I got to thinking about beauty and what makes people beautiful when I was reading about the 2016 Pirelli calendar.

Pirelli are famous for their calendars.  Their calendars are of women. The 2015 calendar was awash with bondage type rubber, nipples, body oil and angular hips.  Back in the 60s it was girls in bikinis, see through T shirts and bottoms pertly peeking from too short skirts.  In the 80s there were tasteful nudes and lots and lots of breasts. For 2016 there is something different.

Annie  Liebovitz was the photographer for the 2016 calendar and the models are ‘women who have changed society today’: Amy Shumer, Yoko Ono, Patti Smith, Serena Williams, Fran Lebowitz, Amy Schumer, Tavi Gevinson, Ava DuVernay, Natalia Vodianova, Agnes Gund, Kathleen Kennedy, Mellody Hobson, Shirin Neshat, and Yao Chen.

This year there is no leather, no rubber, no nipples. In fact the women are not only (mainly) wearing clothes in most of the shots, but many of the women are older, greyer and more lined than ever before; ‘real women’ at ‘all stages’.  Where there is nudity, there are also muscles, tummy ripples and imperfections.

I like it.

I think the photos are beautiful because of the wrinkles and imperfections and not in spite of them.

I was reading reviews of the calendar (sad I know!) and found that although there was a ground swell of approval for the new approach, there were some detractors.

One woman argued that the 2016 calendar is anti feminist as it suggests that women can’t be smart and sexy as she thought the photos in the calendar show smart but unattractive women.

Sigh.

Two steps forward and one back.

  • Who are the people you think are beautiful?

If we are defining beauty as being youthful, skinny and with long, glossy locks of hair (parted down the middle) then the women in the 2016 calendar fall short.

But it would be a sad world if there was only one kind of beauty.  The 2016 calendar has women who are black, white, Asian, young old, curvy and motherly in it.

The skinny, center parted, youthful kind of beauty has become fetishised.  The definition of a fetish is when sexual desire arises from focusing to an abnormal degree on a a particular object, item of clothing, part of the body or type of body.

Ironically, in tribal cultures a fetish is an object which is seen as being imbued with magical powers.

So let’s take those 2 definitions together:  an abnormal focus on a type of beauty which we then imbue with magical powers.  ‘If I could look like that then all my hopes and dreams would come true’.

And we dare to laugh at ‘primitive’ tribal beliefs…it is our madness that we turn people into magical objects which we then aspire to look like.  One of my students last year showed me how to turn a very ordinary photo of a woman into a photo of a beautiful woman courtesy of photoshop.  Lengthen this, slim that, widen those, thicken them and voila – beauty or  magic?

It is madness to create magical images which we then aspire to in order to be happy.

Beauty is subjective, but we all recognise kindness, courage, empathy, clear thinking, and wisdom when we experience it. Surely the point of the calendar, is to look at the women inside the bodies; Yoko Ono and her music and art, Serena Williams and her sport, Agnes Gund and her philanthropy.  Each of the women in the calendar have their stories

Beauty, cliched though it may be, really is an inside job.  Having taught so many people over the years I see how some people who are beautiful when they are young, age in a way not dissimilar to Roald Dahl’s Mr and Mrs Twit. Mrs Twit starts off life looking pretty enough, but her mean spirited nature leads her to grow uglier as she ages.

I have have seen the reverse happen.  One very close friend looks younger and more radiant now than she did when I first met her over 15 years ago.  She hasn’t done any ‘work’ done, but she has done the inner work; eating well, meditating, challenging her negative thoughts and stepping away from things and people that drain her and towards things and people which energise her.

  • What makes the people in your list above beautiful?

Which brings me to you.

  • How can you make changes to your life so that your inner beauty can shine through ever more strongly?

My last blog was about the things that drain and the things that energise us.  Did you work out what you want to do more of because it energises you?  Do you know what you want to do less of because it drains you?

You can use the same tool for other aspects of your life.  Try drawing some more Energise/drain lines for the following areas of your life:

  • The people you spend time with – who energises you and who drains you?
  • The food you eat – what gives you energy and makes you feel good and what makes you feel sluggish, guilty, hyper?
  • What you read and watch – what inspires you and gives you ideas and courage?  What drains you and fills you with fear and despair?

We’ve given up New Years Resolutions in our house just because they don’t work.  How about instead, using your energise/drain monitor this year to help you steer?  If it feels good, do more of it, if it drains you, do less. Simple.

The more we step away from things, ideas, situations and people who drain us, the more our inner beauty can shine through.  Each of the women on the calendar have found what it is they love to do and what energises them and when I look at them I see courage, wisdom, character and the kind of beauty that no amount of plastic surgery or botox can buy and that’s the kind of beauty for me.

Lots of love for 2016.

Julie