Unpretty

I recently downloaded not one but two new apps onto my phone. Nothing new there, most of our lives are more or less managed with a cheeky app or two – but these are for photo editing. Which is fine in itself but after spending a good hour the other night doing ‘minor touch-ups’ to a selfie, I had to stop and have a word with myself.

You’re going to have to excuse this self-indulgent post, I’m afraid. I’m about to bang on for a while.

I’m not against photo tweaking in theory. I’m the queen of touching up a spot or two and choosing a damn good filter. I’m forever adjusting the lighting. This is deemed the new norm in our Instagram world and I’m all for it, as long as we’re honest about it. Life isn’t (always) like the images we use to paint a positive life. If I were being honest, my grid would be full of me lying naked and puffy in bed, avoiding the world.

The addition of these apps to my life is different because I’ve been leaning on them far too heavily. I’ve been changing the shape of my face, tightening my jawline – thinning my nose. More than that, the app can give you the perfect winged liner, eyeshadow and lashes for days – technically you’d never have to put on a face again. But it feels false and it goes deeper than just tweaking a few things ever so slightly – I look like a doll version of myself and it’s creepier than Annabelle*.

The reality is: it’s time for me to admit that I’m not pretty.

Before you say something nice to make me feel better, I know I have some *okay* features and can scrub up when I need to. I also know that ugly girls are never really ugly girls. As the man himself once said:

“A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” ~ Roald Dahl

Idealistic I know but there’s truth in that statement. However, it’s time for me to come to terms with how I really look.

My lovely friend took and posted a video of me on Instagram at the weekend and secretly, watching it back on my own later, I was devastated. I look awful, all chins and bad skin. But really, so what? I was pissing about in the park with a friend and he cut the video to the chorus of Buffalo Stance by Neneh Cherry (my favourite song of all time). My hair looks good and I’m wearing my favourite outfit. Above all else, I’m having a laugh.

So I’m not beautiful like my friend, who looks like Bambi’s girlfriend on her very best day – I’m still loved and lovable and cool. I have never been beautiful and my life was never meant to be lived like a drop dead gorgeous person – if anything, perhaps I’m lucky?

I am sure I don’t have to worry about half the things my fit friends do. I mean, that sounds cavalier because all women have experiences of being harassed or made to feel uncomfortable – and it seldom has anything to do with looks. But I have been around seriously good-looking women who are treated differently to me. It looks tiring.

If I can truly accept that I’m no looker and tell the world, “I’m ugly and proud” then maybe I’ll be happier? I’m tired of kidding myself.

It’s much easier said than done though, isn’t it? I’ve recently talked about making more effort with my appearance which is quite contradictory to what I’m saying here. Or is it?

I mean, taking pride in my appearance as self-care is different altogether to trying to conceal how ugly I am. There’s not enough highlighter or eyeliner in the world to polish this turd – if anything, it makes me look even worse. I can have fun with it though for the sake of how it makes me feel. Accepting my ugliness has nothing to do with letting myself go.

Really accepting one’s self is a delicate balancing act – on one hand, accepting that I’ll never be a knock out is quite liberating. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of me as long as I’m happy and feeling myself – and I am under no obligation to be pretty and shiny. I don’t need validation from others in the way I did when I was 21 either, though yes it is nice when someone compliments you.

But on the other, man this world is cold and harsh at the best of times – and it’s hard not to compare ourselves to others or covert what they have. A thigh gap, bigger eyes, perkier boobs.

I can’t do it anymore, I need to step away from the Photoshopping apps. I’m deleting them as soon as I finish this post. If I don’t, who knows where it will end? I’ll be Edvard Munch’s The Scream with four inch eyelashes.

From now on, I accept it: I’m not pretty, and that’s a) a fact and b) totally, honestly okay.

*This is absolutely no shade to anyone who edits their photos. Many of my friends are pros at it, and I respect it.

(All images by Juno Calypso)

The Flawless Mr Hoffman

esq-philip-seymour-hoffman-1112-lgA year ago today the world lost one of the most incredible actors of our generation.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was 46 when he passed away. When I found out I was numb for a little while (but managed to write this the day after, though I can’t remember doing it). I felt numb in that way that you can only really articulate by saying “I can’t believe it” over and over. It is an odd feeling to grieve for someone you’ve never met, only admired on a big screen, but it is still genuine emotion.

This loss is a massive one. There is nothing more I can add to that. It’s all been said already.

But I wanted to mark this horrible anniversary with a celebration of some kind, rather than dwell on melancholy. There were times in my life when I was blown away by this man. He made me laugh and cry; and sometimes he scared me. I felt like he spoke to me on a personal level and I think that’s the beauty of a greatly talented person.

I believed him always.

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I’m hard pressed really to refine my favourite PSH moments. It would be very hard to narrow down my most loved performances to just a handful.

Well, sort of. I mean, of course he was exceptional as Truman Capote in Capote. He’s been great in nearly every film he put his name to (with a few exceptions), stealing scenes left right and centre.

But by far my favourite PSH turn is in Flawless. As Rusty, PSH took my admiration to a whole new level. This is how I choose to remember him, as the ballsy female impersonator with a whole lot of heart. (I reviewed the film a few years ago, here).

Rusty is the ultimate Groupie for the Underdog. Cheerleader for the brow beaten and the bullied. Fighting for the rights of the LGBT and being fucking fabulous while she does it. Reeling off one liners like rapid machine gun fire, she is exactly the kind of person you need in your life, and on your side.

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Rusty is the person she is because of all the things she’s been/is going through and is the sum of all her own insecurities, all her flaws. And that’s what makes her beautiful and strong.

I used to watch this movie religiously, at least once a month. I watched it not long after PSH died and it was hard to do. I still miss him.

So this year I’ll be respectfully remembering the man I loved for over a decade, who made even the smallest character study a fascinating one, who ruled every scene he was in.

To you, PSH, forever.