Tales of a Former Ugly Duckling

“Just know that if you ever again ask me to buy you a new Fall wardrobe, the answer is always going to be ‘NO,’” my mother remarked in her characteristically distinct matter-of-fact tone when we chatted on the phone earlier this evening.

Despite an honesty that was less than welcome in this particular case (who wants to succumb to the terrifying reality of realizing that one’s parent no longer acquiesce to her desperate pleas?) I’m still appreciative of her articulate and intuitive wording.  See, my mom didn’t request that I cease asking for new seasonal wardrobe items altogether (she knows me better than that); instead she provided a concrete, blanket response that indicated that her reply to all future inquiries/carefully curated arguments would inevitably remain steadfast and unequivocal in its repudiation.

Just as I lack the social inhibitions that would ordinarily prevent a twenty-seven-year adult female whose long since graduated from high school, college and law school from begging asking for a new “back to school wardrobe” (there’s no other form of education in which I can seek without it seeming as if I’m just indefinitely putting off the idea of getting a ‘real’ job), she, in kind, doesn’t mince words for the sake of exhibiting diplomacy.

In fact, at the age of twelve, shortly after I had gotten my braces off, I remember driving home with my mother on an idle enough weekday evening, when she declared, quite cheerfully and with the intent to give me a compliment, “I’m really pleased that you’re teeth came out so well! You’re always beautiful, but with the braces AND the glasses…”

She trailed off.  We continued driving.

It had never before occurred to me that I was going through the requisite awkward stage that every prepubescent boy and girl around the world encounters, in part because my mother had always told me how pretty I was, and thus, I wholeheartedly (and perhaps blindly) believed her without paying much attention to the idea and what it really meant to me.

After all, I had been scouted at a shopping mall at the age of eight, and although I rushed down the runway like Zane Bolt going for another gold in the sprint during my first (and last) show, in my own childlike innocence, I believed that I was basically a natural.
But, truth be told, the clear skin, 20/20 vision, and perpetually slender body of my girlhood had given way to semi frequent breakouts, thick rimmed purple framed glasses, a two year stretch of medal mouth, and mild weight fluctuation.  The braces and the glasses and the break outs were, in fact, a lot, especially in combination with the velcro bangs that were growing out at a snail’s pace and therefore hung lifelessly in thick chunks around the sides of my face for about two years.

Then, there was the unibrow.

My friend Lindsay pointed that one out to me one day while we were sitting beside one another at her computer desk, sending out IM’s and bypassing hours on AIM.

In high school, I chose not to dwell on my inner discord concerning my physical appearance because I was intensely focused on my studies and on navigating the ebbs and flows of a social scene that most closely resembled the Hunger Games in its Social Darwinist nature. And, with a curfew of 9pm, one friend, and no real desire to date — and/or any particularly interested suitors in sight anyway — I rarely overthought the way that I looked.

That’s the thing — I never felt ugly, per se; I only believed that for some annoying, and even terrible reason, I wasn’t maximizing my potential and blossoming into all that I could be. As I grew up, I wanted to be beautiful, but more so than that, I longed to know how to do all of the things that would make me feel most confident in my own skin.

How did Thalia get her bouncy, elongated beach waves when she starred beside Fat Joe in the video for “I Want You,” (the same one that played on repeat the entire summer before my sophomore year and made me question why my local hairstylist could only seem to achieve tightly coiffed Pippy Long Stocking curls when I asked her to replicate the look for my Sweet Sixteen Party), for instance?  Shouldn’t I have an idea about how to go about achieving the particular styles that I admired the most? Didn’t I owe it to myself to take the time to learn how to do the things that would cause me to feel confident about my own physical appearance?

On the heels of my senior year, I took the train from my hometown on Long Island into New York City and spent much of my summer earnings on makeup at the Bergdorf Goodman Becca cosmetic counter (the Australian line is no longer sold there, but with its subtle hues and gentle skin care products, it was great place for me to start).  The saleswoman, mildly amused by my fervor, spent two hours tutoring me, revealing subtle tips about how to correctly apply each product for maximum impact until, having never even held a mascara wand in my hand up until that point, I completely understood what I was doing and could replicate the look on my own.

I practiced every day.

When I returned to school that year, my confidence soared. People didn’t necessarily notice my newly blushed cheeks, long lashes, and lightly glossed lips (good makeup is often the most subtle) — but they could definitely discern that something was different, improved, and that I felt sublimely comfortable in my own skin.

Shortly thereafter, I also learned how to put well coiffed curls into my hair, identify a personal aesthetic that made me feel good about my apparel purchases (the fewer expensive mistakes the better), and to eat and exercise in such a way that allowed for plenty of indulgences but ensured that my figure would remain in the shape that I wanted.

After leaving for college, I got a modeling contract (though I quickly realized that I was probably only pursuing the career for external validation and didn’t do much to move forward on that trajectory), ventured into on-air reporting, and commenced a life – and an identity – that I felt consistently self-assured about, no matter how high the stakes were and how intensely the focus was placed on my appearance. Throughout the years, I’ve picked up plenty of beauty tips and tricks in the industry and throughout my own exploration, which I incorporate not just into my personal style photos, but into my day-to-day life, as well.

Amid my own ready arguments about feminism and inner beauty, I’ve realized that while hair and makeup alone certainly don’t make the woman (We all know this by now, right?), it’s arguably important to like one’s own reflection, and there’s nothing wrong with exerting a little bit of effort to learn how to make such a ubiquitous desire completely achievable.

Listen, I’m not advocating for the old nip & tuck at age twelve here, and if you hate yourself on the inside, well that’s a discussion for another post (although, I’m certainly equipped to guide you on that topic too), but I’m talking about a tried and true beauty regimen that offers consistent, positive results — which ultimately means… a lot of tears and money saved.

Thus, I present to you a new component of my blog – Brooke’s Beauty Book, in which I’ll be writing about all of the products, people and techniques that have helped me to blossom into that girl that I always knew I could be.


Tags: No tags

3 Responses

Leave a Comment