I'd Rather Look Like Myself Than Be Someone Else's Idea Of Beautiful

by Zara Barrie

"Beauty" is such a bizarre, elusive thing, isn't it? We put so much emphasis on being considered beautiful, yet what the f*ck is physical beauty, anyway? What does it even mean to be beautiful?

The very concept of outer beauty is so painfully complicated, so emotionally loaded, it's seemingly impossible to examine with something as definitive and constrictive as letters and words.

Allow me to let you in on a little secret that took me far too long to discover (but once I did, it set me gloriously free): Beauty isn't real. It's madly subjective.

What's beautiful to me is so f*cking different than what is beautiful to you. And that's not a bad thing. On the contrary, it's a beautiful thing.

Let's rewind: Growing up, I, like a plethora of young girls feverish with big dreams and teeming with irrepressible desires to express themselves to the world, wanted nothing more than to be an actress.

I can't remember a time in my life when I wanted to do or be anything else. Acting was such a real, true, brutally honest passion that burned me from within; its fiery flames penetrated me from the inside out.

Acting was my first love. Like all first loves, my desire for it cut so deeply I would do anything in the world for it.

It provided me with a high unparalleled to the slew of drugs I flippantly experimented with as a frivolous teenager searching to fill empty voids.

So, at the tender age of 15, I consciously decided to invest my insatiable adolescent energy into nothing but theater and film acting.

I was content to sacrifice all the typical teenage milestones in order to make my dreams of being an actress come to fruition.

I was determined to work so hard that my career ambitions had no choice but to transform into a thriving reality.

I didn't care about attending football games (I don't think I even knew the name of my high school sports team).

I didn't care about homecoming dances. I didn't care about "superlatives." I never took an SAT prep course to save my life and couldn't have cared less about the prom.

I booked my first feature film when I was 17 years old, and I enthusiastically missed my last two months of high school, graduation day and all the other end-of-an-era happenings most senior girls are eager to engage in.

I threw high school away, tossed it out the proverbial window. I couldn't wait to get the f*ck out and kickstart my career.

Hollywood's idea of beauty.

I made the full-time move to shiny, pretty, palm-tree adorned Los Angeles when I was just shy of 18. I lived in a small apartment off La Brea. I didn't even know how to drive.

I was, however, a talented actress, hyper-ambitious and full of the unabashed confidence that's exclusive to naive little entities new to the glittery wasteland that is Hollywood, CA.

I got an agent quickly. Our first meeting, he told me I was "pretty, but inaccessible." An overweight, creepy older gentleman who sported a wandering eye and surely had acute halitosis was suddenly the Commander-in-Chief of how I was supposed to look.

He gave me a laundry list of things I needed to do in order make myself "beautiful" to the masses.

Apparently my natural beauty, style and "vibes" weren't "relatable" enough to be cast. I was too exotic, and according to my agent, exotic didn't cut it in a town like this.

I was instantly told to "soften" my look: My naturally raven black, waist-length hair needed to be shorter with blonde highlights. My porcelain skin needed a golden tan. My slight 115-pound, 5'6”, 17-year-old frame needed seven to 10 pounds shaved off.

Apparently, accessible, relatable beauty was a blonde, tan, dangerously thin 17-year-old girl.

Which makes perfect sense, right? Our gorgeously diverse country, made up of all colors and dress sizes, can only relate to a 100-pound teenage California babe (I hope you can you feel the heaps of sarcasm I'm transmitting to you through the static computer screen). What the f*ck?

I was, however, young, wildly ambitious and sorely misguided, so I spent the next few years trying and failing to emulate my agent's vision of beauty.

I drank the Kool-Aid and didn't question it. Until I realized…

No one looks "beautiful" when he or she is uncomfortable.

Every time I would go in for a meeting with my agency I was told I needed to change something else about myself.

Each interaction with my agent was an endless stream of "Dumb down your fashion aesthetic for a wider appeal.

Wear a push-up bra. Lose even more weight. Wear more makeup. Wear less makeup. Lose weight in your face. Speak with a quieter voice.

Tone down your intense personality, and stop wearing that damn leather jacket -- it scares people off."

The very things I was instructed to change were the very things the people in my life who actually mattered to me loved about me. I was altering all of the attributes that made me, me.

I was actively watering down my version of beautiful in order to fulfill some old white dude's idea of what beauty was, and I was getting a sneaking suspicion this whole "beauty" ordeal was sort of f*cked up.

And, not so surprisingly, it wasn't getting me work. Because when you're not comfortable in your own skin, people can pick up on it, no matter how good you think you are at masking it.

Even if you're a notoriously good "faker" like me, it's blazingly apparent when you want to crawl out of your flesh because you're not being true to yourself -- and trust me: It serves as somewhat of a "people repellent."

People don't want to be around that kind of frenetic energy, let alone hire it or cast it in a movie.

Your discomfort in yourself makes people uncomfortable, especially in a town like Hollywood (a town packed with anxious entities collectively battling a pending identity crisis).

Art is all about authenticity -- the moment you try to be something you inherently are not is the very moment you lose the purity and the integrity of your creative work.

And wasn't it always about the work to begin with? After all, I'm not a model; I'm an actress because I'm passionate about examining the human condition.

How could I possibly connect to my characters in an honest way if I wasn't being honest with myself?

Finally I decided:

I would rather look like myself than be considered "beautiful."

I was weary from fighting the epic, uphill beauty battle. I was sick of gazing into the mirror and not recognizing the girl staring back at me.

I felt like I had betrayed who I was. I finally decided f*ck it, I would rather feel more comfortable in my skin than be considered "beautiful."

Because "beauty" isn't even a real, tangible thing. It's not something you can grasp with your hands.

Ask 10 different people what your next haircut should be, and you will get 10 different answers. You're never going to please all of them, so you might as well please yourself.

After all, you really are all you have in this world, so you might as well start embracing your own idea of beauty.

I will never be the California girl with the honey-colored, salty beach waves of hair who runs on the beach in cut-off shorts.

And that's okay. The world needs a mix of looks and styles, or the world would be dismal.

Beauty is a feeling.

If beauty is anything, it's a feeling, not an image. And I feel f*cking beautiful when I'm comfortable.

And I happen to be comfortable when I'm sporting black leather, red lipstick and a wicked sense of humor. That's my version of beautiful.

Dismiss the depiction of beauty that society is pressuring you to achieve. Beauty is a business like any other business. And you, girl, can't be fooled or bought. You're too cool; you're too smart for that sh*t. Be above it.

Don't try and look like the girl on TV. The girl on the TV doesn't look like the girl on the TV. Nothing you see is real, but everything you feel is real.

Be your badass, comfortable, authentically beautiful self. If your ferocious style and vivacious personality is your own, no one can ever take it away from you.