Of Beauty and Barking


The Supermodel

The Supermodel

Beauty is my obsession. I became aware of beauty when I was around 12. I poured over fashion magazines and looked in the mirror to see if I was as beautiful as the models. Truthfully, I wasn’t. I was thin, had braces, and had terribly bad eyesight, which led to coke bottle glasses, framed by cat-like frames. But…I perservered. I wore a little bit of makeup. I tried to be as fashion forward as one could be in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio in the seventies. One afternoon, while walking home from school, I was feeling the possibility that I was becoming beautiful. I had on a good outfit. I thought I looked pretty. When a car full of young boys approached and slowed down, I thought that they were flirting with me and appreciating my beauty. I was smiling to myself, looking straight ahead, as the car slowed. I was feeling so perfect and full of possibility as the boys leaned out the window, barked at me, and called me an ugly dog. I continued to look straight ahead, vowing that I wouldn’t cry until I got home.

How could I show those boys? How could I prove to everyone that I was beautiful? I knew what I would do. I would become a famous model. Then I would have proof that I was beautiful. I was somewhat on track. My braces came off,  my coke bottle glasses were replaced by contacts, I filled out. I was beginning to exist in a different way. Maybe I was becoming beautiful. I found a modeling agency in Cleveland, and I began modeling. I wasn’t doing Vogue covers, more like the Sears catalog…but I was a model. I moved to Chicago to continue my modeling career. After a year I began to see that not only wasn’t I a famous model, I probably never would be. But what presented itself to me was far more meaningful. I began taking acting classes.

My journey became one of acting…of expressing myself through a character. I had found a creative outlet that wasn’t wholly dependent on looks. I did plays. I joined a theater company. And then I auditioned for a television show that was filming in Chicago. Suddenly I was on TV starring alongside, ironically, a famous supermodel. She was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. All I could do was stare.

At one point, we were flown out to Los Angeles to do some post production on a scene. I had been to L.A. before, but never “her” L.A. She took me to lunch at that restaurant where all the movie stars go. As we walked along the little white fence, past the al fresco diners, on our way to the entrance, the air stilled. It was like Snow White had come to life, everyones’ gaze landing on her, like the baby birds in the movie. It was magical. Were they looking at me too? Would they start barking? Never. The power her beauty had was like a magic force field.. I was, again, hooked. I wanted that too.

Though our series never caught fire, my career on television did. To my surprise, I continued on, opposite A-list actresses, always playing the best friend, the wacky aunt, or the famous young girl’s mother. To my chagrin, I was known less for my beauty, then for my comic timing. Even fan mail from prison would comment on how funny I was. Yet, the elusive question of beauty remained. What was it?

The older I become, the more I see that physical beauty is nice, but ultimately meaningless. I find honest revelation of self beautiful. Looking into my rescue dog’s eyes and he stares back at me with such love and barking glee…that is beautiful. Looking into my husband’s eyes and telling him I love him is beautiful. Beauty is a reflection of who we are. It is, quite simply, our soul reflected outwardly. And what is reflected, is what you choose to see, regardless of how loud the barking.