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Friday, November 3, 2017

Does fame make people better-looking?

One of the things I've always been struck by is how some women who are famous are automatically thought of as great beauties, even when they're not. A case in point would be Jackie Kennedy:


Yes, she was good-looking, and yes, she was half of the twentieth century's most glamorous couple. And when someone is photographed as much as she was, the effect when you finally see them in person must be electrifying. But she really wasn't any great beauty.


If you didn't know who she was, and saw her for the first time, say, behind a cash register at your local Stop & Shop, and she wasn't all dolled up in the latest expensive fashions, with makeup perfectly applied, you might not even look twice. Her own sister Lee Radziwill was better-looking:



I was idly Google-imaging Anouk Aimee, the French actress, recently, which is what sparked this post. She was a rough contemporary of Jackie's, and in some pictures bore a resemblance to her, but was a real beauty:




The fame phenomenon seemed to apply to Princess Diana:


She was frequently described as a great beauty, but if you look at her face, feature by feature, it's pretty ordinary. Again, given how much she was photographed, she must have seemed magical to those who finally saw her in person. And, of course, having the best makeup artists and hairdressers helped too.

But all that makes you wonder how she would have been perceived if she hadn't been married to Prince Charles, and if she hadn't been famous. I can honestly tell you that if I'd gone to high school with her, she would barely have registered.


I've seen local high school girls, and local housewives, who are far better-looking than either Jackie or Princess Di, though they'll never become famous. And who knows, some of them may lose their looks by middle age anyway. But that doesn't mean they're not better-looking now than Jackie or Di ever were.

Fame, and glamor, are weird things. They put beer goggles on us, even when we're stone sober.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

John,

I've had the same exact thoughts about Jackie and Diana over the years -- perplexed by what others see that I don't. I think the fame factor and access to the best clothing and makeup artists certainly plays a role. I think there's something too about being an "accessible" beauty -- pretty, but not intimidatingly so -- that sometimes causes a woman to be overrated as well, when that is accompanied by a pleasing personality. Undoubtedly charisma has something to do with it, too. Whether male or female, you can't help but perceive someone as more attractive when they have that certain "it" factor.

I once visited the summer home of Jackie's family in Newport when it was open to the public. I paid special attention to the photographs of young Jackie throughout the home, precisely because I was looking for something that the public seemed to see that I could not. I was more impressed by her in those pictures than I expected to be. Not wowed, but more impressed.

Julie

John Craig said...

Julie --
That "accessible" beauty theory has been used to explain why a lot of successful actresses have achieved their success. Otherwise how can you explain Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, and Kate Hudson? Of course, there are other methods actresses use to get roles, as has become increasingly evident since the Harvey Weinstein scandal (I'm not suggesting those three in particular necessarily got their roles that way). And, there are other factors, like nepotism and friendships and agents with clout. Anyway, I don't buy the accessibility theory. I think the public for the most part wants to see better-looking actors and actresses.

I also think people sort of undergo a mass brainwashing by fame. It's almost as if the fame itself makes them seem more glamorous than they are. The Jackie effect even extended to her son, who was a nice-looking guy but not nearly as handsome as he was described.

Jokah Macpherson said...

"Fame, and glamor, are weird things. They put beer goggles on us, even when we're stone sober."

What you mean 'us', Kemo Sahbee?

By the way, Kate Middleton is only 1 year younger than Diana was when she died.

John Craig said...

Jokah --
The "us" was short for, "a lot of us." (Glad to hear you didn't don the beer goggles for those two. I never did, either.)

That is a surprising statistic. Diana seemed like she'd been around forever by the time she died, maybe that was a misimpression created by the incredible amount of press she got.

