Weekend Observations: What Compels Us To Judge Beauty?

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On any given day, I receive at least 1 or 2 articles in my feed about some beauty pageant going on somewhere in the world.  Because I’m traveling today, I have a bit of time to look over all the articles that I’ve catalogued for “later,” many of which are about pageants, of course.  And then I saw this new concept of the beauty pageant.  A TV show has hit the airwaves called: “Gusto Kong Maging Beauty Queen.”  It is essentially a show in which not-so-pretty gals compete (after major instruction and help) over their physical beauty.
I’m not judging whether this show is good for man(or woman)kind or not.  It just intrigues me HOW MUCH we feel compelled to judge whether something/someone is beautiful, or whether something/someone is more beautiful than the next thing/person.
What gives?
We know there are tons of academic/scientific studies on why we’re attracted to things of beauty.  But what drives us to want to evaluate one’s beauty vs another’s?
Then I started thinking, so much of our attraction to beauty hearkens back to caveman days.  Perhaps we’re dealing with same thing here. Maybe we hardwired to seriously evaluate mates before launching into procreation, and it’s this wiring that compels us to do it with all things/people of beauty today?
Ok, so if you buy my argument, then you’d think once we’ve determined our mates, we would no longer need to engage in these beauty evaluations.  Of course we don’t lose our appreciation for beauty once we get hitched.  But this compulsion to evaluate beauty is going a number of levels deeper.  To expend effort evaluating people’s beauty — — whether its watching a beauty pageant or reading about it, seems pretty wasteful.  And yet, societies around the world ALL do it — A LOT.
Hmm….I’m stumped.
If you have any ideas, lob ’em over!

Botox: the New Mental Health Drug

If you are one of those who hate to admit that you’ve gotten Botox or are just considering it but feel that it’s, well, a bit frivolous, then THINK AGAIN.  There’s one doctor out there who says it could be good for your mental health.
How so?  Dr Eric Finzi suggests that people with tense muscles between their eyebrows are more likely to be depressed.  When he treats people with Botox there, their muscles relax and these patients stop frowning.  The biggest benefit?  Their “emotional cloud lifts.” (Turning a frown upside-down may help lessen depression)
Two theories exist: 1. when your own facial expression seems pleasant, others will treat you more pleasantly.  No surprise, you feel happier as a result of this impact you have on others.  2. When your face is molded in a more pleasant way, e.g., you are a natural smiler vs frowner, you’re emotions follow suit (something about the muscles connecting to neural circuits of some sort).
Whichever the reason, we have another reason to feel good about doing what we can to make ourselves look and feel more beautiful.

Neurological Study Shows That Our Response to Art is Both Universal and Personal

(I have to confess before I launch into this post that I’m about to venture into a territory, ie. neurology, that I know very little about so bear with me…)

According to a new neurological study conducted by a team at NYU, “connecting deeply to a work of art activates the same part of everyone’s brain” (“How can beauty be both personal and universal?“)  Based on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers monitored blood flow to people’s brains when they were exposed to imagery and asked the to rate them based on how strongly they were “moved” by images.  The more they were moved, the more activity in the region of the brain known as the default mode network –“a network of areas associated with inward contemplation and assessment.”

But when the respondents were asked to what degree the art evoked a slew of different emotions, the differences among the respondents emerged.

What’s the “so what” here?  It shows that the relative level of effect of art is universal!  The personal relationship to art is reflected in how the art actually makes us feel.

Now the question is: what was the evolutionary reason for our emotional response to art/beauty?

More to Love: Additions to the Reading List

Torika Watters: Disqualified Fiji Beauty Contestant


  • Weird but fascinating, the beauty of NON-objects


  • When William Buffett starts investing in the beauty industry, people start taking it seriously


  • Artist Geoffrey Hendricks dishes it out to NY Times magazine about being an artist in the 70’s


  • An example of how beauty pageants provide a window into the good, the bad, and the ugly of culture


Any more stories to add? Comment or tweet us @Beautyskew 

More to Love: Additions to the Reading List

The Ugly Meter

Check out more great reading we collected:

  • New book, “Beauty of the Real” seems worth reading and it launched just yesterday


  • While the ugly meter isn’t actually new, its now hot…oy!


  • Why “Bike to Work Day” is really, really good for you


  • Anna Wintour on Stephen Colbert show!


Any other good stories to add? Comment or tweet us @Beautyskew


Weekend Observations: The Beauty of Authenticity

Beauty of Authentic Smiles

Like everyone else out there, I keep marveling at the popularity of so-called “reality shows.”  The characters are generally unlikable, the story-line is usually basic : a competition, girl-on-girl fight, and some crying baked in; and the setting is typical: new York, Atlanta, Miami, LA. etc.

But something struck me as I was huffing and puffing away on the elliptical machine last night (my need to lose weight is a story for another day, but something weighing on my mind…no pun intended!)  You see I listen to music on my iPad while I exercise but I like to watch the Food Network simultaneously.  I enjoy watching the chefs create something and given it’s mostly a visual experience, I can multi-task.

Unfortunately, I tend to work out during the hours that the Food Network airs its competitive shows.  But while I do miss some of the content, I can still get a feel for the drama.  Last night was one of those times that I was stuck watching a Food Network reality-show, “Restaurant Impossible,”  where a dying restaurant gets spruced up..management, menu, and decor-wise.  After an hour of obvious tension among all the show’s participants, the restauranteurs get to see the make-over of their business establishment.    As you can imagine, their reaction is one of being over-joyed.  The smiles on their faces, the surprise in their eyes, and the palpable shaking of their bodies is authentic.  There’s no acting there.  Even without sound, in fact probably because you can’t hear their reactions, you can truly witness the depth of their physical responses.  There’s no question that as a viewer, you respond in kind.

There have been many studies about real vs fake smiles, and how our every tiny line in our faces reveal our true feelings.  And, how others can detect those feelings instinctively.  So when we see true, honest, happiness, we feel it to the core.  No surprise its smiles  vs arm gestures or head movements that we examine so much.  Smiles are universal and so critical a part of interacting and connecting with others.  In fact, in Erotic Capital, a book we recently reviewed for you (Erotic Capital: What We Think of It), the author points out that even just being a “smiler” at the office can raise your erotic capital!

While I’m still not an avid reality TV watcher, I have a greater appreciation for it and those who watch it.  Moreover, I value authentic smiles more than ever and their effect on each one of us.

Go ahead, smile…but really mean it!

More to Love: Additions to the Reading List

Plus Size Mannequin

Sit back and enjoy!

  • Until recently, evolutionary biology couldn’t explain the love for beauty.  This article unravels it for us.


  • Industry reports that beauty brands are targeting younger and younger….hmmmmm


  • elf beauty targets ALL ages for its model contest…coooll


  • Why aren’t there more plus-sized mannequins…or should there be?


  • Another scientific approach to understanding beauty…this time using pythagoras…too reductive for me….


Want to add more to the list?  Comment or tweet us @Beautyskew.