when flaws are career-makers
From Lara’s smile to Cindy’s mole, we celebrate the iconic imperfections that have helped blur distinctions between flawed and the flawless.
Photography Daniele + Iango
The pursuit of becoming a successful model or actress tends to demand certain physical traits that conform to a ridiculous standard of beauty. If you want to make it big in those worlds, then any bodily feature considered outside of that norm is not going to cut it — it will need to get sliced and diced and remade into the supposed ideal. However, there are times in which a glitch in the beauty matrix affords alternative ideas of attractiveness a little space. In those moments it's precisely the quirks—those attributes usually considered flaws—that are transformed into something better than perfection, and develop their own dedicated following. The stories below of so-called flaws that became career-makers are a case for the value of character and distinctiveness, but demonstrate that the concept of learning to love supposed imperfections is problematic in itself. Where are the high-profile men with famous 'flaws'? Stories of prominent women who were told or felt pressure to change various parts of themselves abound, while the same can't be said for men. Rugged, grizzled, a silver fox—it's well known that the rules of beauty differ based on gender. Instead of learning to love our flaws, what we really need is to move away from feeling that unique features are imperfections that need embracing in the first place. With diverse beauty ideals come the blurring of flawed versus flawless. But in the meantime, it's worth considering the power of some career-making 'imperfections'...
The most-wanted gap
She's been a regular on the World's Highest-Paid Models list in recent years, but Lara Stone's path to success wasn't fast or assured. Her's was not the story of an unsuspecting youth discovered by an eagle-eyed model scout one moment, and landing major campaigns and turns on the runway the next. While trying to build a modelling career she spent years struggling to catch a break, so could have been more susceptible to industry pressures to alter what some saw as her flaws—in particular the little slither of space between her front teeth. Lara said she was encouraged to get the gap filled in, which would have left her with a preternaturally perfect showbiz mouth. Thankfully she wasn't willing to change her teeth, and when she finally got her big break—in 2006 Riccardo Tisci tapped her to walk in Givenchy's haute couture show—her distinctive gap-toothed mouth was suddenly everywhere. It was a point of difference, it made her standout and far from being thought of as a flaw, it became something emulate, with others reportedly undergoing dental work to get their own gaps. Lara paved the way for a new era of models known and loved for their distinctive teeth, from Georgia Jagger and Jessica Hart to Hedi Slimane's recent muse Lili Sumner, proving that dental perfection is highly overrated.
An iconic mole
"I don't think 'Oh, how's my mole doing today?' But it's the thing that made people remember me…" supermodel Cindy Crawford told Into the Gloss. So while Cindy is apparently not spending her time obsessing about her beauty mark, she is well aware of her mole's positive power. That wasn't always the case though. During her early years it was a hated flaw, Cindy was teased constantly about it at school—her own sister even referred to it as an 'ugly mark'. She wanted to get it removed, but her mum pointed out she'd be left with a scar, so the super ended up leaving her mole be. At the beginning of her modelling career it was often airbrushed out of photos—her first British Vogue cover shows Cindy sans beauty mark, looking decidedly unlike herself. As her career took off and Crawford became one of the faces that defined beauty for an era, it was that once-hated little mole just above her lip that was her trademark and ultimately helped her be unforgettable.
The nose we loved and lost
Actress Jennifer Grey had small roles in Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Francis Ford Coppola's The Cotton Club before landing the part of Frances "Baby" Houseman opposite Patrick Swayze in the now classic Dirty Dancing. The film was an unexpected critical and commercial hit, Jennifer was nominated for a Golden Globe and quickly became seriously famous. Then she decided to get rhinoplasty, which resulted in a dramatic change to her nose. It's not that the outcome was better or worse, but Jennifer looked completely different. The alteration made her unrecognisable, which meant her face was no longer associated with the fame and accolades she gained from her work as Baby. The character that her natural features leant her face was gone. Just like her original nose, Jennifer all but disappeared from Hollywood, save for a few made for tv movies and Dancing With the Stars.
Winnie Harlow developed vitiligo, a skin condition that causes lighter patches to apper due to depigmentation, when she was just four years old. She suffered years of intense bullying, even changing schools to try to get away from it. Eventually Winnie's striking model looks were noticed by the right people, and after a stint on ANTM the editorial work started pouring in, though she still couldn't find an agency willing to represent her. Determined to build a career, Winnie didn't let that stand in her way, especially as her fan base grew—the 21-year-old currently has over a million followers on Instagram. Her skin, that she was so teased for, has become an inspiration to people around the world who are eager to see different kinds of beauty. While proud and comfortable in her difference, Winnie is not defined by it—flaw or not flaw, she wants to be known as a talented model neither because of nor despite her distinctive look.
As we share the first series of Beyond Beauty with Grace Neutral in full, follow us deeper into the world of alternative beauty. From the unorthodox to the obscure and the weird to the wonderful, we're celebrating the people, subcultures, treatments and trends helping to redefine beauty.
Text Clementine De Pressigny