Recently, I overheard a heated discussion between a group of guys that really got me thinking.
They were debating about which female celebrities they thought were ugly. But what got my attention the most wasn’t “who” they each considered to be ugly, but how emotional and defensive they each were about their choice, and how everyone’s idea of what makes a woman ugly was so different.
Not wanting to leave the debate like that, I decided to find out what the general consensus on “ugliness” and “beauty” really was.
So, I did a search looking for the “Top 10” ugliest and the “Top 10” most beautiful celebrities; and what I discovered was that: Angelina Jolie appears on all the “most beautiful” lists, but she also appears on the “ugliest” lists. The same applies to Sarah Jessica Parker, Megan Fox and so many other celebrities that I lost track.
Yet, what does this all mean? How is it possible for a woman to be “ugly” and “beautiful” at the same time?
Probably the most important aspect of female beauty is the way us guys perceive it. Have you noticed how most guys will avoid beautiful women? Why? Because most guys believe that beautiful women are way out of their league and that a beautiful woman will be too self-centered and stuck up about her beauty to give an “ordinary” guy a second look.
However, if you’ve ever managed to get to know a beautiful woman, 9 times out of 10 she will be just an ordinary woman who has confidence issues of her own, and often may even perceive herself as being a lot more unattractive than she looks to you. According to a study, it seems that a whopping 97% of all young women think of themselves as being ugly!
According to Glamour, who surveyed over 300 women of all shapes, sizes and cultures, they found that on average, most women have about 13 negative thoughts about their body and their attractiveness daily – that’s almost one for every waking hour!
However it seems that for a large percentage of women it’s even worse than that; a large number of women confess to having 35, 50 or even 100 hateful thoughts about themselves and their body image every single day.
In fact, it’s relatively common for a woman to say to herself daily, “You are a fat, worthless pig.” “You’re too thin. No man is ever going to want you.” “Ugly. Big. Gross.”¹
Are you shocked yet?
The subject of beauty (or ugliness) is definitely a heated one. So, what really makes a woman ugly (or beautiful)? Is it the shape of her face, the color of her skin or the size of her nose?
Are fat women less attractive than skinny women? Are women ugly because they perceive themselves as being ugly, and does being “beautiful on the inside” actually make a difference to a woman’s beauty, or is it something ugly women say to make themselves feel better about their ugliness?
What is Beauty?
Before we can say if a woman is ugly or beautiful, we first have to determine what beauty really is.
According to the dictionary the word beauty means, “a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight”, while the definition for ugly is, “very unattractive or unpleasant to look at; offensive to the sense of beauty; displeasing in appearance.”
Sounds simple enough, yet when it comes to defining ugliness or beauty in real life, no two people can agree. All over the world feminine beauty is regarded differently. For example: In Eastern countries such as China, women are regarded beautiful if they are very thin, have a boyish figure with very small breasts, thin lips, big eyes, and very white skin.
On the other side of the continent in Brazil, women with curves are regarded as the most beautiful. Bodies that are seen as “guitar” shaped are considered the most attractive and the traditional Brazilian woman has a big, pert bottom with smaller breasts.
African women undergo many traditional “changes” to become more beautiful, for example the women in the Mursi tribe of Ethiopia go to great lengths to insert a lip plate in their lower lip to become more attractive for a potential husband. The bigger the plate the more beautiful the woman is regarded.
It’s safe to say that beauty is perceived differently around the world, but unfortunately, the Western ideal is now becoming the norm in many parts of the world and more and more women globally are measuring themselves against this ideal; and failing miserably.
Hot or Not: Are You Brave Enough to Take the Test?
As the West continues to influence the beauty standards of the rest of the world, women globally are looking for ways to “prove” to themselves that they are not as ugly as they believe themselves to be.
Recently, on Weibo, the Chinese version of Facebook, over 200 000 users (mostly women), participated in “the finger trap test” otherwise known as the “Beauty and Ugliness Identification Method”. The premise of the test is that if you place your index finger against your chin and nose, if your lips touch it, then you’re classified as being hot.
If they don’t, you’re not. Apparently the test is “loosely based on the 3.1 ratio theory, which is used by cosmetic surgeons to create the ‘perfect profile’ which equates to your nose, lips and chin all being in a perfect line down your face.
