When the Seemingly Ugly Is Very Beautiful

IMG_20151106_091859Imagine this: you walk to work surrounded by cranes in the sky, trucks roaring beside you, cars impatiently waiting at a tense standstill as heavy mobile cement mixers drive against the traffic.  Then imagine having to take walking detours as men in hard hats motion you to get out-of-the-way of a huge load of metal rods that are being lowered onto the street.  And almost every street has scaffolding obscuring any character of the buildings you pass.  There are no scents of flowers or shady trees.  There are no sculptures or mini parks.  There’s just concrete, trucks and wooden make-shift walls.

“Ugh,” you’re probably thinking, “what a horrible place to be.”

Well, this is my commute, EVERY SINGLE DAY.  I walk from 59th St and 10th avenue to my offices on 15th street in in Manhattan. For over 40 blocks I can’t avoid any of this.

And, yet, I love it!  I find all this hassle, men in hard hats, grinding sounds of construction and boarded up buildings, well, beautiful.  There is an energy to all of this construction.  Men and women are hard at work, yelling commands at one another, measuring distances or hustling to manage some sort of construction material.  You can really see the imagination and brawn of humankind taking shape. It’s quite magnificent.  It literally takes my breath away.

Why am I sharing this experience with you all?  Because so many of us live in cruise control.  We don’t notice the beauty around us.  More importantly, we don’t the notice the beauty that may be hidden to us at first glance.   We are constantly on the move trying to achieve the next thing — picking up our kids, getting to work, prepping for our presentation.  And let’s be honest, there may not be any flowers to stop and smell along the way.  But I guarantee you that there is beauty taking shape in interesting ways all around us, all the time.  We just need to tilt our heads in a slightly different angle and truly notice it.

This desire to see the beauty in the seemingly mundane — even ugly — things around us is one of the explanations for the preponderance of banal images that seem to overwhelm our internet feeds.  In my research I found that people are attracted to these everyday pics MORE than the the unusual, out-of-this-world stuff because we crave the beauty in the everyday.  Such a discovery elevates our everyday and reminds us that our daily lives are full of wonder, not just the grind.

What may seem ugly, drab or boring may just be quite beautiful.  We just need to scrape away the layers a bit and truly take the time to think about it.  But when you do, you’ll realize how cool our everyday world really are.

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What is Absent Here is the Most Startling & Amazing

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My news feed was filled on Friday morning with article after article about the “controversial” Elle cover featuring an Australian model/mom breast-feeding her infant.

Why was it controversial?  NOT because you saw some of her beautiful boob or that she was  –gasp — breastfeeding for all to see.  No.  The controversy was around Elles cover change.

If you were to come upon the magazine in a shop or news stand, you would see a version with the model fully clothed while still holding her baby.  (Why she is holding her baby dressed in haute couture is downright weird but that’s another discussion.)  The breastfeeding-covered issue was intended for subscribers only.

So what was the controversy?  People protested the magazine’s fully clothed version, not the breastfeeding one!  And I love it!  People were criticizing Elle for playing into the cultural disdain for breast-feeding in public.  And what I love more?  There was no one criticizing Elle for its breastfeeding version.  In other words, a beautiful photo of a mother breast-feeding is just that to most people — a beautiful photo of someone doing something beautiful.  End of story.

How far we have come!

I remember I had to fight one of my former employers an office door so I could breastfeed my first child over 13 years go. (We were all “doorless” then.) Very few of my colleagues pumped or breastfed, and they certainly didn’t do it exclusively for over a year.  But I pushed myself to do it.  And this meant my boobs were exposed in bathrooms, trains, planes and automobiles.  I didn’t love the funny looks or the “encouragement” by others to cover up, but I’m glad I did it.

Today it’s gotten so much better. And I’m grateful for that.  Not only are breasts seen as beautiful because of the sexuality they represent, but also because of the nourishment, love and comfort they offer our loved ones.

Yeah, maybe Elle should have let the whole world see the breast-feeding cover.  But at least they took the first step.

Beauty From Around the World & Why It’s Contagious

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People often ask why we started this blog.  The first reason: I have learned quite a bit about beauty in our culture from all my client work over the years.  Another reason: I find it a very interesting, and personally relevant topic.  Finally, it’s a subject that gets a ton a play, i.e., it’s a topic that always seems to generate conversation — every day.

Case in point?  I subscribe to beauty alerts from Google.  Every day I get story after story about the topic.  And that’s just articles with key word “beauty” in the title!  I realized that not only would I have continual fodder for this blog, but that other people seem to care –I mean REALLY care — about beauty.  We can argue the pros and cons of this high level of interest, which we have done a lot in this blog over the years.  But the reality is we do care — a lot.

And what I’m about to show you all is a great example of this.  The other day I came across this story about a Romanian photographer, Mihaela Noroc, who travels the world taking stunning pictures of young women.  The effort is called Atlas of Beauty.  At first blush this seems pretty banal, especially in our selfie-dominant culture .  How many more pictures of people can we look at?  The answer?  A lot!

This story has made the rounds.  People are fascinated by these images.  And I can understand why.  Not only are the subjects well photographed, but it is clear that each woman is unique.  Her background, coloring, facial structure and wardrobe are reflective of her native country. So each picture is a window into another world. But even more fascinating is how beautiful each one of these women are.  No question, beauty comes in all so many forms.

