The Power of Beauty

Of late, soap maker Dove’s “campaign for real beauty” advertisements were highly conspicuous on the exteriors of our public buses. Their message was loud and clear. They beckon to the consumers to take part in redefining our traditional perceptions of conventional beauty. This led me to ponder…. exactly what is this elusive quality that we call beauty to begin with?

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Beauty. Most of us claim that you will know it when you see it. Designers, artists and philosophers alike continue to define our notions of what we consider to be beautiful. In this media age, we are constantly bombarded by images of perfection.

Everywhere you turn, digitally enhanced visuals of statuesque supermodels with impossibly attractive features stare back at you. If beauty is truly only skin deep, then why is there so much unnecessary emphasis on expressing aesthetics?

Which quality should we as an evolved species value more? Physicality or personality? Ah… the age-old debate of style versus substance. The intellectual answer would be of course to say that brains matter more than looks. Many a wise men will also have you believe that the subliminal allure of physical beauty is simply superficial and inconsequential.

Let us face it and be honest with ourselves here. Our culture is totally obsessed and preoccupied with beauty. It has been said that, “Your face is your fortune” and that “Beauty is power.” So maybe beauty to us is not as trivial as we think it is or would like it to be.

Psychological studies show that in the initial two minutes of meeting someone for the first time, our subconscious mind form judgments about that person mostly based on their physical appearance. Our first impressions of people are usually also our last.

These impressions usually lasts a lifetime and are difficult to alter. Similar research also shows that both babies and adults have a natural tendency to gravitate towards beautiful objects. Could humanity’s inclination to beauty be a purely biologically reflex?

So what is beauty? I realised that after much deliberation on this provocative emotion, I still could not come up with a universal answer. Words are inadequate to describe it completely and no definition can fully capture its essence. One thing is for certain; the stereotypical Barbie or Ken doll look is unrealistic. Perhaps beauty is more illusion than reality after all.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born to a Spanish father and a Japanese mother, Eliza was born and raised in Singapore. She is a journalist by profession and a member of Mensa. Fluent in English, Mandarin and Spanish, this sophisticated babe also plays the piano and possesses a black belt in karate. She currently shuttles between Singapore and New York City, where her boyfriend works as a banker. In her spare time, Eliza reads poetry and writes screenplays for indie Hollywood filmmakers.