This was also published here on The Huffington Post.
“You’re ugly,” said the little girl as she stared me down in an elevator. “Excuse you,” her mother exclaimed with a mix of horror and embarrassment.
The mother began to apologise profusely, to which I simply shrugged and smiled. “That’s ok,” I said as the elevator doors opened and I exited in my wheelchair.
Meh! That was nothing and I’ve certainly heard far worse over the years. Besides, she was a child and anything ‘different’ always provoked curiosity in children (and a little unfiltered commentary).
If I’d had more time I would have said what I often say to children who question my physical appearance and use words like ugly, gross or weird. I explain that it’s just the way I am. I might look different from other people but that doesn’t make it a bad thing.
In many ways, however, she was right – the young girl. By conventional standards, I am ugly. By conventional definitions of beauty, my imperfect body is littered with “ugly flaws” (to quote a recent television advertisment). But as I’ve said before inthis blog for Huffington Post Women, screw convention!
So this (above) is me. Proudly imperfect at a recent photoshoot. Where many women would flaunt cleavage and flawless décolletage, I’m sporting scars from a number of procedures, including open heart surgery and a trachea ventilation tube that allowed a machine to breathe for me when I was in a coma.
I’ve also got implants in my chest. No, not those ones! A metal plate, wires and screws holding my sternum together.
I’m the first to admit that these scars on my chest and neck are minor compared to many other scars and amputations on the rest of my body. They are also minor compared to those of many beautiful women around the world with prominent scars from tragedy.
The scars on my chest have dramatically faded over the years (and the lighting on our photoshoot washed them out as well). But that wasn’t the case a couple of years ago when I came out of hospital after surgery. I was getting married in just over six months and didn’t want the inflamed red gash on my chest to be seen.
Similarly, as a pimply faced teenager with braces, I was embarrassed by my acne scars and would never have let someone photograph them.
Today I don’t care who sees my badges from battle. I wear my scars with pride. They make me who I am and each one tells a story.
So what do you think makes a woman unattractive? Her blemished skin? Messy hair? Unfashionable clothes? Nope, none of that – and the answer might surprise you.
I had a very interesting conversation with a makeup artist at a recent photoshoot.
This very experienced makeup artist had been in the industry for years and her makeup brushes had swept across the faces of women around the world. She’d seen a diversity of female forms, including supermodels, Brides and the ‘everyday’ woman (like me!).
As a makeup artist, she’d seen countless physical flaws and imperfections. Except that these women weren’t flawed or imperfect – just different from the cookie-cutter mannequins. As I’d wanted to tell the young girl in the elevator, just because someone looks different, doesn’t make it a bad thing.
Above: Another photoshoot #perfectlyimperfect – Disability isn’t as common in popular culture as it is in society.
Over the years, this makeup artist had been called upon to erase all evidence of ugly, physical flaws. On numerous occasions, she’d been asked to apply extra concealer to scars, blemishes and uneven skin tones. Not a problem!
Yet there were some women who she couldn’t help with makeup.
Those really unattractive women whose ugliness couldn’t be concealed with an extra coat of mascara or blush.
The world’s most unattractive women all had one thing in common. They all had an ugly attitude.
Selfishness looks disgusting, bitterness looks repulsive and there is nothing beautiful or sexy about a lack of self-respect.
We all have ugly days!
I daresay we’ve all been guilty of unattractive behaviour. Be it on social media or out in the real world. I’m not perfect and I’ll admit that I’ve had ugly outbursts. I looked horrendous the other week but it had nothing to do with my missing leg, that pimple or bad hair. I was just being a cranky little b*tch!
My friends know they can come to me and vent to get all that ugliness out of their system and they’ve done the same for me. But there’s a big difference between being a cranky cow over coffee and permanently entrenched, ugly behaviour.
What the research says
Once I got home from the photoshoot I wanted to explore the topic further. What did the rest of the online world think ugly women looked like?
Dr Robert Tornambe is a New York plastic surgeon and Author of the bestselling book, The Beauty Quotient. During his 25-year career as a plastic surgeon, he has worked with thousands of women and spent countless hours contemplating definitions of beauty.
In support of what my makeup artist and I had observed, Dr Tornambe says that while physical traits do play a role in beauty, what makes any woman truly attractive is based largely on confidence, charisma and personality.
If you thought a saying like “a beautiful personality is what counts” was just a tired cliché, think again. In an article about how your attitude can make you appear more or less physically attractive, Psychology Today cited a number of studies where the conclusion was that a bad attitude can make you appear less attractive.
Another study found narcissism, bigotry and a lack of drive or ambition to rank in the Your Tango Top-10 list of the traits men found most unattractive in a woman. In another article, intelligence and wearing LESS makeup were two ways that a woman could appear more attractive.
So when it comes to beauty, the bottom line is, well… it’s not about your bottom. Or your hair, your weight, your skin, your scars or the label on your handbag. In fact, spending too much time obsessing over these things can have quite the opposite effect.
It’s time to roar! Confidence is gorgeous and courage is breathtaking. What do you think is an incredibly beautiful or sexy personality trait?