Anonymous said...

people are verbs - not nouns- always changing and always in flux.so someone can be very attractive on mon and not so much on wed. and i think that the fame factor can work in the other direction- someone becomes famous and as a result has a better self estimation and their appearance changes as a result.
and about jackie o- in the black and white photo id bet she was having her period and retaining water- making her look a little bloated. as you have noted- some people would actually be attractive if the weighed less- (booze can have the same effect) as i said- always changing. (and i think jackie o was attractive - not "giant" era liz taylor but certainly pretty)

John Craig said...

Anon --
True about appearances changing, and I'll admit I chose that black and white photo of Jackie for effect, but my larger point was that overall, fame makes people *perceive* somewhat ordinary-looking people as glamorous, in a way they wouldn't if those people weren't famous.

And so true about weight.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, I have always heard that Jackie was an extremely heavy chain smoker, yet took great care to never be photographed partaking. And indeed, there is only a very small handful of photographic evidence out there of her heavy habit, despite nearly always having a cigarette in her fingers and nearly always being photographed.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Wow, she was certainly good at hiding her habit, I had no idea she smoked.

That may have had something to do with her death from cancer. And, maybe, how she kept her figure.

Anonymous said...

Yup. They say three packs a day. So it likely has everything to do with her figure and her cancer. Plus, if you see the pic of her smoking while pregnant with Baby Patrick (born prematurely and dying within days), it makes one wonder about the possible connection between her heavy smoking and problem pregnancies (miscarriage, a stillborn and a premie)...

https://goo.gl/images/vmyv5A

John Craig said...

Anon --
Ah, I had forgotten about the pregnancies......

And actually, that leads to another subject: her face looked as if she had fetal alcohol syndrome herself, with those wide-set eyes. The above pictures of her make that fairly apparent.

She did have a great figure, though. Google "Jackie Kennedy naked" for a series of paparazzi shots from 1972; she looks great. (For that body I could have easily forgiven that Tweetie Bird face.)

Clara Oneill said...

Kevin Spacey:Sociopath alert??

John Craig said...

Clara Oneill --
Good question. I'm not sure whether he is, to be honest. I just don't know enough about his behavior to be able to say. If the rest of his personal and professional life matched his approach to sex, then there would be a strong case to be made. His family background was certainly abusive enough. But again, I just don't know enough to say.

Not Dave said...

Reading the various comments I was reminded of the Seinfeld episode where the woman looked good in some lighting but bad in other lighting. Of course they went out of their way to make that woman look like Frankenstein in bad light but it was still funny.

I have always found Jackie Kennedy to be froggy looking, as in her eyes are too far apart. She was a media darling though and always put in good light (pun intended). There are a lot of celebrities that are average looking but get dolled up for public and are passed as beautiful when they're not.

Celebrity goggles, idol worship, whatever you want to call it. Just like Hillary Clinton worship - to some people she can do no wrong and she's the savior of our nation if given the chance.

When you said about Diana, "... by the time she died," that made it sound as if it was a long time coming instead of saying, "... when she died." I know it wasn't your intent. And those early photos of her, I'm not so sure she was even average looking. Over time she did get better looking.

Selena Gomez is idolized as being all-beautiful but her face looks like that of a 10 year old. I'm sure folks believe Rachel Maddow is a beauty queen too even though she looks like Ralph Macchio. Every time I see Julia Roberts I see her brother Eric. Not good looking at all, not even in the slightest.

Not Dave said...

Kevin Spacey? The only thing he was in that I liked was The Usual Suspects. He was good at playing a wimp. He's always seemed effeminate to me. My wife said everyone knew he was gay. I didn't really think about it though because I didn't care and didn't watch anything he was in (except the aforementioned movie). I did find it odd for him to come out as gay as soon as someone says he solicited a minor. Timing was strange unless there's a motive, kind of like a "get out of jail free" card. And the excuse that he must've been really drunk. Well we know alcohol lowers your inhibitions so if he did try to get with a 14 year old boy then it wasn't the alcohol that "made" him do it, the alcohol removed his filter and his true self appeared.

As for being or not being a sociopath I know very little about him in that regard. He's never been an actor on my radar.

