Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 19, 2020

What is the price and value of beauty?

By KATIE B | January 29, 2015

Greek goddesses Hera and Athena offered the Trojan prince Paris power and glory, but he decided to give the golden apple with the inscription “for the most beautiful” to the goddess of love, Aphrodite. Why? She offered him the love of the prettiest woman in Greece, Helen. This, in turn, led to war, and the city of Troy famously went up in flames. Seems like too much ado about something so trivial: beauty.

On the other hand, maybe it was worth it. While beauty standards alter and mutate, beauty itself has always been extremely valuable. Women regularly let their “Troys” (also known as bodies) go up in flames for the chance to be the most beautiful women of the planet.

So, shall we be pretentious aestheticians and claim that there is a certain “je ne sais quoi” about beauty? Or shall we look at it rationally and admit that the price of beauty is insanely high for its value?

Can you hear society whispering in your ear — from billboards and ads to runways, magazines and Hollywood movies — about the look of the belle of the ball? Truth is, we have gotten so used to it that we don’t even notice how our beauty standards metamorphose into society’s ideas about beauty.

The next time you think someone is “ugly,” ask yourself why you think that. Chances are it’s because of the dreaded society whisper. It’ll tell you beauty has something to do with sexual attraction. It’ll tell you looking your age is only cool when you’re in college, or that beauty is somehow connected to people’s value.

In the theater of your beauty, never let anyone but yourself be the audience. After all, “You can be the ripest juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” — Dita Von Teese

There is nothing wrong with borrowing some beauty standards from the common opinion, but it’s more interesting to go beyond and search for your kind of “lost” beauty. Find beauty in sadness; find beauty in chipped nail polish. Search for it in carnival make ups or the grunge of a tired look. The sway of your hips or casual androgyny. Most importantly, appreciate the beauty of humans in the old-fashioned words they use, in their laughter and habits, asymmetry and awkwardness, in the way they are so real and close with puffy hair and vampire teeth.

Beauty is more a feeling than a thought. All of my friends are beautiful, aren’t yours? Setting all of those different beauties aside, what is wrong with ugly?

Ugly is necessary, ugly is good. It sets you free from self-objectification. Wander around town looking thoroughly ugly once in a while to remind yourself that you’re not always the one being watched. Watch the world unravel in front of you with all its ugly, messy, wondrous beauty. Be the audience, not the actor.

Appreciate the beauty of an emaciated model without a wish to look like her/him or a wish to turn her/him average. There is a strange beauty in the extremes, too.

You are the subject. You’re alive. Think about a thousand adjectives more exciting than “beautiful.” Try interesting, brave, witty, nerdy, dreamy, stylish, silly, different. Once you like your reflection in the lake, like Narcissus, pull back and notice the beauty of being.

Transform beauty in your paintings, chase it with words. Play with it, create, and destroy it. After all, why be the actress if you can film the thing?

Let Troy crush and burn for common beauty; it’s too dull for this century’s taste.

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