Sorry Kristin, You’re Wrong. And Beautiful.
On Tuesday, July 26, social media editor Kristin Salaky wrote an article in The Washington Post titled “Stop telling me I’m ‘beautiful.’ I’m ugly. It’s fine.” In it, she explains that her looks have always been a liability for her, and that she chooses instead to define herself by the merits of her character.
While her call for a more balanced definition of female value is laudable, I’m compelled to argue that Ms. Salaky is wrong about her primary statement. In fact, the author is beautiful, and that’s an empirical statement that cannot be refuted. Allow me to explain:
Ever since I was a student in the Character Animation program at CalArts, I’ve studied the human figure. I’ve learned to see the body in all its forms, and have come to appreciate all of the types of shapes, sizes and proportions possible. I’ve come to the firm conclusion that all human beings are technically beautiful. One just has to look closely for the signs.
First, let’s look at the definition of beauty from the perspective of one of the greatest poets of all time, John Keats. In the final couplet of Ode on a Grecian Urn, the author claims simply:
‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty, — that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’
Ms. Salaky is beautiful because she speaks her truth. But I’m not referring to her assessment of her looks. Rather, she speaks to the truth of her feelings about her looks. Her courage to come forth and proclaim her willingness to accept her (incorrect) “ugly” status is beyond courageous, and it rings quite true. Someone who could hold such personal truths up for the world to see is certainly beautiful. Don’t take my word for it…look to Keats.
Next, let’s look at the evidence. After reading the article, like many other readers, I searched her name in Google Images and was met with a series of delightful photos of a young lady smiling happily into the camera. This allowed me to apply my decades of experience as a character designer, figurative artist and creative director.
Ms. Salaky’s smile is full, genuine and requires the use of her entire face. Her eyebrows are nicely sculpted and they arch way up, expressing not just kindness but joy. Her eyes are set nicely in her face, not too close or far apart, or protruding out like Steve Buscemi…who is handsome in other ways. The dimples on her cheeks and chin dance as she speaks and smiles, making her face delightfully active and almost cherubic. It’s very hard to smile with one’s entire face. Many of the top celebrities (who are often voted “most beautiful” using far less supportable terms) have trouble with this. Far too many well-sculpted genetic lottery winners don’t have the inner glow that Ms. Salaky has. Instead, they smile with just the bottom half of their face. Or just their mouth. Or in some of the worst cases, their upper lip and nose…as if they’ve just smelled something awful.
Ms. Salaky’s face is proportional and symmetrical, her smile is huge, her lips are full (something “beautiful” people pay lots of money to have through painful, unconvincing injections), and her eyes are dazzling. Her nose is straight, perfectly proportioned both in its parts and as a feature on her face, and her skin is free of any significant blemishes. All of these are marks of beauty. Again, this is not an opinion. This is strictly an assessment based on years of studying visual harmony, balance, design as well as the human face and figure.
Finally, let’s address Ms. Salaky’s call for a better definition of value to a person beyond beauty. I was raised by a woman who was always out-shined by her younger, more physically attractive sister. My mother struggled for years as a teenager to uncross her eyes, lose more weight and wear her very thick glasses as little as possible. But none of these issues with her physical appearance kept her back.
She grew to be a glorious human being, a fifth grade teacher whose former students would recognize and embrace her decades after they left her class. She was someone that made you feel like she was your best friend within ten minutes of meeting her. As she traveled throughout the world (despite her terrifying fear of flying), she left a lasting impression on everyone she met, thanks to her relentless smile, engaging personality and brilliant mind.
Ms. Salaky reminds me, in a way, of my mom. While she struggled throughout her life with her weight and her own opinion of her looks, that never stopped my father from falling in love with and marrying her (granted, she was an undeniable knockout at the time). That’s because what she looked like was only part of the picture. It’s who she was that made her stand out above and beyond most other women. This is a something I try to teach my daughter all the time.
So Ms. Salaky, I agree with your call to have women define themselves better. But I’d like to politely ask you to start with yourself. Not just because of artistic standards or because many of us want to sound like a Dove commercial. Your spirit and your mind shine through your words, and when those are combined with your looks, you simply cannot call yourself “ugly.” That is simply incorrect. And since you’re a writer, I’d suggest you choose your words more carefully next time.
You are beautiful. Accept it. It’s fine.