But still, why should we care SO much?  Our desire to appreciate beauty is innate.  We are hardwired to be attracted to it. Many argue we’ve evolved to be attracted to beautiful faces as they are a sign of health, and the owners of the faces, therefore, are worthy of reproducing with.  But I think it goes deeper than that.  I think our appreciation is born from a need to ground us.  So many of us are in our heads for good and bad reasons.  We are either spiritual, intellectual or just plain worried all the time.  We need to remember we are physical beings and tied to the earth. By witnessing beauty in others, we are reminded of this.  We need to reconnect with our bodies and the physical world around us more.  The more we connect to physical selves, the more whole we will feel.  I encourage you all to spend time appreciating these photos.  They are worth it.

Weekend Observations: When Even the "Ugliest" of Baggage is Elevated

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This was one of the first mornings in a long time that I had the luxury of reading the “paper” (online, of course).  Why? Because all my munchkins are at sleep away camp.
In all honesty, they’ve been away for a week and a half already but between work travel and constant threats from the camp about sending my youngest home, (needless to say she can be a wee bit sassy), I’ve been either too stressed or too busy to relax.  Well, the tides have turned and the camp is willing to keep my daughter, phew.  And this means I can actually decompress for a minute.
Now, back to beauty.
So while I was skimming through USA Today (one of the first news apps on my iPad so i honor it by reading it first :)) during my morning java, I came across this picture of British model, Bethany Townsend, lying with her colostomy bags.  Needless to say she is gorgeous.  But I give her a ton of credit for truly revealing herself — bikini and colostomy bags and all.
There’s tons of literature and pics of women baring all to give others a sense of confidence in their own beauty.  But — come on — few extra pounds or zits are NOTHING compared to displaying something that is still so “swept under the rug.”
In fact, this shot got so much buzz that she’s truly inspired women across the globe with Crohn’s disease to feel beautiful and show that beauty (colostomy bags and all) off with selfies!
Wow, we all just need to buck up and stop being so worried about what other people think — including me.  But, I should add, that Townsend still looks fantastic — in shape, beautiful skin,and gorgeous hair.  It’s not that doesn’t care about how she looks, she’s just not ashamed of it.  Even better!
Pretty cool.
 
 
 
 

Weekend Observations: When Even the “Ugliest” of Baggage is Elevated

Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 7.20.53 PM

This was one of the first mornings in a long time that I had the luxury of reading the “paper” (online, of course).  Why? Because all my munchkins are at sleep away camp.

In all honesty, they’ve been away for a week and a half already but between work travel and constant threats from the camp about sending my youngest home, (needless to say she can be a wee bit sassy), I’ve been either too stressed or too busy to relax.  Well, the tides have turned and the camp is willing to keep my daughter, phew.  And this means I can actually decompress for a minute.

Now, back to beauty.

So while I was skimming through USA Today (one of the first news apps on my iPad so i honor it by reading it first :)) during my morning java, I came across this picture of British model, Bethany Townsend, lying with her colostomy bags.  Needless to say she is gorgeous.  But I give her a ton of credit for truly revealing herself — bikini and colostomy bags and all.

There’s tons of literature and pics of women baring all to give others a sense of confidence in their own beauty.  But — come on — few extra pounds or zits are NOTHING compared to displaying something that is still so “swept under the rug.”

In fact, this shot got so much buzz that she’s truly inspired women across the globe with Crohn’s disease to feel beautiful and show that beauty (colostomy bags and all) off with selfies!

Wow, we all just need to buck up and stop being so worried about what other people think — including me.  But, I should add, that Townsend still looks fantastic — in shape, beautiful skin,and gorgeous hair.  It’s not that doesn’t care about how she looks, she’s just not ashamed of it.  Even better!

Pretty cool.

 

 

 

 

Pic of the Week: The Beauty of Decay

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While we load our feeds with images of sunsets, beaches, and gorgeous architecture, there’s another type of beauty that’s rarely recognized: the beauty of decay.  A duo of British photographers, Daniel Marbaix and Daniel Barter, have explored the world for sites of urban decay.  In their book, “States of Decay“, they expose the beauty of ruined trains stations, factories and cathedrals.  (For more see CNN’s story: Photographers find beauty in ‘states of decay’)
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Pic of the Week: Incredible Surreal Self-Portraits

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It’s not infrequently that I’m blown away by kids.  Just go to a TED event and you’ll hear magical music played by an 8 year-old or learn how a cure for some deadly disease was discovered by a teenager.  I was taken aback yet again by these captivating, thought provoking portraits by Zev from my home state, Massachusetts.  Thanks to my colleague, Ben, he shared them with me via demilked.com.  Wow, I feel both inspired and, I must admit, humbled by this gifted child.photomanipulations-self-portraits-zev-fiddle-oak-17

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Pic of the Week: Large Beauty of Display … But Does Celebrating It Mean We Endorse It?

Full-beauty-ProjectNewsweek recently published a story about an array of stunning photos by Yossi Loloi called The Full Beauty Project: Big Women Bare All.  The Italian photographer began this project in 2006 to challenge accepted views around beauty, sexuality and femininity.  The pictures are certainly gorgeous and I’m inspired by how brave and empowered these women appear.  While I appreciate all forms of beauty, I question how far we should go to advocate for such extreme weight gain.  Any physician would gasp in horror at such bodies, not because of how they look, but because they fear for these women’s lives.  And yet, maybe if we celebrate such beauty, these women will indeed appreciate their own bodies more and find ways to stay as healthy as possible.
Thoughts?
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Pic of the Week: The Beauty of Raw Advertising

IMG_20131014_171553I’m walking to work yesterday and looked up to see this raw, simple ad for yoga.  I just love how it fits right into the landscape.  It is not only simple, and straightforward, like the buildings that surround it, but this ad communicates a quiet confidence that represents all of Chelsea, NYC.  The net result? Striking.