COLUMN: Looking Good

Do you think I’m ugly? Hold on, don’t answer yet. Let’s start with what made me want to know. On YouTube, girls are posting videos of themselves in their bedrooms, pouting puppy-eyed at the webcam, inviting criticism from an internet audience of unknowns.

“Do you think I’m ugly?” the girls, aged mainly 10-14, ask. “Please be honest. At school, a lot of people say I am.”

In the comments underneath, people answer. “You’re pretty,” say some. “Skank,” others reply.

Others comment: “Attention whore.”

I asked some of these kids why they posted these videos. “I am 13,” one girl replied. “I decided to post my video because I have very low self-confidence. I often change my appearance several times before i leave the house. i wanted to see
if what i thought of myself was true or was i just making myself upset?

“The response I had was mainly
 positive, people trying to reassure me I was pretty and make me feel
 good about myself. But I will admit some responses were, how do I say
 this, inappropriate and made me feel uncomfortable.”

“I am 10 years old,” said another girl. She told me that she had been called ugly, but most comments “were good, like one person
 said, ‘You are beautiful, don’t let anyone say otherwise,’ so that made me 

We tend to snigger at people who are obsessed with their looks. The 
women who get boob jobs and lunch-hour lipo, footballers 
with hair transplants, couples going for pre-wedding cosmetic surgery or
 getting Simon Cowell-capped teeth. But secretly, do we envy them too?

To confess you care about your looks is
 a sign that you’re shallow, narcissistic, insecure (who wants to be a primped Shane Warne?). Yet we know image is important too. 

Studies repeatedly show that it’s better to be hot. That beautiful people are generally considered to be healthier (usually correctly); get their choice of better-looking life partners; earn more, and get better jobs. As politicians, we vote for them; as friends
 we like and trust them more.

Given adults’ obsession with appearance it’s hardly surprising to see it rub off on children. What really is shocking is how frank they are about it. They have taken a question that we as adults subconsciously ask ourselves, and vocalised it.


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