‘When you’re beautiful, other women absolutely despise you’
Why do the uncommonly beautiful people insist it’s so tough being that good looking?
Ephemeral glamour: beauty is ultimately meaningless. The anonymous stunner admits age has caught up with her, so that she now passes “as normal”. Photograph: Getty Images
Brick’s Law states that hell hath no fury like an internet confronted by a woman complaining she is too beautiful.
Okay, there isn’t actually a Brick’s Law, but there really should be. It’s the least we could do for Samantha Brick, the woman who became an instant figure of global revulsion in 2012, after she published an article on the Daily Mail website entitled There Are Downsides to Looking This Pretty.
The latest woman to test Brick’s Law, and run the gauntlet of internet fury by suggesting that being unusually gorgeous might actually be a bit of a poisoned chalice, has – probably wisely – opted for anonymity.
In an article entitled, What It’s Like To Go Through Life As A Really Beautiful Woman, published in The Cut, part of New York Magazine, the woman – who is now in her 50s – starts off with a declaration that, not to put too fine a point on it, would make Donald Trump sound bashful: “I was tall and willowy. I had a great figure and I never weighed more than 120 pounds throughout my 20s. I started modelling in high school and had waist length dark brown hair and brown eyes. When I do the whole makeup, eyelashes, high heels, gown look I am very intimidating.”
Her looks, she admits, “definitely opened doors” for her, in various careers in public relations, news production, reporting and even hosting her own talkshow. She “never had any trouble getting guys . . . I never, ever, had to pursue a man.”
So what, you might wonder, is the problem? Other women, that’s what.
I am grateful that we all learned what it’s like to go through life as a really beautiful woman today— Danielle Sepulveres (@ellesep) April 3, 2018
“One of the worst things about being beautiful is that other women absolutely despise you. Women have made me cry my whole life,” she writes. They don’t trust her. They refuse to invite her to their parties. They conspire to get her fired. They spread gossip about her. They block her on Facebook. Her ex-husband’s family hated her so much, they threatened to cut off his inheritance if he didn’t leave her.
It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that there might be more going on here than merely jealousy. History would dispute the view that beautiful women are invariably unpopular with other women. Carrie Fisher was the epitome of a woman’s woman. Jennifer Lawrence, Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz don’t seem to have any trouble making friends. Our own Amy Huberman is no slouch in the beauty department, and is so widely adored we’re all basically just putting in the hours until she runs for President.
Physically-attractive workers are more confident and higher confidence boosts wages
In fact, studies have shown that the uncommonly good-looking are uncommonly advantaged in many respects, beginning in school, where teachers are more likely to call on them. A 2005 Harvard study found that there is a “beauty premium”, which offers the very beautiful three distinct advantages. Physically-attractive workers are more confident and higher confidence boosts wages; they are (wrongly) considered more able by employers, and have better oral skills – such as communication and social skills – that raise their wages when they interact with employers. As a result, they earn 12 to 14 per cent more.
So it is not that we despise beautiful women. But could it be that we despise women who are beautiful and make the mistake of seeming to know it?
Ask Samantha Brick, who famously declared “I’m no Elle Macpherson, I’m tall, slim, blonde and, so I’m often told, a good-looking woman. I know how lucky I am. But there are downsides to being pretty – the main one being that other women hate me for no other reason than my lovely looks.” Within 24 hours, the article had got 1.5 million hits on the newspaper’s website and nearly 5,000 readers left comments, “many of which were negative”, as Wikipedia rather tartly puts it. We are apparently so astonished by a woman having the audacity to describe herself as “pretty” that Brick – who even got invited on the Late Late Show – is, six years later, still a figure of derision.
It is so taboo for a woman to describe herself as attractive that it is difficult to have a more meaningful conversation about whether the very beautiful suffer real disadvantages on top of their myriad advantages. Emily Ratajowski, a beauty by any standards, hinted at the downsides to her looks in an article in the Evening Standard, but she was careful with how she phrased it, cleverly avoiding invoking Brick’s Law. “I started to realise that I was being perceived differently” in puberty, she said. “It was confusing. Basically it was more about the way that people had a problem with a girl looking like a woman because it confused them, it made them feel uncomfortable and I think there was a lot of guilt that they wanted to induce.”
Like it or not, Ratajowski, Brick, and the anonymous beauty, have a point. Women are not primed to dislike other women on the basis of their looks alone, but if they’re good looking, and confident, and have the audacity to moan about it, that has proven to be a toxic combination. Why is harder to answer. Is it an internalised misogyny? Begrudgery? A horror of women with notions? But why shouldn’t very attractive people admit they know it?
Rich people would seem very duplicitous if they tried to pretend they didn’t think they were rich. We don’t insist smart people pretend to believe they are stupid, or prefer athletic people to swear they’re completely unfit. And yet, we want the very beautiful to plead that they really aren’t; that they can’t see it; that they don’t know what we’re talking about. It all seems like a strange waste of energy. Are the very beautiful supposed to be blind to the effect that they have on others? Would we prefer them to be riddled with the same insecurities and anguish the rest of us are? In a word: yes.
The real problem with our societal obsession with beauty is that, as the woman in the New York article ultimately admits, beauty is ephemeral and ultimately meaningless. The anonymous beauty admits age has caught up with her, so that she now passes “as normal”. Ironically, with the passing of time, she says, she has become a better person but now no-one cares.
“It doesn’t matter how beautiful you were in your youth; when you age you become invisible. You could still look fabulous but . . . who cares? As far as the world is concerned? I’ve lost all my value.”