The beauty of being ugly: it sells!



FROM the world stage of Beijing and the uproar over "ugly little girls who can sing"
comes a diverting sequel from the boonies of Mt Isa (Google it, make sure you type in 'Australia').

Entitled "Beauty-disadvantaged singles outcry", sitcom journalism doesn't get much better than this:

"May I suggest if there are five blokes to every girl, we should find out where there are beauty-disadvantaged women and ask them to proceed to Mount Isa," Cr Molony was quoted in the Townsville Bulletin as saying.

Molony's not a one-quote wonder either:

"Quite often you will see walking down the street a lass who is not so attractive with a wide smile on her face. Whether it is recollection of something previous or anticipation for the next evening, there is a degree of happiness."

The comments "sparked outrage among the town's single women, who have organized a protest rally tonight on the lawns of the Civic Centre."

Read the article yourself

Who needs Hollywood scriptwriters when you've got real life writing the hell out of itself like this?

Now whether you agree or disagree with the face-saving Chinese or Mt Isa's foot-in-mouth Mayor, there's a clue here for thankless marketers and spin doctors. Looks are valuable buzz currency – whether hot or not.

Billions of bytes now choke the blogosphere about the Lin-Yang performance, and apparently place-without-a-postcard Mt Isa, once famous for heatwaves and silver, lead and zinc is now internationally known as a potential sister city to Alaska, where "the odds are good but the goods are odd". All because someone said someone isn't an oil painting.

Now what does this mean for you, dear marketer?

Contrary to what the media tell you, we love ugly as much as we love (or love to loathe) beauty. We love underdogs.

For every Maxim or FHM coverbabe, there's a supermarket checkout rag making megabucks showing the beautiful at their ugliest. If you can't be Heidi Klum, be an Ugly Betty. Even better, be a real UB, not a stunning woman with a pair of glasses and braces pretending to be ugly. Ugly is way cheaper and easier for all of us to do, just like it's easier to be a lousy rocket scientist than a Nobel Laureate. We've all got the power to be ugly – embrace it, get attention, get sympathy, and make a bunch of money ...

Lin may be getting all the movie offers, but Yang will probably get the speaker's gigs at personal development megameets. People are probably going to be writing to Yang telling her how beautiful she is, in fact, I'm surprised there isn't a site for her where people can log their praise. Lin won't need any consoling, the world is kind enough to physical beauty. And we love things in twos to bounce off each other, equal and opposite, similar but different, think Kylie and Danni, Paris and Nikki, Elle and Mimi, Obama and Hillary… yin and yang.

I don't need to point out the real beauty of being ugly - it’s a wonderful filter for summoning only those of substance into your life.

Ah yes, and since when would Mt Isa get any international airtime other than in the stock pages thanks to the resources boom Australia is currently enjoying? Watch out, I see a desert-loving singles resort, casino, theme park, not to mention an inflow of products and services for the excess of intelligent and eligible women ...

Just out of interest, I consulted my Shanghainese father for his take on the Lin-Yang performance. His response was unsurprisingly, Chinese.

"There's nothing wrong with having the prettiest little girl representing the country," he said, slurping a bowl of pig's blood and noodle soup in the local Asian food court.

"You must always create the best impression to represent your country. A perfect face, and one that can act."

Ah, yes, not unlike that defining moment in the movie American Beauty: "Always project an image of success" …

But, father did concede that, in their obsession with perfection, the Chinese made a mistake.

"They got the perfect voice, the perfect face, and think they can just put them together and make a perfect result. Typical Chinese ..."

Meaning, two perfects don't make a peach, otherwise there would not have been such a furor.

"Looks are still #1, so they should have just trained the pretty little girl to sing good enough," he said. "As long as she was in tune, people would forgive a pretty face who can act. Besides, there was a lot of noise in that stadium anyway."

Or conversely, why not find a pretty-enough girl who could sing? Surely in a population of a billion ...

"No, you have to show your best face," insisted my father.

Ah the face, and saving face, so very Chinese.

Being a sorta-Chinese ABC (Australian Born Chinese, with all the associated and lingering cultural schizophrenia), I beg to differ. I would have chosen that soaring voice of an angel emanating from that little round face with the crooked teeth any day. It would have sent a profound signal that anyone not blessed with a dial to die for could still capture the heart of the world. Besides, it's tough enough growing up Chinese let alone giving the poor kid a complex over something outside her control.

In the same way, imagine if Nike did something delightfully unexpected yet utterly impressive, and gave 10 grand to every impoverished minority school in the USA, rather than millions to one beautiful spoiled brat.

It would get my attention, and in a culture where some say all Asians look the same, it's the face and voice of Yang, not Lin, that brings a smile to my ugly face.

Asked to provide a poster child for Bike Friday, The Galfromdownunder would readily put forward any of her fabulously flawed Super Senior and Special Needs customers.

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