She was born with a mole above the corner of her left lip. From the time she became self-aware at all, it bothered her. Her sisters told her that it was an “ugly mark” because beauty marks can only be on the right side of the face.
On her first day of high school, a group of senior football players made fun of her, laughing that she had chocolate on her face. Many times during her childhood she asked her mom if she could have it removed, but always got the same reply: You know what your mole looks like. You don’t know what a scar will look like.
When she was a junior in high school, she got a job working at a local clothing store as a brand ambassador, a role that required a fashion show and photo shoot for the local newspaper. As a result of the exposure, another local photographer asked to take her photo for a university newspaper.
He introduced her to a stylist to do her hair and makeup for the shoot. That stylist encouraged her to attend a beauty show where hairdressers cut and styled models’ hair on stage. She signed up, thinking it would be fun.
The hairdresser that day ended up being a successful New York hairdresser. After giving her some pretty waves and good advice, he gave her her two agent names to contact.
The first modeling agent had nice things to say and booked her for a test shoot; however, she suggested she have the mole removed. That only amplified her insecurity about it. She went ahead with the test shoot with the mole intact.
The hairdresser from that shoot showed some of her Polaroids to Marie Anderson, an agent at what eventually became Elite Model Management in Chicago. Marie saw potential and requested a meeting.
When they met, Marie never said a word about the mole. The meeting resulted in one professional photo shoot, then another, and another—the jobs kept coming. A few times the mole was airbrushed out of printed photos.
One time, a makeup artist tried to cover it—only to have it look like a giant pimple. But as the modeling jobs increased, the mole simply stopped being mentioned at all.
Eventually, she appeared on the cover of the American Vogue magazine. At that point, she decided that if she looked good enough, mole and all, for the cover of arguably the most relevant fashion magazine, then she was good enough for everyone else.
Some years later, as she reflected on her struggle with feeling insecure about her appearance, supermodel Cindy Crawford said, “Isn’t it ironic that the very thing that made me most insecure turned out to be my trademark?”
Cindy went on to be featured on a record-setting eighteen Vogue covers and countless others. This girl who grew up insecure about her looks nearly let the perspectives of other people define whether or not she was beautiful.
Everyone Feels Ugly Sometimes
It’s hard to believe that at one point in her life, Cindy Crawford, a supermodel who was the face of “beautiful” for decades up to and into the new century, thought she was ugly. But the ugly truth is this: every single person on this planet—supermodels included!—has at one time or another felt ugly.
I get it, ugly feels like a strong word, but it’s the harsh word we often use when talking about ourselves to ourselves. Even if we don’t say it out loud, deep down we think it.
Have you ever looked in the mirror and seen something you didn’t like? It’s okay to admit it. You’re not alone. Crow’s feet. Nose bump. Freckles. Rosacea. Pimples. Grey hair. Thinning hair. Turkey neck. Droopy eyelids. Forehead lines. Thin lips. Big ears. High forehead. And that’s just looking at the face!
Age spots. Breasts too big (or too small). Belly pooch. Fat rolls. Moles. Cellulite. Knock knees. Weird toes. Cankles. If I haven’t already mentioned something you’ve criticized about yourself, I’d be surprised—and there are probably a few other things I didn’t mention that also bug you about how you look.
Across the world, regardless of culture, age, race, gender, or any other category we use to divide ourselves, human beings are uniquely united in this one way: we have all felt ugly at one time or another. The question is, Why?
The Cure for Ugly
As a plastic surgeon specializing in rhinoplasty in Beverly Hills, California, I’ve had the privilege and opportunity to help a lot of people change their lives through surgery. But don’t worry, this book is not about the merits of plastic surgery.
We live in a culture where plastic surgery has become common because so many people are doing it. However, some of the most rewarding work I do is having frank conversations with people about just how beautiful they already are and explaining why they do not need surgery to make them beautiful.
I know talking people out of surgery is, unfortunately, not a common practice, but I believe it is often the right thing to do.
Throughout my many years of practice, I’ve interviewed over ten thousand people from all over the world and all different walks of life. They meet with me because they think they want to surgically alter something about their appearances and are willing to accept the risks inherent in doing so.
As people share their greatest insecurities with me about their physical appearances, our conversations often get deeply personal and usually reveal a deeper story.
One woman hates her nose because it looks just like the nose of her father who abused her when she was young. Another was bullied at school every day because of the bump on her nose and thinks if she can make the bump go away, all the hurtful memories will go with it.
For some people, it’s just a matter of wanting to look like someone they admire. Every situation is unique. -Sometimes I can change their lives with my scalpel; sometimes I can change their lives with a conversation about beauty.
The truth is there are a lot of ideas out there about what beauty is and what it is not, who is beautiful and who is not. Unfortunately, too many people, perhaps even you, have fallen into the trap of thinking the question is not, How beautiful am I? but How ugly am I?
Ironically, feeling ugly tends to leave us feeling isolated and alone when, in fact, we’re all united in wrestling with the fear that we are ugly. All of us, even supermodels, feel ugly at some point in our lives.
I want you to know you are not alone. Fighting that feeling of ugly is a universal human challenge.