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What IS Beauty?

What IS Beauty, anyway?


Beauty, like Love, is difficult to define, and it means something different to each of us.


Google “define beauty”, and this is what pops up:

1. a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight:

“I was struck by her beauty.”


2. a beautiful woman:

“she was considered a great beauty in her youth.”

synonyms beautiful woman, belle, vision, charmer, enchantress, Venus, goddess, beauty queen, picture, seductress, looker, stunner, knockout, bombshell, ‘bit of all right’

antonyms ugly woman, hag. (<<<<!!!!!)


Umm…is anyone else wondering who wrote and approved this description for what Beauty is? Was it one person who submitted it to a table full of others in a brainstorming session? Were there any women there, or just heterosexual men? Are we to deduce from the above definition that Beauty ultimately boils down to a woman’s looks? And if so, I’m wondering what that woman looks like to the person / people who submitted this definition. I can only imagine. Tall, thin, and young, no doubt, for starters? And if I’m right, then WHY?


Once upon a time in our society, images of thin women began replacing images of rounder, more voluptuous ones. When, and why? I’m not certain. Nor do I feel the need to spend much time trying to figure that out, because the fact is that it happened. And over time, so many women have felt the desire (or perhaps the need) to embody that.


In the above definition of Beauty, I do agree with “a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses”.

For me, Beauty is found at museums, gardens, farm land, architecture; in well-made garments, well-worn fabrics, and anything that achieves a natural patina. I find beauty on newborns’ faces, and in animals’ eyes…to name just a few things. Personally, ‘people’, in general, are not at the top of my list of things that I think are beautiful. (Not that I don’t think some are, of course. They’re just not at the top of my list.)

What I don’t completely agree with in this particular definition is that it is found in “especially the sight”. It can be found by looking, sure. But I prefer the kind of beauty that is felt….how the things that I think look beautiful make me feel.


So, could it be that Beauty is a feeling?


Let me address the synonyms and antonyms here, too:

They all have to do with women.

Not with places, things, or feelings.

What’s up with that?


Don’t misunderstand me - I’m not trying to start a conversation about gender. What I’m doing is drawing attention to the fact that Beauty is most often associated with women. And by virtue of that, women feel a certain amount of pressure to be beautiful – whatever that means to society, and to each woman.


Of course, society has always shaped our vision of what Beauty is, in terms of a woman’s look. When I began modeling in 1988, the models that appeared in magazines and catalogs were definitely slender, but they were also healthy-looking. The look was not ‘the more emaciated, the better’. Not yet. I loved seeing Anna Nicole Smith in the ads for Guess jeans, for example. And even the slender, toned models in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue weren’t as ‘skinny’ at that time as a lot of the models in that publication these days.


Then, in the early 90’s, came ‘Heroin Chic’. The sickly-skinny look. I truly didn’t think that would last long, but it did. And more and more models (and non-models!) aspired to have that look. I vividly recall my thoughts about that ultra-skinny, sickly look during that time – it worried me. Not only because I, myself, was feeling the pull to lose weight in order to achieve that look, but because I knew that so many other women would want to, as well.


It has been decades since Heroin Chic became popular, and, as it does, society’s version of Beauty has morphed into what it is now. Here’s what I am encouraged by, regarding what’s going on with society’s vision of Beauty for women today: the inclusion of models in magazines, catalogs, and ad campaigns who are not ultra-thin, or having predominantly one look (read: not only blond and white). In fact, there are models included in the pages and web sites of my favorite catalogs, such as Madewell and Anthropologie who are not the thin, typical-looking models (you can see some of the images attached to this article). When I see the images of these larger-than-typical-models, I feel relieved. I feel encouraged. I feel hopeful. It’s refreshing… Feelings!


In my opinion, Beauty is strength. It is a relief. One thing I know that it is NOT, is deprivation. Maybe Beauty is the result, the outcome, or the consequence of what we are looking at. Maybe it’s a feeling. Just like love.



*Attached to this blog article are images of models whom I happen to think epitomize what Beauty is. I would really love hearing from you, and knowing what you think Beauty is. They give me a feeling! Feel free to comment ;) XO, Erin






























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