Readers, today I want to discuss a somewhat sensitive topic, and I'm not referring to mucous membranes. I want to talk noses: specifically the extent to which a -- forgive the slang -- outsized schnoz is considered to be a "problem" in our (Western) culture.
Naturally, we'll be discussing people in the public eye, who may not be representative of the public at large in their (the celebrities') need to maintain a particular image for career purposes. But for better or for worse celebrities have a big impact on what we consider acceptable.
Yesterday, I saw a very entertaining documentary about the late Diana Vreeland, The Eye Has To Travel. Vreeland was famous for her many accomplishments in the fashion world, most notably as Fashion Editor of Harper's Bazaar and as Editor-in-Chief of Vogue. But Vreeland was also known for her unusual face -- the most salient feature of which was an uncommonly large nose. In the film, it is revealed that Vreeland's mother considered her ugly and would often compare her unfavorably with Diana's more conventionally pretty younger sister. It's implied that this may have fueled her desire both to create a world of beauty around her and to be at the center of it.
Vreeland never had plastic surgery, choosing, instead, to make the best of what she had. A woman of exceptional energy, style, creativity, and wit, she may not have been beautiful, but through her magazine work, she had an impact on the way women saw themselves. It was Vreeland who put unconventional beauties like Cher, Barbra Streisand, Twiggy, Angelica Houston, and Penelope Tree on the pages of Vogue, in the process broadening Americans' view of what beauty could be.
Of course, you can't talk about famous noses without bringing up Barbra Streisand.
Was it she herself who made big noses acceptable in the mainstream, or had the times changed enough to embrace a Barbra when one came along? Whichever, Barbra was a real style icon in the Sixties -- less so when she went all folk rock in the Seventies, but at least she kept her nose.
In the heyday of Hollywood, a lot of actresses changed their noses. Marilyn Monroe was tweaked sometime around 1949 or so, though the change was subtle.
Vera-Ellen's nose thinned out in the mid-Forties, soon to be followed by the rest of her.
Yet Barbara Stanwyck managed quite well with her somewhat unusual nose, as did many other famous stars.
More usually, however, a nose that looked too large, or was deemed too "ethnic," confined you to character or comic roles.
By the Sixties and Seventies, as the fashion world loosened up, the perky bobbed nose was just one of many acceptable profiles.
Where are we today -- fifty years after the emergence of Streisand? There's still a lot of nose reshaping going on, perhaps now more than ever. Even in a more globalized world, some facial features (read: conventional Anglo/caucasian) are considered more marketable than others. This recent article in The New Yorker about K-pop (short for Korean pop music) is an eye-opener (no pun intended).
Do you think there's more pressure on young people to have conventional good looks (and noses), due in part to the mainstreaming of plastic surgery, or less, thanks to people like Barbra Streisand?
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