John Craig said...

Not Dave --
Ha, a frog, I never quite saw Jackie that way. I saw her more as Tweety Bird....Agree about the average-looking celebrities that are dolled up.....That's a good analogy with Hillary Clinton's character -- it was "dolled up" for public consumption, as if she actually did care about the poor, and women, and anything other than her own image and power and money.

I wasn't familiar with Selena Gomez, just looked her up, you're exactly right, she does look like a 10-year-old. And not even a particularly good-looking one.

You got the Spacey "coming out" admission exactly right. He was just trying to deflect attention from his crime. A lot of crimes are committed under the influence, and I have et to hear of a judge who's said, "Oh, you were drunk? We'll let you off then."

Spacey is a good actor. He was excellent in "House of Cards," too. Someone once told me to look up "Kevin Spacey celebrity impersonations" on Youtube; it was very impressive. Take a look.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Kevin Spacey, more than a few commenters on another website that I read from, stated that on House of Cards, Kevin Spacey wasn't acting, rather, he was being himself. I personally think he's disordered. To me, he's always had a creepy vibe about him.

- birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
I agree that Spacey is good at projecting a creepy vibe, and maybe it's just him being himself; it wouldn't be surprising. But he is a good actor, too, as those celebrity impersonations showed.

Anonymous said...

Spacey's older brother shared tidbits about the Spacey parents. Not a good home life, upbringing for the Spacey children, quite disturbing in fact. I can totally see all of the children (three children total) growing up, having serious psychological issues as adults.

- birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
Yes, his brother said that their father molested him (the brother). Pretty ugly. Not surprising that Kevin Spacey would end up a quasi-child molester himself.

Anonymous said...

John, I think Amal Clooney fits in this category as well. She is tall and thin with a body made for designer clothing. Because she caught the eye of one of the world's most eligible bachelors she is now also deemed a beauty. (She benefits from her do-gooder status too in that regard.) Here's a picture of what she looked like before she was famous:


http://www.tmz.com/2014/07/15/george-clooneys-fiance-amal-alamuddin-wig-law-school-photo/


Julie

John Craig said...

Julie --
I didn't think she looked bad in that law school graduation photo. I can see why you say that, though, I think most people would agree with you. But, to be honest, when I first saw her picture I found her attractive, she has even and elegant features that appeal to me.

I read an article about her once that basically described her as obnoxious and entitled and arrogant. A lot of people with public reputations as do-gooders seem to fit that personality profile.

Anonymous said...

I always thought that the young Jackie was very attractive. Her smoking habit was a surprise. Goodness, three packs a day is something. However, most people smoked back then, a very common habit.

- Susan

John Craig said...

Susan --
I don't think she was unattractive, she certainly had a nice figure, but she was no great beauty. And the press always treated her as if she was, just because of her position. It was a little like The Emperor's New Clothes; people were blinded by the fact that she was, in effect, the Empress.

Anonymous said...

I actually think she was a beauty. However, as she aged, her beauty faded.

- Susan

Anonymous said...

Spacey reeks of sociopath; I'm really not surprised with everything coming out in the wash now

Anonymous said...

I have always thought Diana was actually rather ugly. No feature on her face is a positive. With all the praise she receives most people probably forgot she was an adultress who left her family and started galivanting with an Arab Muslim playboy. Or maybe that is why the West is so screwed up.

Anonymous said...

Jackie O's "good looks" were as overrated as her husband Jack's.

John Craig said...

Anon --

Ha, so true, and you're the first person I've heard say that. I hadn't thought much about it, but he's always described as "handsome," yet he wasn't, at all. When he was young an skinny he had a sort of boyish cuteness, but by the time he got to the White House his health problems had kicked in and he had a sort of bulging-eyed, cheekbone-less fat-faced look.

If he'd lived to be 60 he'd have ended up looking like Auric Goldfinger.