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Vanity Fair: The Price and Value of Beauty


Helen of Troy
Living the dream of a country getting destroyed for golden locks | From the movie Troy

Greek goddesses Hera and Athena offered the Trojan prince Paris power and glory, but he decided to give the golden apple with the inscription “for the most beautiful” to the goddess of love, Aphrodite. Why? She offered him the love of the prettiest woman in Greece, Helen. This, in turn, led to war and Troy famously went up in flames. Seems like too much ado about something so trivial: beauty.

On the other hand, maybe it was worth it. While beauty standards alter and mutate, beauty itself has always been extremely valuable. Global beauty markets’ value is predicted to reach 265 billion dollars in 2017. Women regularly let their “Troys” (also known as bodies) go up in flames for the chance to be the most beautiful women of the planet.

So, shall we be pretentious aestheticians and claim that there is a certain “je ne sais quoi” about beauty? Or shall we look at it rationally and admit that the price of beauty is insanely high for its value?

Society’s Beauty

“Let us leave pretty women to men with no imagination.” – Proust

Can you hear society whispering in your ear – from billboards and ads to runways, magazines, and Hollywood movies – about the look of the belle of the ball? Truth is, we have gotten so used to it that we don’t even notice how our beauty standards metamorphose into society’s ideas about beauty.

Frida kahlo
Frida would probably say you should ditch society for the sake of personality.

The next time you think someone is “ugly,” ask yourself why you think that. Chances are it’s because of the dreaded society whisper. It’ll tell you beauty has something to do with sexual attraction. It’ll tell you looking your age is only cool when you’re in college, or that beauty is somehow connected to people’s value.

It’s difficult and necessary to send the whisper to hell. Gia Carangi became the queen of the runways ruled by blue-eyed blondes by being an unapologetic brown-eyed brunette. The only everlasting beauty trend is the un-apology. There is something desperate in the desire to be pleasing to everyone’s eyes.

In the theatre of your beauty, never let anyone but yourself be the audience. After all:

“You can be the ripest juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” – Dita Von Teese

Finding Your Beauty

“Beauty is a physical sensation, something we feel with our whole body. It is not the result of judgement. We do not arrive at it by way of rules. We either feel beauty or we don’t.” – Borges

There is nothing wrong with borrowing some beauty standards from the common opinion, but it’s more interesting to go beyond and search for your kind of “lost” beauty. Look for it everywhere and anywhere; strangers’ faces and Renoir paintings, sunset shades and Godard movies, in your grandmother’s vintage scarf collection and in the way you look from the side.

Isabella Blow
Scary beauty by Isabella Blow | ELLE

Find beauty in sadness; find beauty in chipped nail polish. Search for it in carnival make ups or the grunge of a tired look. The sway of your hips or casual androgyny. Most importantly, appreciate the beauty of humans in the old-fashioned words they use, in their laughter and habits, asymmetry and awkwardness, in the way they are so real and close with puffy hair and vampire teeth.

Beauty is more a feeling than a thought. Maybe it’s love in disguise or maybe true beauty follows love and not vice versa. All of my friends are beautiful, aren’t yours?

Finding Your Ugly

Setting all of those different beauties aside, what is wrong with ugly?

Ugly is necessary, ugly is good. It sets you free from self-objectification. Wander around town looking thoroughly ugly once in a while to remind yourself that you’re not always the one being watched. Watch the world unravel in front of you with all its ugly, messy, wondrous beauty. Be the audience, not the actor.

Appreciate the beauty of an emaciated model without a wish to look like her or a wish to turn her average. There is a strange beauty in the extremes, too.

Kate Moss
Maybe it’s more fascinating to be behind the lenses? | ELLE

You are the subject. You’re alive. Think about a thousand adjectives more exciting than “beautiful.” Try interesting, brave, witty, nerdy, dreamy, stylish, silly, different. Once you like your reflection in the lake, like Narcissus, pull back and notice the beauty of being.

Transform beauty in your paintings, chase it with words. Play with it, create, and destroy it. After all why be the actress, if you can film the thing?

Let Troy crush and burn for common beauty, but it’s too dull for the century’s taste.


Do you think beauty’s overrated? Where do you find the weirdest beauty? Would you trade “beautiful” for “interesting”? Tell us in the comments.

Posted on on August 7, 2014 / Filed Under: Fashion News / Tags: , , ,

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8 Responses to “Vanity Fair: The Price and Value of Beauty”

  1. 1
    August 7th, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Yes, I love this! This is SO important! Miuccia Prada once said: ” Ugly is attractive, ugly is exciting… The investigation of ugliness is, to me, more interesting than the bourgeois idea of beauty. “

  2. 2
    August 7th, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    Oh man. I really like this article. Incredibly well written, refreshing, and no diatribe about how vain people who value aesthetics are.

  3. 3
    August 7th, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    First I must say I think your articles are wonderful, Nare, and I want more (you have spoiled me!). This one is so interesting, specially the “Finding your beauty”, which I think was beautifully ( ;) )written.

  4. 4
    August 7th, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Thank you for posting this. It’s something young women need to be reminded of regularly.

  5. 5
    August 8th, 2014 at 12:08 am

    Nare, this article is what should be considered beautiful,…and then you even mentioned Gia Carangi and I was all the more overwhelmed!

  6. 6
    August 8th, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    This is a well-written article with an important message for us all. You have hit the nail on the head. Thank you.

  7. 7
    August 11th, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Such a wonderful and well-written article! Except the “Appreciate the beauty of an emaciated model” part, while I think we should appreciate people of all shapes and sizes, if the model is extremely thin and bones are showing, we should be concerned for their health, not admire their “beauty.”

  8. 8
    August 12th, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    I came to the comments to say what Alyss already did. A naturally thin person is not “emaciated.” Please try not to glamourise something that is not healthy.

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