Beauty and Its Beast

February 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

Every now and then I come home from work and turn on the TV to something so fascinating that I don’t change or put away my things or even sit down.  I don’t want to miss a word.

It happened today with Oprah.  I have to say that the last few seasons have been less then stellar, in my opinion, but she occupies the four to five PM time slot in my town and it’s a habit to tune in.  At least for a few minutes.  The topic that riveted me?  Supermodel legends!  Check it out here:

Normally I’m not into celebrity things.  I like a few of them but  not enough to follow any of them on Twitter or buy magazines because someone hot is on the cover.  So when I saw the commercials for this show I thought it might be interesting, but I didn’t plan to carve time out of my schedule for it.  In fact, I forgot all about it.  Then I turned on the TV.  And couldn’t turn it off.

Why?  Part of it is simple nostalgia.  Cheryl Tiegs was one of Oprah’s guests.  I sort of grew up with her:  she was the IT girl when I was a teenager in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  Seeing her again and getting to hear her talk about her career and how she’s changed since her famous years was captivating.  She spoke eloquently about  the ups and downs of modeling and of life.

But the most fascinating part was realizing, as she and the others (Beverly Johnson and Christie Brinkley included) spoke, that she was so ordinary looking.  Good looking, yes, but ordinary.  Sure, she’s aged.  She’s not all made up for a shoot.  But still, she used to be the most sought after face in the business.  Doesn’t that guarantee you something?   I mean, shouldn’t a level of glamor that was once so high place you head and shoulders above the rest of the pack even as it wanes?   Sort of like a suntan:  if you’re brown and hearty all summer, won’t you still look better in December than the folks who never ventured outdoors at all?

But that’s not all.  Each woman spoke candidly about aging, divorce, younger models taking their place, even domestic violence.  As I listened it occurred to me:  they’ve had no easier a life for being beautiful.  I had theorized that beauty was it’s own beast back in my mid to late twenties.  The years when I started to take over my own life instead of being told what to think by family, friends, media.  Now, my hypotheses were being proved publicly.   Think about it:  beautiful women are cheated on, dumped, neglected, and have their birthdays forgotten just like the rest of us.  They sometimes end up in abusive relationships.  They are sometimes murdered.  Those of us who DON’T look like models think that beauty and its accompanying fame are like insurance policies.  Nothing would be as bad if I looked like her.  The fact is, nothing could be further from the truth.  It might even be the other way around.

One of the models admitted that when she passes a man on the street and he doesn’t look at her, it “hurts a little” inside.  Not a problem for me.  I’ve never expected it and don’t even think about it.  Another said that when she was twenty five, she had a crisis because she realized there were seventeen year olds entering the business that threatened to push her out the door.  Please.  Seventeen year olds?  My kid graduated from high school just a few years ago and you can believe me, being seventeen is no walk in the park.  One told about how she started with a new agency and the boss took one look at her and said, “Fish and water.”  As in, eat nothing else.  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Being beautiful and in need of a modeling job, that young woman had to obey those words.  Me?  I’d tell that boss lady where she could put her fish and water.

I may not be entirely right about beauty being a beast.  There are probably some perks; all Oprah’s guests on this show certainly had very lucrative careers.  But they’re still battling demons that I left behind years ago.  It’s almost like, you’re beautiful and famous for five to ten years.  You’re everywhere.  Then, assuming you live a normal life expectancy, you’re nothing for the next fifty years.  How is that good?

I’ll take my life just the way it is.  I might have wished I looked like Cheryl Tiegs or Christie Brinkley in my younger years.  But that didn’t last long.  I learned to find satisfaction in the careers I’ve built, the family and friends I’m part of, and the simple joy I’ve found by wanting what I have.  That will last a lot longer than even the best modeling career.  And I NEVER have to eat fish for breakfast!

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