Talent and Beauty: Mutually Exclusive?

Maybe not.

Okay, this post has been prompted by a discussion in the comments at Me and Richard. (Sorry for this aimless ramble. One of these days I’ll figure out what I’m doing and develop a coherent theme for this blog.) The question was, if an actor is good looking, does that prevent him from being taken seriously as a performer? Are these two qualities mutually exclusive?

I used to feel that beautiful people skated by on their looks, to the detriment of other personal qualities. Why work extra-hard, if you could get what you wanted simply by looking beautiful?

The skills and abilities we develop to handle life’s challenges are like tools in a toolbox. As the proverb says, “To a man who has a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” For some people, beauty is their hammer—the only tool they’ve got.

To my way of thinking, people who can’t (or don’t think they can) rely upon their physical appearance to get ahead are forced to develop other skills: They get smart, or they practice a skill, or they learn how to make friends and influence people. In the long run, these tools last longer than physical beauty. They also give a person some different options to try, if one approach doesn’t work.

Many gorgeous people don’t bother to extend themselves in that way. But it’s a kind of prejudice, to look at someone who’s really good looking and assume there is nothing else there. Often, capable individuals are overlooked and their abilities underrated because they look too pretty.

We all need to work to increase the number and variety of tools in our life-skills toolbox. The basic ones are best: Kindness, diligence, responsibility, perspective. Humor. Self-respect. But esoteric, specialized skills are good too, even if you don’t use them every day: A passion for Esperanto, say, or papier-mache or tap dancing. Whatever you enjoy learning or doing, do it. Nothing you ever learn is wasted; ideas are the adornment of our souls. And ultimately, I think that is what we see in another person–we see their entire self, body and soul, and that is what we are attracted to. The whole package.

So people really don’t have to lose their looks to be recognized for their talent, at least not in my book. A great bod and a beautiful face are lovely to behold, but the sexiest part of a person is their brain.


8 thoughts on “Talent and Beauty: Mutually Exclusive?

  1. That’s what’s blogging is for, to express opinions — it’s usually considered considerate, if your comment on a blog is going to get ridiculously long or is likely to heavily offend readers, or even if you just want to claim your own thoughts as your own in your own place, to take a comment to your own blog. So go for it! Looking forward to more!

  2. Hi Saralee 🙂 I very much hope you are correct. There is at least one reader on Servetus’s blog which is is quite certain that beauty is a serious impediment to an actor who wants to be taken seriously. I think I can actually see why it might be possible. An acting talent is somewhat more ambiguous than some others, and acting is closely interwoven with physical appearance. It’s much more obvious when a ballet dancer, or an opera singer has a talent. In acting, though, it might be harder to tell what fascinates the viewer, if the actor is beautiful – the appearance or acting per se…

  3. Hi, rbb–Thanks for your comment! Well, some people have different ideas, I guess, and that’s all right. I just know that there are plenty of handsome actors in the world, and I don’t respond to all of them the same way. Also, there are actors who are called handsome or beautiful and I don’t agree! So for me, it has to be more than physical appearance. Of course, looking good never hurts. 🙂

    • I like your toolbox analogy. Very good way to look at life.
      As far as talent vs. beauty, we know they aren’t mutually exclusive, but most of us have probably also met a portion of bubble-headed blondes and brainless brawn, so those stereotypes are reenforced on a personal level.
      I’m not usually interested in handsome faces, except in fleeting gawkery. I am engaged by people who project something beyond that, whether it is a sense of humor, wit, or unusual attitude.

      • DJ, it’s interesting, because I think that the bubble-headedness is often a learned response. Maybe it’s some kind of developmental efficiency thing–people do what works until it stops working for them.
        But like with you, the people who keep my attention are those who have more going for them than their appearance.

  4. Personally, I think RA has become more beautiful to me because he is a good actor and appears to be a good person. I thought he was nice-looking at the beginning of North and South, but I didn’t think he was beautiful until he proposed.

    It was the same for me with James Stewart. Good looking man, but over the years, having seen his films, he is now absolutely beautiful to me.

    And there are some physically beautiful people that I don’t find beautiful any more because of things they’ve said or done.

    • Thanks, Beverly, I completely agree. I think James Stewart is such a legend because of the kind of character he showed us in his movies — the person he embodied in his roles was someone we could admire and find beautiful. Maybe he (and RA) haven’t always played flawless characters, but they are human, and contain at least some of the qualities that we see in the best of us.

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