A dark side of beauty

The Beguiling Truth About Beauty article

Contingent self-esteem

A number of women have said that beauty can be a liability, and a Psychology Today article says that ”very attractive kids may grow up to be insecure adults, especially if they were praised solely for their appearance.

“They may develop a particularly harsh way of assessing themselves – what Heather Patrick, a researcher at Baylor College of Medicine, calls ‘contingent self-esteem.’

“They may feel good about their looks only if they meet a specific, and usually very high, expectation, such as weighing in at a certain number.

Self-satisfaction is not on a spectrum for such people: If they don’t meet their standard, they feel absolutely ugly.”

The article concludes that in real life, “our physical appearance is always evaluated alongside our body language, voice and temperament.

“Charm can trump beauty. In one study [on likeability], attractiveness was the least important factor.”

The Beguiling Truth About Beauty, by Carlin Flora.


Evangeline LillyActor Evangeline Lilly has talked about this kind of self-satisfaction or self-esteem challenge:

“I spent many nights crying myself to sleep wishing I was ugly because of the way men leered and disrespected me, because they assumed things about my mental capacity or my physical willingness based on the way I look.”

She avoided working in entertainment a long time, but started doing commercials to pay her university tuition.

When a friend told her she was afraid of facing her own success, she “bawled her eyes out on the spot,” she says.

“It triggered something. Ever since high school I had done things so people wouldn’t just respect me because of the way I looked.

“I decided, to hell with it. I’m going to pursue mediocrity, and I’m going to be so happy.” Six weeks after her first audition, she was in Hawaii filming “Lost.” [Elle magazine elle.com]

She is also author of children’s book The Squickerwonkers.

[Photo from her Facebook page.]


Cybill Shepherd has said of her appearance that it is “a kind of mask that I sit behind and watch people react to. Beauty opens or closes doors, brings out love, falsity, and cruelty.”

One of her directors, Peter Bogdanovich said “People disliked her for being successful and beautiful and not apologizing for it. She was sexy and striking and smart, and it was a little bit too much for people. A lot of men were threatened.” (Source unknown.)


Raquel WelchRaquel Welch has said she was more intimidated by her image than anyone else:

“I mean, there’s a tremendous loss of self, because you really are in a job where this image has been created…

“I like beautiful people, I like beautiful things, I like beautiful poems… but things aren’t beautiful without substance.

“It’s like a plastic flower; it looks so attractive and you want to take in the fragrance, but then you go to inhale and you suddenly realize there’s nothing there.

“And I felt like I was getting into that, that I was sort of in danger of having that happen to me. Because I think I soaked in too much the way that people were objectifying me, and the more that they did, the more I did.”

[From article Raquel Welch: The Goddess Factor.]


Charlize Theron once noted the mythology is “just utter nonsense – this ideology that women who are pretty don’t feel, don’t have pain, or don’t understand human conflict, because everything’s just so dandy for them.”


The pursuit of stereotypical beauty through makeup and cosmetic surgery can tend to homogenize rather than allow for individuality.

Jane FondaJane Fonda was the new “face” of L’Oreal at age 68 in 2006 and said, “I’m going to try and organize other women in my profession and my friends to say no to the duck lips and getting rid of the wrinkles.

“I’ve just traveled through Sweden and Finland, looking at faces that were real… as opposed to, in Hollywood, (where) everybody is starting to look alike.”

In later years, though, she talked about having some cosmetic surgery.

One of her books: Prime Time: Love, health, sex, fitness, friendship, spirit; Making the most of all of your life.


Julie Taymor directed Salma Hayek in Frida (2002) and said,

“It can be difficult for a beautiful woman like Salma to find artistically challenging roles; so much attention is paid to all their facial expressions, and they keep seeing themselves all the time.”



Diane Lane once commented that she is “starting to become more and more of an actress as the youth and glamour aspects become less important to me. I can finally branch out.”


Viola Davis

Viola Davis points out there may be discrimination based on appearance for many women actors:

“With white women, there are different kinds of beauty. You have the pre-Raphaelite beauty, then you have the girl next door, then you have the geek princess like Janeane Garofalo.

“So you have them playing the different kinds of roles.

“With black women, you’re either beautiful or you’re not. I’m not even just talking pretty. If you’re not a classical beauty, you’re nothing.”  

[Los Angeles Times December 1 2002.]


Quotes on her imdb page include these:

“The thing about the African-American community compared with the white community is, we are more concerned with image and message than execution.

“I don’t play roles that are necessarily attractive or portray a positive image. They are well-rounded characters. When you squelch excellence to put out a message it’s like passing the baton and seeing it drop.”