed by these expectations to the degree that it affects our power and financial status. I also think it’s possible to be professional and presentable without spending an insane amount of time in the salon, the bathroom, and the gym. It’s a question of priorities. You want to have your nails done? Have at it. But the state of your mani, or lack thereof, doesn’t make all that much difference in most professional settings.

    Comment by theDiva — August 25, 2010 @ 6:41 pm

  23. Oh, come on, any one of us can look at a woman and tell what kind of time and money she spends on her hair, skin, wardrobe, etc. We can tell if she grew up with enough money for orthodontia and dentistry and dermatology, or not. We can also tell whether her aesthetic is working class, middle-brow, or affluent. Don’t pretend you can’t tell what someone is spending on her looks.

    And you know what? Anybody interviewing me for a job is judging my look, whether consciously or not, and assessing whether my aesthetic and my class-presentation fit into their organization or not. If their org is all stilettos and pencil skirts, and I show up in a pantsuit and flats, they will automatically think I’ll be a “bad fit”, no matter what my intellectual or professional skills are.

    You can pooh-pooh The Beauty Myth all you want, but in my 42 years on earth, conforming to the U.S. Beauty Standard has become more expensive, more time-consuming, and frankly, more dangerous and painful (botox, brazilian waxes, breast implants, cosmetic surgery, et al.) Dudes, overall, are not spending the money we are spending on “beauty”. “Beauty” is a moving target, and an unattainable one. I’m far more interesting in health and style than “beauty” and fashion. Looking good is an aesthetic choice we can make, striving to meet the “beauty” standard is a waste of time and energy. I’ll never look like Heidi Klum, and that hasn’t bothered me since I was about 16 years old. We should all get over it.

    Comment by Jezebella — August 26, 2010 @ 3:51 pm

  24. a range of colors (e.g. Halle Berry, Charlize Theron, Catherine Zeta-Jones)

    Not to start a big argument, but these women don’t exactly “span a range of colors.” They go from beige to white.

    That said, there are beautiful women of all colors out there.

    Comment by The gold digger — August 26, 2010 @ 5:33 pm

  25. Dressing well and presenting professionally are not the same thing as “botox, brazilian waxes, breast implants, cosmetic surgery, et al” all of which are completely optional and not required for the type of professional success to which most educated women aspire.

    Comment by theDiva — August 26, 2010 @ 5:55 pm

  26. Jeanine and gold digger, thank you for the thoughtful responses. But my point was not about race; it was about literal colors, as in not only skin color, but hair and eye color. I was was pondering why one would change one’s colors via hair dye, colored contact lenses, spray-tanning, and/or skin whitening. That’s why, off the top of my head, I picked a blue-eyed blonde, a brown-eyed brunette, and a brown-eyed, black-haired woman. That none of them happened to have very dark skin is a mere oversight on my part; I intended no racism. The racism aspect of our cultural definitions of beauty is a different, and much larger, topic than the one I was questioning?

    I (obviously poorly) was attempting to express that I could understand changing one’s colors via any of those means *for fun* (I mean, purple hair? Hell, yeah!), but not in pursuit of beauty, since I think CZJ, for example, is absolutely gorgeous and would be no more so with blue or green eyes! My point was that beauty seems to come more from facial structure (and yes, in our American society, that has a lot of racial aspects, also, but that’s not the point I was questioning or addressing) than with hair, eye, or skin color.

    Comment by wildflower — August 26, 2010 @ 6:25 pm

  27. So now I am sneaking back for just a quick second to note that Stephen Fry may already have offered quite the definitive word on this point:

    Comment by the misfit — August 27, 2010 @ 11:15 pm

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