Definitions of beauty in the 20th century, when referring to human physical beauty, are nearly always constructed in terms of outward appearance and sexual attractiveness.
…a personal story by Miss Chrissy, The Lindy Charm School for Girls
Nancy Baker’s definition of The Beauty Trap is more concerned with intangible personal qualities. “A truly beautiful woman makes the best of her physical assets but, more importantly she also radiates a personal quality which is attractive.” In Beauty In History, Arthur Marwick defines human physical beauty in more direct terms: “The beautiful are those who are immediately exciting to almost all of the opposite sex.”
Looking your best boosts the confidence and the spirits. Just ask the ladies who’ve benefit from the Look Good, Feel Better organisation’s work for women who are battling or recovering from cancer. And often faking confidence can lead to genuine confidence.
As countless makeover shows have proven over the years, a change of image – even the slightest tweak – can work wonders, not just on your confidence but on how others see you. And that bounces right back at you and inspires self-confidence.
“The face and boobs are new, only the ass is the same”, said Crawford after cosmetic surgery for her comeback at MGM – 1953
Firstly let’s talk about our obsession with cosmetic surgery….
Starting with some of the most recognisable and gorgeous women of the Golden Years of Glamour and what they endured to Look Good and to Feel Better.
Then I’d like to talk about three very inspirational, independent women in my family and how the devastating effects of cancer have changed their priorities and made them question their own Look Good Feel Better regimes.
I was reminded of the power of the makeover when watching Rita Hayworth’s classic melodrama Gilda. Its star wasn’t a chameleon on the scale of Joan Crawford, but she did undergo a couple of simple yet radical transformations during her career. The first was when she underwent painful and intensive electrolysis to move her hairline back. Before the treatments her hairline was very low and unflattering. Post-electrolysis, her beautiful face was shown to full advantage and a star was born!
For years, actresses who wanted to avoid surgery endured the ‘Hollywood lift’- a face tugging device rigged up by makeup artists with glue, silk thread, and rubber bands. But it was hard on the ears and would sometimes snap in the middle of a scene.
Even crazier still is the Dimple Machine pictured left!
Even one of the most iconic women of the 20th Century, Marilyn Monroe, had plastic surgery. However there is no general consensus on how much she had or who performed it. In 1949 Monroe was known as a $75-a-week contract player getting nowhere fast. According to Patrick McGrady in his book The Youth Doctors, after overhearing someone refer to her as ‘a chinless wonder’, Monroe had a tiny chin graft. In Marilyn Monroe, the Biography, Donald Spoto credits late plastic surgeon Michael Gurdin with inserting a silicone prosthesis in her jaw – to give her face a softer line and removing a slight bump of cartilage from the tip of her nose.
According to A. Richard Grossman, a plastic surgeon who worked with Gurdin in 1964, Monroe was also given breast implants. They were probably made of Ivalon sponge, the troublesome material that predated silicone gel. Other sources say Monroe may have also had (now-forbidden) liquid-silicone injected into her breasts. Shortly before her death in 1962 Rosemary Ashley Eckersley, the widow of Franklin Ashley, Hollywood’s other prominent plastic surgeon of that era said, “Marilyn’s breasts were infected. They were oozing. Marilyn wanted Frank to do something about them, but he wouldn’t”. Credit: Allure – May 1995
“Hollywood and plastic surgery started out together, and now, it seems, there can’t be one without the other.” Nipping and Tucking in Tinseltown by Joan Kron
As troubled as Marilyn was over her appearance and her life, she was much more than glamour personified. She was a philanthropist, a gorgeous hearted woman and I think so terribly misunderstood at times. Throughout the 1960s in America, when racism and bigotry was commonplace, it would have been easy to sit on the fence as a high profile celebrity. But Marilyn didn’t. In fact the late great Miss Ella Fitzgerald shared this story with the world, which I think sums the lady up. See how engaged Marilyn is with Miss Fitzgerald in this picture? She is completely engaged in her conversation with her. This speaks volumes for Marilyn’s honesty, integrity and authenticity.
