The gap between Madonna’s two front teeth, the unadulterated largeness of Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian’s famous rumps, the orangeness that is The Jersey Shore, the mole on Cindy Crawford’s gorgeous face; how do all of these things that we’d see on a normal person and be culturally taught to make fun of become the things that make these people icons in the sense of beauty?
The cynical part of me would think that it is all just a good bit of PR. The more you can set yourself apart as a celebrity the better off you are. There is a point when a famous person will do idiotic things, simply because they can, but the way you look is timeless and forever and in many ways it shapes trends and modern culture.
High school is such a tough place to be. You are becoming comfortable with your sexual identity, learning what it feels like to be an adult and of course dealing with the pressures of being on the cusp of greatness as our teachers never let us forget. High school is also a breeding ground for hatred and where you learn to form your opinion about all sorts of cultural issues, beauty being a very important one.
When I was in high school, I watched the kids out of the corner of my eye every day, not only to learn from them, but also because I was the skinny, short white kid with no acne. I was a target in high school because I was different. I went to school only half day to make time for training, I was obviously gay, and I was tiny. I was made fun of and bullied constantly and I wasn’t the only one. The overweight kids, the kids with weird teeth, the girls who wore too much makeup, the tall, skinny girls, nobody was safe. We went to high school to learn, but what curriculum? Is it not an important human trait to learn to make yourself feel better by putting others down? All the while, you are seeing famous people being adored for the things that you are getting beat up over.
There has been a lot said of the power of celebrity. Everyone has someone to look up to. There is a little bit of each of us in the plucky farm girl who wins American Idol and the proud, shapely black woman belting out “And I’m Telling You, I’m Not Going” at an awards show. We admire their fearlessness in being themselves in front of the world and for staying true to themselves. We try to find something to believe in through celebrities.
There is of course a flipside. I was the kid who spent 400 dollars I didn’t have on Dior sunglasses simply to look cool like Justin Timberlake, and my only high school friend was a bulimic white girl trying desperately to shed her parents genes and be thin like Britney.
Racial and cultural divides come into play as well when it comes to publicly mocking something who we’ve been taught is ugly or bad. In my opinion, white people are afraid of attacking anything from other races in fear of looking like racists. We accept a large rump on a non-caucasian but would never accept such a derriere on one of ours. How many times have I heard an African-American in a film or on television say the phrase, “skinny white b*tch”? I have been traveling to Asia for years now and the amount of skin whitening creams and the appeal of a small face with big eyes is overwhelming. Beauty isn’t a one trick pony, but think for a moment, Kirstie Alley is constantly dogged on in the tabloids for being overweight, but do we offer the same courtesy to Monique?
Like it or not, cultural beauty is bred from fear and from feeling inadequate in yourself. I say celebrate this beautiful world we live in but start by finding the iconic beauty in yourself. Don’t hate the differences or what you’re taught to believe. Appreciate beauty for being human.