A colleague and I recently worked a fashion event with a Chelsea hairdresser. Fluffing up the hair of one of the ladies we were making over, he asked the group: ‘Why do women think that hair has to be long to be gorgeous? Sexy hair moves. It has bounce. Long, lank hair with a bit of graduation at the sides is NOT exciting.’ Fair point. (All of us sporting this very haircut shifted uncomfortably).
Intrigued, I wondered how else people who do beauty for a living might challenge our thinking about what’s gorgeous in a woman. At the start of a new year, as we cling desperately to our beauty resolutions, two models – one female, one male – talk lipstick, lingerie and laughter.
HOW A WOMAN SEES IT:
Based on an interview with Ilhem Khodja, singer and model in Berlin. Ms. Khodja has appeared in various glossies, including Harpers Bazaar.
When you’re at a model casting amongst 300 girls, and each one is thinking ‘I’m the one’, you realize that beauty is a fickle thing.
In the big picture, beauty is far more than a pretty face. It starts with being in harmony with one’s self. A woman has to know her own body – how do you walk in this body? How do you carry a red lipstick or a sexy dress in this body?
You can’t learn this from the media or from magazines. Beauty isn’t a specific asset, like long hair or a nice ass or décolleté. Nowadays, the whole concept of femininity is lost when it’s about revealing everything womanly at once. It’s as if, with so much on show, women don’t have to try to be graceful anymore. They think showing flesh is enough. It isn’t. The women of 50 or 60 years ago had a real elegance about them. There is still something to it. Think of how many of our beauty icons come from that era.
When you take care of yourself – your skin, your hair, your body – it gives you a different feeling, like a connection between the mental and the physical. Then, when you put on lingerie or heels or smoky eyes, they become part of you, rather than a costume.
If you don’t live together with your body, you don’t appreciate the feeling of the lingerie on your skin. You don’t have the swing in your step from that great pair of shoes. The make-up is a mask rather than an enhancement.
So what’s gorgeous for me? After studying classical dance for 11 years, I’d say good posture and poise, no question. It’s what turns heads when you enter a room. Some women walk like ballerinas. Anyone who carries herself like this looks like she has her life together. She knows who she is and what she wants. It’s amazingly powerful, yet subtle.
Do something physical to get in touch with your body – yoga, pilates, swimming, dancing, whatever works for you. There’s that feeling of pride when you’ve pushed yourself, even if you didn’t want to. You’ve made time for you, for your body, and that little bit of discipline is also part of the ‘body feeling.’ Living with discipline can be difficult, but living without it is actually far more difficult in the long run.
One more thing. Every woman has potential, no matter what her shape or age. Audrey Hepburn knew how to accentuate her big eyes and her tiny body. Identify what is beautiful about you and make the most of it instead of focusing on everything that isn’t perfect. This can be so liberating. You can free yourself of the air-brushed media circus and concentrate on nurturing your own unique beauty.
For me, laughter is sexy – real, deep, authentic laughter. I can be eating dinner in the poshest restaurant in Paris, but I’m still playful and having fun. I still laugh out loud.
HOW A MAN SEES IT:
Based on an interview with Koldo Gil, former model in Spain. Mr. Gil is now an architect in London.
As a model, you learn fast that defining your attractiveness by external appearance can be a dangerous thing. When you’re suddenly passé in this industry, your whole sense of self can shift – unless you understand that beauty’s not entirely physical.
So what’s gorgeous in a woman? It’s definitely an energy, a self-love and an acceptance. Such a woman dresses to please herself, not anyone else. She takes advantage of the body she has, and she rocks it.
Some women dress up like dolls, head-to-toe in designer clothes as if this uniform will somehow validate their beauty. There might be a lot of sparkle, but no spark, if you know what I mean. I’ve got to be honest, sometimes a woman can make such an effort and it just doesn’t work. She can look empty – like she’s trying too hard. Consider how much power you give your clothes to make you beautiful, and how much (or how little) you give yourself, the woman inside.
For me, beauty in a woman is not obsessive; it’s about balance. It should never make you suffer. Don’t make yourself look ridiculous by wearing clothes that don’t suit you, just because they’re en vogue. It looks sad and insecure. Instead, take advantage of the assets you have and make the most of them. Dare to have your own style, in spite of what’s on trend and have fun in the process. Now that is irresistible.
Do I like lingerie on a woman? Make-up? High heels? Sure, but it’s because of how a woman moves and feels while she’s wearing them. A confident woman oozes sex-appeal and beauty, even if she looks plain at first sight. If lingerie or make-up and heels give her that boost, they work. But understand that they’re a catalyst to accentuate what’s already there – glow, poise and that je ne sais quois called allure.
Defining gorgeousness is like trying to catch smoke. But if I’m pressed, I’d say more poise, please. More fun. More YOU. Less fixation with wearing every trend. Less obsession with the size of your tummy or your backside. Work your assets, whatever your shape. That’s gorgeous. And where there’s smoke, there’s always fire…