“Plain women know more about men than beautiful ones do.”—Katharine Hepburn

When I was peeking at my visitor logs from time to time—as I am known to do—I came across someone who stumbled on this page while Googling the question “Can a plain girl have charisma?” While there was no e-mail or comment asking me about this question directly, it was an interesting enough topic that I felt it deserved a reply…regardless of whether or not the person asking it ever returns.

Charisma- noun

1: a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm.
2: a special magnetic charm or appeal

So, to answer your question:

Abso-freaking-lutely.

I’m assuming that the person Googling this topic is either a young woman struggling with some self-confidence issues and weighed down by worries that she is “plain-looking” and not likely to be found attractive by others, or a man who has found himself inexplicably drawn to a woman he wouldn’t define as conventionally attractive.

Either way, the answer is the same:

Abso-freaking-lutely.

Charisma.....
If you take the time to look around your world—not on the television or movie screen, or in magazines, but around the actual world you live in, you’ll notice that very few people you encounter have that gift that can only be referred to as “natural beauty”. Granted, if you live in a large city that’s particularly appearance-conscious, such as Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas, Atlanta, London, Paris, Milan, and certain parts of New York, you’re likely to find more stunningly attractive people. There are two reasons for this: 1)Beautiful people gravitate towards places where there are clear rewards for being beautiful, namely in the entertainment industry. 2)If appearance plays a huge role in the area you call home, and you weren’t gifted with natural beauty, you can always purchase it.

However, a majority of the world is not gifted with said natural beauty, which is why such a premium is placed on it.

Charisma, on the other hand, is a talent unto itself. It is the “it factor”, the special thing that draws attention to a person, regardless of talent, intellect, beauty, or any other factors. Those factors may influence charisma, they may increase a person’s appeal, but they do not go hand in hand. After years in the entertainment industry, I can tell you that I’ve met some beautiful women who are dull as dishwater. And, certainly, if you go to a club or bar, you’ll see people killing themselves to get attention from these women…but after that, then what?

Assuming you’re not dealing with an exceptionally shallow or self-serving person, charisma trumps beauty every time. Charisma explains why certain people with less talent or beauty than others become international celebrities, why the smartest kid in the class doesn’t always become a leader in his field, why some politicians get elected and others get ignored, and why some people have an easy time meeting new people, making new friends, and always seem to have a date, despite any obvious lack of overwhelming beauty, while their more attractive but less delightful counterparts sit at home.

Of course, if you’re beautiful, smart, and charismatic, you’ve got it all going for you and you don’t need to worry, and you’re probably not reading this blog. If you’re not, well, you see, that’s where you’re going wrong.

If you don’t think of yourself as beautiful, smart, and charismatic, you’re holding yourself back. You’re already painting a rather dull portrait of yourself, and an inaccurate one at that. If you’re always going out and assuming the role as sidekick to your gorgeous friend, or wingman to the handsome guy that always gets the chicks, you’ve typecast yourself as a supporting character in your own life. Why? Because you’re comparing yourself to others around you, to what you see in the media (which is, by nature, a world of make-believe), and listening to cruel, ignorant remarks put out there by cruel, ignorant people.

Adele
Charismatic people are confident people. People are drawn to beautiful people, yes, but they’re also drawn to confident people. If you consider yourself a “plain girl”, either because that’s what you see when you look in the mirror, or because that’s what someone has told you, you need to revise your thinking, or you will not be able to have the necessary level of confidence and charisma to be the outgoing, loveable you that you’d love to be.

From personal experience, I can tell you that I know how you feel. Physically, I am not conventionally pretty; I’m short, curvy, pale, have a rather unique look to my face….all things I grew up hating. I wanted to be the pretty blonde who seemed naturally put together in the most feminine, delicate way possible; the one everyone paid attention just for being pretty. I didn’t want to be “unique”. And, let me tell you, it’s even harder when you’re trying to work as a teenage actress and hearing you’re too “unique” for one project or another…which I always took as code for “We want someone more beautiful.”

One day, though, I realised something. I realised that for every job I didn’t get because I was too unique, every guy who didn’t like me because I wasn’t conventionally pretty, there was one waiting for me that was interested for precisely that reason. I didn’t even know I had “charisma”; I just felt quirky, weird, and awkward, like most adolescents. Yet, it was precisely those things that drew other people toward me. I’ve always had a ton of acquaintances, and found it easy to meet people, and I’m the first to admit I don’t have any special “people skills”…I struggle with small talk, and am perpetually opening my big mouth to say something I should really keep to myself.

