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Michelle Pfeiffer on (her) beauty March 8, 2007

Posted by Wasik in bodies.

I recently read an Allure interview with Michelle Pfeiffer. In the article, she makes statements about her own beauty, and beauty in general, that I feel relate to the ‘career women’ films we have been watching this week.

Michelle claims that her beauty made it harder for her to advance in her career. She says that in the mid-80s, androgynous women were more ‘in’ than classic beauties, which meant that “it was harder for [her] to get a good part. When [she] went into an audition, [she] had to be better because [she] was beautiful”. At first, I thought her argument was shamelessly self-pitying; actresses are meant to be aesthetically pleasing, and there is no way being attractive worked against her in the movie industry.

However, when I read further, I was struck by one line. Michelle said, “beautiful women tend to get used. And sometimes, their self-esteem is so wrapped up in the way they look that they allow themselves to be victimized much more than somebody whose self-worth isn’t all wrapped up in their face or body.” This is true– it is harder for women in the public eye, or in any sort of professional career, to know if they have advanced because of their looks or ability. I am sure that the Patrick Dempsey (of Grey’s Anatomy fame) does not worry about whether his “McDreamy” moniker actually means that his worth as an actor exclusively relies on his sex-object status. Michelle and other women, however, always find themselves second-guessing their success in this way. It’s inevitable.

Michelle’s comment also made me think about Dolly Parton’s character in 9 to 5. Not only did the (extremely!) buxom blonde have to fight off her sleazy boss’s sexual advances, but she had to deal with other women’s assumptions and dissaproval. There was no way Dolly’s character could be taken seriously as an office worker, or a career women: her own body and prominent hourglass figure held her back. While her two friends had to fight against an external, male-imposed glass ceiling, she had to first contend with her own appearance.



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