The Myth of the Makeover

Braces. Frizzy hair. Glasses. Frumpy clothes.  This is how the ugly duckling is usually portrayed in popular media.

Popularized in movies such as The Princess Diaries, She’s All That, and Mean Girls, they feature the transformation of an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan.

One reason these movies are such a hit is because they give us hope. I don’t think there is a single girl on this planet this has never been unsatisfied with some aspect of her appearance. So when we see movies like this, it’s like the metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel. ‘That will be me one day,” goes spinning through our minds.

These stereotypes of what is “ugly” are also harmful. Have you noticed that most of the beautiful, attractive women in movies have similar appearances? They are all tall and slim with 20/20 vision, an impeccable fashion sense, and they don’t ever have a single hair out of place.

And you know what? All these people portraying supposedly unattractive characters are pretty damn attractive already!

Personally, I feel that the most harmful thing about these movies is that they give people unrealistic expectations that changing their looks will solve everything.

But who can blame them? Usually what happens in these story lines is that a makeover will inevitably be accompanied by a rise through the social hierarchy, from outcast to prom queen. Don’t forget the really popular guy that falls in love with her immediately – after the makeover, of course.

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In some instances, these swans also seem to develop a new personality overnight!

In real life, we know that changing your wardrobe does not change your personality. A girl who is usually shy, quiet and insecure doesn’t suddenly become loud, brash and outspoken overnight just because they added on makeup and changed their clothes. If someone changes drastically after a makeover, then the underling personality was always there, they probably just hid it better.

After all, there many reasons why people were in the “ugly duckling” phase to begin with – and it’s not because they weren’t gifted genetically. Maybe it’s due to lack of money or time. Maybe trying to conform to what society considers stylish isn’t practical for where they work.

In reality, we come in all shapes and sizes. Some of us have untamable flyaway hair. Others will only be 5’2” in four-inch heels. And some of us may not have features that adhere to popular notions of beauty.

However, there is nothing wrong about wanting to look the best that we can.

And I don’t mean plastic surgery.

Instead, I’m advocating that we should work on the things that we can change.

1. Smile.

Did you know that smiling makes you more attractive and can increase your happiness? Many studies have shown that this simple act helps project health and self-confidence. When we smile at others, often this elicits an unconscious reflex to return the smile.

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2. Be clean and well-groomed.

This one is a no-brainer. Cleanliness has long been associated with improved social standing and health. A wave of her fairy godmother’s wand changes Cinderella from filthy rags to a stunning ball gown before she sets off to meet her prince.

3. Dress for your body shape, age and profession.

In TLC’s What Not to Wear, these were the three rules imposed by hosts Clinton and Stacy that all participants had to follow. The fact that the show had a successful ten season run certainly confirmed that they were doing something right. Participants’ personalities and preferences were taken into account when developing their new wardrobes so that they would feel comfortable yet look good at the same time.

4. Be positive.

A study has also shown that having a pleasant personality can also make you appear more attractive to others around you. Everyone knows that hanging around someone who is always negative can be really emotionally exhausting. Conversely, happiness is infective.

5. Love yourself.

Stop obsessing over imperfections and celebrate your strengths. Maybe you don’t like the shade of your hair, but you were blessed with unblemished, glowing skin. It’s easy to become obsessed over what we don’t like about ourselves that we automatically discount all the things that we were blessed with.

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Even the most beautiful person in the world still has something that they would want to change about their appearance. Beauty standards also vary greatly across different cultures and geographical areas. Chances are the ugly duckling you see in the mirror may already appear as a swan to someone else.

Editor’s note: At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you’re doing what makes you happy. Who cares if it doesn’t fit into some weird rule society has tried to impose on you — do you, because we love you for it. (Just don’t hurt anyone else, okay?)