Dr Mark Holmes at McIndoe Surgical Centre said of the test: “This is actually a bona fide test for lower facial symmetry and proportions. It is called Rickett’s E-line.”
However, consultant cosmetic surgeon Brent Tanner, who works out of the Spire Tunbridge Wells Hospital, Nuffield Health Brighton Hospital and Montefiore, Hove, added: “Although this trend is based on classical principles that date back to the time of Leonardo Da Vinci it is a very simplistic view and beauty is based on much more than one set of ratios. It’s a fun test to do but must be taken with a pinch of salt.”²
A pinch of salt is definitely right, as many women in China seem to failing the test. Fortunately among those who are failing are many Chinese celebrities who have been brave enough to post photos of themselves taking the “test”.
Are you brave enough to try the test on yourself? And what happens if you don’t pass; does it mean that you’re ugly? Well the good news is that even celebrities deemed as being gorgeous such as Angelina Jolie would fail the test.
Can Beauty be Measured by Science?
In the West, women’s beauty is dictated largely by the media, which is why the cosmetics, clothing, beauty, weight loss and plastic surgery industries are making millions of dollars every year by telling women that they have the secret that will turn them from “ugly ducklings” into “beautiful swans”.
But is beauty based solely on the whims of the money-making marketing machine, or is there scientific evidence that can help us determine what makes one woman (or person) more beautiful than another?
Well, according to a study led by the University of Toronto which appears in the journal Vision Research, there is. It seems that they have discovered the key to ugliness vs. beauty and this key is the measurements between the eyes, mouth and ears, which they call “the golden ratio”.
They used the golden ratio to gauge the attractiveness of average women as well as that of celebrities. Interestingly enough, famous women who the average woman reveres for her beauty and tries so hard to emulate failed to pass the test.
Once again, Angelina Jolie didn’t make the grade, because according to lead researcher Professor Kang Lee her face did not fit the golden ratio either for length or width. And supermodel Liz Hurley missed the mark because her “width” measurement didn’t measure up.³
Other measurements that often play a part in assessing the attractiveness of a woman include bust-to-waist-to-hip measurements and waist-to-hip measurements.
Researchers have found that a woman’s waist-to-hip ratio determines her attractiveness to men and that the “ideal” in Indo-European cultures is 0.7 WHR which is what we refer to as the “hourglass figure”.
According to physiologists, women with this waist-to-hip ratio are more fertile than other women due to higher levels of certain hormones, and that this makes them subconsciously more attractive to men.⁴
But the perception of beauty has more to do than with just the symmetry of a woman’s face. A woman’s ugliness vs. beauty quotient can be also determined by her:
- Skin color.
Does Being Overweight Make a Woman Ugly?
No, but the media will certainly try to make you think so. Overweight women can be just as beautiful as slim women who are in great shape. It all depends on how you perceive beauty.
Everyone likes to think that they don’t follow the crowd, but the media is very influential in shaping the beliefs that men and women have regarding beauty. For example: Overweight models are referred to as “Plus sized models” rather than just “models.”
The fashion industry and media place labels on it because they are still getting used to the idea of having overweight models. It’s almost as though they are embarrassed to accept overweight models as being beautiful and are just including them to be politically correct, or to make money.
The Modern Man’s stance on beauty is that any woman can be beautiful, regardless of whether she is skinny, slim, muscle-fit, overweight or even obese. It really depends on the guy’s perception of what beauty is and whether or not he is a loving, enlightened human being.
Yet, it doesn’t really matter what The Modern Man thinks because we don’t have the type of influence that mass media do. Generally speaking, fat is seen as ugly in the mainstream media and that doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon.
Beauty is in “The Eye of the Beholder”
Western standards aside, there are many countries around the world who revere the bigger woman. In Africa in general and in the North African nation of Mauritania in particular, the bigger a woman’s size, the healthier and more attractive she is regarded by a potential husband.
In fact, women in Mauritania are sent to “fat camps” called “gavages” from a as young as 7 or 8, where they are force fed so that they will become fat and therefore be more attractive to a potential suitor.
Although the practice is starting to die out, it is still part of the culture because traditionally, being fat meant that a woman was of a higher class and status and therefore more beautiful and more appealing as a wife.⁵
Dark Skin: Ugly or Beautiful?
