- Beauty and the beast: The ugly face of prejudice.
- February 2011
Nine out of ten women in the UK are unhappy with their appearance. Fifty percent would consider surgery to alter their looks and three in four believe that being good looking will make you successful. A recent survey found that sixty percent of teenager girls would prefer be a glamour model, rather than a nurse, doctor or teacher. With these beliefs, is it any wonder that we are becoming a nation of beauty and appearance obsessed individuals.
Channel 4's new six part series Beauty and the Beast -the Ugly Face of Prejudice explores the modern preoccupation with appearance.
The first episode paired 59-year-old Leo Gormley with with 20 year old Yasmin Disney. Leo who underwent 120 operations to treat 3rd degree burns following an explosion in his early teens, was the beast. Beauty aka Yasmin, completed a two-hour beauty regime each day and had a list of cosmetic surgeries and procedures on her wish list. It concluded breast reduction, liposucton, veneers and a nose job. Yasmin was attractive with and without makeup. "I'm not comfortable in my skin", she explained adding, "I'm not happy with the way I look."
The whole experiment could have been a viewing disaster, but it wasn't. Leo's kind and generous demeanour nicely complemented Yasmin. She had a very negative body image and low self. Yasmin blossomed during the hour, in a surprising way that was the opposite of what I had expected after hearing her opening statements: "I'd rather be vain than ugly" and "There's not really any excuse not to be glamorous. Unless it's a life-or-death situation. Cheryl Cole got malaria. That was a good excuse."
Leo on the other side voiced concerns that people, women in particular, were no longer free thinkers. Instead they were swayed by the media and 'celebrity magazines'. "People make assumptions based on the way you look", he told the reporter. "The thing that comes across most for me is that people find it difficult to look me in the eye".
Despite this positive aspect of the programme, I have to admit that Yasmin's initial preoccupation with her appearance, did on occasion seem shallow. Yes, her breasts in particular did bring her unwanted and overly sexualised attention, but her issues seemed small when compared with the physical and emotional trauma that Leo had and still is experiencing.
The programme also featured a second 'beast' in the form of Adam Pearson. Adam whose face is severely disfigured by neurofibromatosis has spent the last four years campaigning against the issue of looks based prejudice. "Lots of worlds exclude people like me", he stated. "To fashion, advertising and celebrity I'm simply invisible. They don't hear me or see me ... I simply don't exist".
Adam took his concerns to Tiger Savage an advertising executive. "Perfection sells," came the simple succinct response. "Everyone wants to be somewhere else; be somewhere beautiful and look at beautiful people".