At the time, the popular nightclub Mocambo would not book Ella Fitzgerald because she was black. Fortunately for Ella, she had a powerful and unlikely benefactor in Marilyn Monroe. “I owe Marilyn Monroe a real debt… it was because of her that I played the Mocambo, a very popular nightclub in the ’50s. She personally called the owner of the Mocambo and told him she wanted me booked immediately. And if he did it, she promised she would take a front table every night. She told him that due to Marilyn’s superstar status, the press would go wild. The owner agreed and Marilyn was there at the front table, every night. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again. Marilyn was an unusual woman – she was ahead of her time without knowing it” – Ella Fitzgerald.
As the years pass the fashion trends change, evolve and revolve. Attitudes towards what constitutes beauty and how you attain it are questioned interminably. Today, the option of cosmetic surgery plays a disproportionately large role in how one Looks Good to Feel Better. I spoke to the three most important women in my life about their perceptions on this and here is what they said.
My baby sister Elisha is battling a rare and aggressive cancer and, as sick as she is, still dons a wig and does her makeup (when she’s up to it) because she instantly feels better if she looks better.
This is MY experience and my experience only. To me, beauty was all external. The better you looked on the outside the better you felt on the inside. This meant spending thousands of dollars on cosmetics, cosmetic surgery, fashion etc. I thought that to belong to an elitist society full of ‘beautiful people’, I needed to go on a never-ending quest to perfect my appearance through cosmetic enhancement. This quickly becomes an addiction because we never actually achieve the perfection we’re striving for.
Luckily through my experience with cancer I am now dealing with my appearance in a different way. I have been unable to keep up my cosmetic addiction. No more botox, fillers, hair extensions, new makeup, spray tans, porcelain teeth, miracle creams, latest fashions, all the BS that claims to make you ‘perfect’. So over the months my botox has worn off and my wrinkles have popped out, my hair has fallen out and I am bald. But all in all I feel the same. And I don’t believe the thousands of dollars I spent made the difference to my happiness.
Summing up, I’ve simply swapped plastic for fantastic, meaning how you feel inside is far more important than how you look on the outside! There’s much truth and power in the age old saying beauty comes from within.
|(Side Note): In order to raise much needed funds to enable new and revolutionary treatments that cost a lot of money to be trialled on Elisha, with a hope of saving this young single mother of 10 year old Jack’s life, we have established The Elisha Neave Fund. If you would like to donate anything, no matter how small, follow this link to Every Day Hero: Every Day Hero – Elisha Neave
From my other sister, Veronica:
When I had a double mastectomy at the age of 39 I seriously considered not having a reconstruction. I was just not sure who I would be reconstructing for. When I was finally sure I was doing it for myself I went ahead and had a very painful reconstruction and many subsequent surgeries to sort out malfunctions. I am glad I have two ridiculously firm and dubiously pert representations of boobs but it does challenge my ideals about beauty.
My two sisters call me the tree-hugging natural hippie type. Well I never really hug trees and hippies would be ashamed of most of my lifestyle choices. I do however try very hard to accept the natural beauty that I was blessed with. I rarely wear makeup or high heels or go to the hairdresser, manicurist or beauty clinic but I do take pride in my appearance. I look in the mirror and say, ‘this is me and I’m OK with that’. I would love to think that I can grow old gracefully, happily, and with a shining beauty that is all my own.
From my gorgeous Mum:
I always tried to dress well with what little I had. I have always believed that beauty comes from inside and giving is the only way to feel good even though sometimes it back fires. In those times we have to learn to give from the heart. Once we can learn to give freely and expect nothing in return, the beauty inside shines through. I knew I would lose my hair with the chemo I needed. Everyone said ‘buy a wig’ but I said no because this is what I am – why try to make myself something I am not? This is the real me!
Chrissy Keepence and the Lindy Charm School for Girls support the organisations Look Good, Feel Better, and Pink Hope.
The Lindy Charm School For Gilrs will host a raffle at the Love Vintage Show, Melbourne May 17-19, to support the Elisha Neave Fund.
Images courtesy of Chrissy Keepence, The Lindy Charm School for Girls