The Depths of the Superficial
When you hear the word unconventional beauty, who comes to mind? You might think a group of women who weren’t considered beautiful until they found success in a profession that celebrates distinctiveness – fashion models like Lara Stone and Lily Cole, perhaps?
Modeling celebrates Kate Moss’s waif-like figure, Lara Stone’s gaped tooth, the darkness of Alek Wek, the alien face of Lily Cole, the androgynous look of Tilda Swinton, the cat-likeness of Kelly Mittendorf. And the list goes on and on. But are these models really unconventional beauties? In terms of face value, there are many women who are considered more beautiful than them. But these models have “perfect” bone structures, and their unusual looks make people stop and stare; which is perhaps because of their off-beat beauty, perhaps because of their confidence or perhaps because of the shock of seeing a model that doesn’t quite fit the typical plastic mould.
How about Beth Ditto and Adele? Though they do not fit with current trends, they are the very essence of classic beauty. The most ancient depictions of goddesses, such as the Venus of Willendorf, are very voluptuous. Despite that, they definitely don’t fit the modern archetypes of beauty. Aside from their full figure which is unfortunately not in mainstream vogue, everything about them is would be considered beautiful by today’s narrow standards. They’ve got glowing skin, lovely hair, healthy smile, great personality, and amazing talent.
There are two urban definitions of unconventional beauty. On the positive side, it suggests that even though a woman does not have the classically attractive look of Audrey Hepburn or Angelina Jolie, she still charms and captivates the viewers in a rather inimitable way. On the flip side, being called an unconventional beauty is an in-your-face way of saying that the woman is not really beautiful at all (in that person’s not-so-humble opinion, anyway). Period.
The thought, however, that you call a woman unconventionally beautiful instead of simply calling her ugly is a paradox. For when someone don’t like the way a person looks, they would usually be expected to avoid giving her the description “beautiful” altogether.
Interestingly, an analysis of data obtained from the dating website OKCupid showed that unconventionally beautiful women receive more messages than women who are “generically beautiful” or fit the standard definition of beauty. Essentially, if some men think a woman is unattractive, those men who think she is beautiful will be much more powerfully attracted to her, and much more inclined to reach out to her. The trait that turns a few off will strongly entice others. In other words, a woman gets a better response from men as men become less consistent in their opinions of her.
They’ve proven that unconventional beauty provokes strong, polarized reactions.
As for the traditionally beautiful women, many men found them attractive, but not as passionately or as strongly. It was more of a “yeah, sure” lukewarm reaction as opposed to “good God she’s stunning”. While that paper pertained only to the world of dating, it’s easy to see how the idea could branch out to other areas where looks matter. The paper also showed:
Their final piece of advice was this: Take whatever you think some guys don’t like—and play it up. You can check out the entire study here.
Let’s acknowledge that the beauty standard differs from culture to culture. While there are certain ratios of face and body that research shows make a person more attractive, what is expected of women varies hugely around the world. However, in America there is consensus within the media, and every single person on this planet knows what American culture sees as beautiful: Caucasian and super thin with large eyes, large lips and large breasts. It’s a very narrow definition and, sometimes, if you don’t fit that description (which relatively few do) you feel that you are (for lack of a better word), well, doomed.
Whether we like it or not, we live in a society focused on the superficial. Those considered beautiful make more money, receive preferential treatment and, most obviously, get more romantic attention. It makes sense for advertisers and the media to make the ideal “beauty” as unreachable as possible. This way, 99% of women will feel that they can’t live up to that standard… unless, maybe, if they buy this product… This is why the beauty industry is the sprawling leviathan that it is, and almost every person in America has done something to make themselves fit the standard, from wearing concealer all the way to getting a nose job.
So, what does the significance of unconventional beauty mean for you? Does it enable you to turn whatever you perceive as a negative into a positive? That trait that makes you look in the mirror and sigh might be your greatest asset, if you use it right.
Instead of trying to mask those “flaws,” emphasizing them will attract those who are like that trait and immediately weed out those who are not. For example, if you have a mole on your face, instead of trying to cover it up, highlight it! Remember: Cindy Crawford almost had her famous mole removed. Embracing your own unique beauty is the secret behind the success of unusual looking models, actresses and others whose careers depend on their looks.
In the end, there is little purpose in trying to pinpoint the definition of “unconventional beauty.” Someone who is unconventionally beautiful is attractive through their defiance of standards, not in spite of them. A trait that is ugly to one person may seem beautiful to another. There are those who are only beautiful in the eyes of certain beholders. But what’s universal is the attitude behind the façade. A woman who shows off her gaped teeth or alien face or full figure with assurance will be noticed in a positive light. She might not meet the standards set for her by magazines or Hollywood, but she doesn’t need to: she sets her own standards for herself. And that confidence is always beautiful.
How would you feel if you were called an unconventional beauty?