Thursday, October 21, 2010

The power of beauty

It was in the OR Tambo arrivals’ passport control queue that I first realized the true power of beauty.

The lovely Stella had lost her passport. Left behind on our bikini shoot in Reunion, most probably. Ordinarily, this would be a serious fuck-up. For you or me, this would mean, at best, a night in the OR holding cells, followed by a swift deportation back to the point of embarkation.

Not for Stella, though. She made it through passport control before I did! “I just told them I left my passport in Reunion. They said I should just come by Home Affairs on Monday.”Behind her, a flustered male border official mopped his brown, and grinned sheepishly. Pretty neat trick, hey?

And the fascinating part was, she never doubted it. Not for one moment did Stella question that she would be able to cross an international border with no form of identification beyond an ATM card and a smile.

It is a winning smile, though. I’d let her through most lines. Nightclub queues. Traffic fines. Car services. Restaurant bills… You get the feeling Stella has been on the winning side of all these negotiations since the day she entered puberty. Not least because she’s intelligent and beautiful.

In Mozambique, Barbara and Leila are needing a ride from Tofinho to Maputo. They get one, with no petrol charge. Kelly wants someone to walk her back to her hotel room. She gets a half-dozen willing escorts.

Nadine pitches a campaign to a potential sponsor. She gets the business. Through talent and professionalism, and also her sheer, disarming beauty, which has rendered her male business partner a giggling, obliging shambles of a man.

The power of a beautiful woman is something to behold. In my position as FHM editor, it is my privilege to meet many beautiful women. On a good day, we may hold castings where we get to interview more than 100 models in their bikinis.

Sometimes you’ll stick your head out of the boardroom where we’re doing the castings, and there’ll be 25 of the most beautiful supermodels you’ve ever laid eyes on, sitting chatting with their modelling portfolios on their laps, ready to come in and strip to a bikini so you can decide whether they’re quite what you’re looking for for this particular shoot.

On any given day, each of these ladies will be the most beautiful women in the room, but seeing them all together in one place, you start getting all picky. Evaluating them. Ranking them.

This one had signs of cellulite. That one had too manly a jaw. That other one might have been slightly squint. Another one of them didn’t seem that into it. That girl at the end, her jeans were muffin-topping her a bit…

And here you are, saggy older guy, balding, carrying a bit of a belly, haven’t been to gym in a while, and you’re judging these stunning, gorgeous models.

Of course, this is the material we deal in; beauty. And at times like these, we’re on a quest to find the sexiest among the sexy. We advertise for women with the greatest powers of sexuality, and then evaluate them to find the most awesome among them to perhaps put them on a cover, in a calendar or take them on a location shoot somewhere exotic to help us make a supplement.

It’s not just a superficial beauty we’re after either. Because modern media demands web-video and TV platforms, any woman hoping to succeed as a glamour model must also have a screen presence. She must have a sexy voice. She needs to be able to speak well. She must be charismatic and vivacious. She also needs to be physically flawless – airbrushing’s not so easy with video content.

So here you have the preposterous situation of the most gorgeous, supernaturally attractive women imaginable competing for one, not especially lucrative job.

Which makes one wonder.

If you accept that beautiful women have a strange, almost supernatural power over puny, oaf-like men, the last industry they should really be entering should be modelling. This is the one arena where an attractive woman’s power will be neutralised.

In a room full of similarly flabbergasting beauties, a stunning vision of preternatural loveliness becomes just another model. Another girl in a minidress, heels and make-up.

Clearly the goal is to be the loveliest of the lovely, the best of the best. And a handful of women will make the grade.

But in some ways, this cheapens beauty. For it to be made to scrap with its rivals for recognition.

It almost seems to be in poor taste. If you’ll pardon the allegory, it’s similar to if religious leaders, community workers and development activists were made to battle it out in some kind of integrity contest, when the real point of their gifts is that they should be spread around society and used to enlighten and improve the lot of their fellow humans.

Because being in the presence of beauty is a kind of blessing. And beautiful women – indeed, beautiful people – owe it to the rest of us, us round, slightly scruffy, averagely faced individuals not endowed with symmetrical features, to brighten our lives.

And should these lovely, beautiful people choose to go into business, law, finance, media or events, they will find themselves amply rewarded in the form of professional and career success.

In an ugly world, beautiful people do pretty well for themselves.

So ladies, if you’re beautiful, consider not going into the beauty industry. Go into the rough ‘n’ tumble, hardscrabble real world. You’ll need to work hard, just like the rest of us, but you’ll do better, simply because humans like pretty things, and pretty people.

It’ll be like bringing a gun to a knife fight.

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