Bilkish Vahed

Rebellion & Romance

Tag: beauty

Ugly & Beautiful

What is ugly? What is beautiful? You think you know?

I thought I did until this moment of mental whiplash. I mean just look around you. What do you see?

Big breasts, flat chests. Blonde hair, brown hair, pink hair. Blue eyes, brown eyes, grey eyes. Voluptuous hips, slim square hips. Black skin, white skin, honey-coloured skin. Wide shoulders and long arms, narrow shoulders and short arms. On and on it goes, the marked differences. Nothing and no one the same.


With all this natural difference making up the world, “ugly” and “beautiful” are ideas caught in fluidity, profoundly elusive, never quite one thing over the plurality of other possibilities.

Makes for a much more interesting and dynamic aesthetics, don’t you think?

Ugly, Beautiful & all that


Diana Vreeland2

Diana Vreeland is compelling to watch on film – her independent attitude, spiritedness, uniqueness, her clipped almost incantory style of speaking, her body language – are brought fully to life in the documentary The Eye Has to Travel.

With a frankness that is brutal she tells how her mother used to say, “It’s too bad that you have such a beautiful sister and you are so extremely ugly.”

“I was always her ugly little monster,” she continues coolly.

“And how did that make you feel?” the interviewer, George Plimpton, asks.

“Now George,” she says, ” I don’t think we want to go there. Let’s just say, mum was a wild woman, you know, she used to hunt rhinos.”

One evening at a party in 1924 Diana fell in love with an elegant, quiet man.

“I never felt comfortable about my looks until I met Reed Vreeland. He was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen. Very quiet. Very elegant. I loved all that. I believe in love at first sight because that’s what it was. Reed made me feel beautiful, no matter what my mother made me think.” – DV

Diana & Reed Vreeland

Diana & Reed Vreeland

Diana VreelandDiana Vreeland getting into a taxi

Despite her alleged lack of beauty, she was a wild success in a world defined by bodies and faces: fashion. Fashion Editor at Harpers Bazaar for twenty six years (1936-1962), then Editor of Vogue for eight. Writing about Vreeland in Vanity Fair Amy Fine Colins  explains that Vreeland was unerringly prescient about fashion trends, “a kind of seeress, a philosopher whose subject happened to be style.”

“Vogue always stood for people’s lives. I mean a new dress doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s the life you’re living in the dress.” – DV

“You don’t have to be born beautiful to be wildly attractive.” – DV

“The only real elegance is in the mind; if you’ve got that, the rest really comes from it.” –DV

A Most Powerful Beauty


Henry James wrote his father and told with riveting vividness, the impression that Mary Ann Evans – the writer George Eliot – had made on him.

Writer - George Eliot

Mary Anne Evans – pen name George Eliot (1819 – 1860)

“To begin with she is magnificently ugly – deliciously hideous. She has a low forehead, a dull eye, a pendulous nose, a huge mouth full of uneven teeth…. Now in this vast ugliness resides a most powerful beauty which, in a very few minutes steals forth and charms the mind, so that you end as I ended, in falling in love with her. Yes, behold me literally in love with this great horse-faced blue stocking. I don’t know in what the charm lies, but it is thoroughly potent. An admirable physiognomy – a delightful expression, a voice soft and rich as that of a counselling angel – a mingled sagacity and  sweetness – a broad hint of a great underlying world of reserve, knowledge, pride and power – a great feminine dignity and character in those massively plain features… Altogether she has a larger circumference than any woman I have ever seen.”

Above drawn from George Eliot: A Biography by Gordon S. Haight

© 2019 Bilkish Vahed

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