Beautiful Ugly


My mother is absolutely beautiful. But if you asked her, she would tell you she is ugly.

I love my mother more because she is who she is. People who lie, whose faces are a mask of plastic surgery, are repulsive no matter how beautiful they are.

Falsehood makes us run. On television, Mad Men is a mad hit, but "the sexism, in particular, is almost suffocating, and not in the least fun to watch," Gregory Rodriguez writes in the L.A. Times.

It's the hidden side of the characters -- the dark and painful and yes, ugly -- that is most compelling.

Miley Cyrus is a tasteless train wreck, showy and exhibitionistic. Is that why people listen to her music? Or is it that we hear in her voice our own broken hearts? "Wrecking Ball" makes me tear up every time. It got a record 19.3 million views within 24 hours of its appearance on the Vevo video music channel.

A lifetime of drug-fueled partying is ugly, too, when you look at it up close. Charlie Sheen has never pretended to be anything other than this immature frat boy. And in "Two And A Half Men," he made a hit out of looking at the audience and making fun of himself.

Jerry Seinfeld made it big with the same formula in Seinfeld. He was the guy who couldn't commit to a girl, the comedian-baby who ran around the city and semi-succeeded at making a family out of Elaine, Kramer and George. He hasn't had a hit since, because the real Seinfeld grew up and got married and had a few kids.

The list goes on and on. Popular motivational speakers Tony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey and Iyanla Vanzant have all talked publicly about their personal struggles with having been abused. Their personal ugliness turns into something beautiful when they give it as a gift to others, to help them through the kind of unbearable personal pain that few can ever think of sharing.

Along the same lines, we see popular art made out of popping a great big hole in fake images of perfection. Take the art of Dina Goldstein, which shows "What Disney Princesses' Happily-Ever-Afters Really Looked Like." Or the mashed-up photographs-with-captions by Anne Taintor, which show what those 1950s "domestic goddesses" were really thinking.

When modern image-makers stumble and fall, it's usually for one of three reasons.

* They lack sufficient self-awareness and/or cultural awareness to calibrate to their surroundings.
* They miss the mark consistently, and either over- or under-share.
* They present themselves one way, then change course and act like they are somebody else.

The best "personal brands" celebrate who they really are: Adele and Melissa McCarthy and Cory Booker. They don't pretend to be something they're not. They don't even answer all your questions. They have the kind of confidence you can't buy in a salon.

People want to be around other relatable human beings. The things you're worried about are 99% irrelevant to them.

The number one rule, if you want to follow one, is this: Don't be a phony, arrogant jerk.

* All opinions my own.

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