Skin color has long been considered a measure of beauty and although we hate to admit it, women (and people in general) are still being judged by their skin color. In fact whether in America, Asia, South America or Africa, women with a lighter skin color are automatically deemed more beautiful than their darker skinned sisters.
According to African American journalist Jill Nelson, “to be both prettiest and black was impossible.”
As far as opportunities go, women possessing a lighter skinned complexion and who have “European features,” such as lighter eyes, smaller lips and noses, and long straight hair get better opportunities in the media industry. Magazines have also long been accused of featuring only light-skinned “European” looking models on their covers.⁶
But does this prove darker skinned women are less attractive to men? Well, according to a Pew Study, there are now 4.8 million interracial couples in the U.S. alone⁷, which means that not only are dark skinned women just as attractive to men as their lighter skinned counterparts, they are now steadily becoming attractive to men from other cultures too.
As a woman is deemed beautiful or ugly based on her ability to attract a man, it seems that even though the media are still trying to convince us that lighter skin is better, the statistics are speaking for themselves.
Is Your Personality Making You Ugly?
Has this ever happened to you? You meet a woman and she’s drop dead gorgeous! You are so attracted to her you can barely talk to her. Yet, as you start getting to know her a little better, the “WOW” factor that had you speechless in her company starts to fade.
In fact, the more time you spend talking to her, the more you keep asking yourself, “Did I really think she was that hot? She’s okay, I guess, but she’s not really that beautiful.” Conversely, you get introduced to a woman who seems okay.
In fact, you think to yourself, “Why do I always get stuck with the ugly duckling?” However, a little while later you find that she’s really looking quite attractive… in fact she’s pretty hot! What happened? What caused you to suddenly view both these women so differently in such a short period of time?
Probably because the most important factor that determines whether a woman is ugly or beautiful is her personality. According to a study published in Personal Relationships, it seems that people who are honest and helpful are perceived more beautiful than those who are unfair or rude.
“Perceiving a person as having a desirable personality makes the person more suitable in general as a close relationship partner of any kind,” says study author Gary W. Lewandowski, Jr., who goes on to add, “This research provides a more positive alternative by reminding people that personality goes a long way toward determining your attractiveness; it can even change people’s impressions of how good looking you are.”⁸
Whether you’re a man or a woman, confidence, social intelligence, mental and emotional strength and being an all round “nice” person can make you look much more attractive than you perceive yourself to be.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who is the Fairest of Them All?
What makes a woman ugly? Is it the shape of her face, the width of her waist, her size or the color of her skin?
Well if evidence is anything to go by, beauty is definitely in “the eye of the beholder”. Beautiful women who have a negative body image and low self esteem are ugly – to themselves, and therefore give off the kind of vibe that make them less attractive to others too.
Less attractive women who exude confidence and self assurance are attractive to men because they believe that they are and their vibe attracts men to them.
The bottom line is this: Can we ever really define what makes a woman ugly? And going back to the guys who were arguing about whether Angelina Jolie is beautiful or ugly…were they all right?
We don’t think so. I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You can literally look at anything as being beautiful or ugly and it all depends on how you see the world, what you want and what you have been taught to think is beautiful.
¹ Dreisbach, S. Shocking Body-Image News: 97% of Women Will Be Cruel to Their Bodies Today. Glamour. Retrieved from
² London, B. (2014, May, 2). Are YOU beautiful’? Try the simple ‘hot or not’ finger test that’s taking social media by storm. Mail Online. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2617690/Are-YOU-beautiful-Take-simple-hot-not-finger-test-thats-taking-social-media-storm.html
³ Perfect face dimensions measured. (2009, December, 18). BBC News. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8421076.stm
⁴ Human Beauty, Beauty. Wikipedia. Retrieved fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beauty
⁵ Weber, C. Geography of Beauty. About.com Geography. Retrieved from
⁶ Media and public perception, Discrimination based on skin color. Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discrimination_based_on_skin_color
⁷ The Associated Press. Interracial marriages in the U.S. hit all-time high 4.8 million. (2012, February, 16). Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/interracial-marriages-u-s-hit-all-time-high-4-8-million-article-1.1023643
⁸ Nauert, R. PhD. (2007, November, 30). Personality Influences Perceived Attractiveness. PsychCentral. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/news/2007/11/30/personality-influences-perceived-attractiveness/1597.html