Somewhere along the line, in my early 20′s, something clicked. I realised I would never be conventionally pretty, but it didn’t make me any less beautiful. In fact, I might even be plain-looking, or ugly (which I don’t believe about myself, and neither should you, but, we all have haters. ;P), but it didn’t make me any less worthy of attention. Somehow, I started behaving as if I *knew* I were beautiful, and I deserved all the attention the world wanted to offer me. All of the sudden, the world responded to me in a slightly different way; I’d hear compliments on the things I thought made me weird and plain and awkward, I’d find guys who preferred talking to me over my prettier friend out at a club, I started finding artists and photographers who wanted me to model for their projects. I started attracting people just because I behaved as if I found myself beautiful…even if I wasn’t totally convinced. And, the more people responded, the more I felt free to let my true personality—charismatic, yes, but equally flawed as the rest of me–shine. Not everyone liked this; if you portray too much confidence, especially when people think you’ve no right to, they become resentful. They gossip. They try to make you feel badly about yourself.

It doesn’t matter…charisma takes you a long way, baby, no matter how flawed you believe you are.

I still have moments like that in my life, when I feel as if I don’t want to go to public events because everyone there is thin and Botoxed and blonde and perfect, and I’ve gained 20 pounds and am short and curvy and quirky. But, what I’ve found is that when I feel this way…nobody in the world dislikes me as much as I do. In fact, many people like me because I’m different, not in spite of it. And the ones that don’t—you have to learn to let go and move on and tell them where to stick their unwanted opinion. Case in point: I once had an ex-lover write a letter to a guy I was attracted to calling me “butt ugly”, sharing some private details abut the time we spent together, and attaching some rather personal photographs, an experience that devastated me to no end. I don’t know what hurt worse: the violation of my privacy, the fact that an ex-lover would demean me in such a way, or that a guy I was attracted to had to be the one to tell me about all this.

Alyson Hanigan
Later on, this particular guy became notorious in social circles around town because he insulted an overweight girl on a dating website, a fiasco that got so out of hand, it landed him on Oprah, talking to Dr. Phil. During the segment, he lied about his age and a number of other things, and was secretly videotaped trying to pick up women at a bar. One publication even dubbed him “the worst person” in the city that year.

To this day, no form of vindication made me feel better than seeing that particular person get his come-uppance. But I never forgot that he called me “butt-ugly”, and there’s still a small, but permanent dent in my self-esteem left by this person.

One thing it didn’t affect, however, was my charisma and my sense of myself. I still walk through life assuming everyone is either attracted to me or wants to be my friend until proven otherwise. And, lately, knowing my self-confidence has taken a severe hit, I’ve chosen to limit my company to those who make me feel positive about myself….medication, extra 20 pounds, melancholy attitude, and all. We all need those times away to recover and recuperate from whatever we’re going through.

If you look in the media today, you’ll see a lot of beautiful people. But you’ll also see sensations like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Adele, and numerous others, who, whatever you think of their talent or looks, are unquestionably forces to be reckoned with. And while we’ll all admit that Orlando Bloom, Johnny Depp, and Ryan Reynolds are hot in the physical sense, know who’s making more money than any of them? Slightly-nerdy-but-loveable, smart, funny Justin Timberlake. He’s built a career on charisma. I think he’s aware he’ll never look like Brad Pitt, and maybe part of him feels a little insecure about that, but he’s largely too happy using all his talents to build a career he loves.

Richest woman in America? Oprah Winfrey. Most followed people on Twitter? Lady Gaga and Ashton Kucher. As much emphasis as we put on beauty—and often unrealistic, manufactured beauty at that—charisma seems to win every time. Ask around, and you’ll find that Jennifer Aniston wins more likeability points than Angelina Jolie every time, even though only the second was a professional model.

Bette Davis Eyes
Can a plain girl have charisma?

Abso-freaking-lutely.

Just stop thinking about yourself—or the girl you’re into—as “that plain girl”, and see her as that “charismatic girl”, and see how quickly the world changes.

(Celebrities, from top to bottom: Unknown Girl, Lady Gaga, Adele, Katherine Hepburn, Kelly Clarkson, Alyson Hannigan, Allison Harvard (from America’s Next Top Model), Bette Davis, Barbra Streisand)

I know, I know…you haven’t seen me much around these parts lately. There are many reasons for this, most of which are good, and some which aren’t quite so positive…but, hey, I’m still alive and kicking. Here’s a quick update on what’s been going on the past two weeks or so, and why it’s rather killed my inspiration to blog about my life:

  • Work.I’m back on a full-time work schedule now, which is wonderful, because it means I am off “probation” and make a somewhat decent amount of money writing again. The bad news is that I’m not making great money, since I only have one project going on right now. Hopefully, as my health improves, I’ll have the energy to take on some new projects.
  • Health stuff The health challenges continue. I finally found a doctor I like, one I consider both smarter and more knowledgeable about medicine than my brain and the power of the Internet. (surprisingly, this was a long and exhaustive search.) She is also the first doctor to take the time to perform a full physical exam, during which, she pointed out she believes I may have fibroids. Not at all related to the ear or the vertigo, but a possible cause of my hypertension, back pain, extreme PMS, and appearance of weight gain in my abdominal area (atypical for me; I carry all my extra weight on my hips and thighs). I thought these were just all signs of aging, but my doctor suggested that I may have had this problem throughout my 20′s, and the fibroids actually are increasing in size due to too much estrogen on my body. Long story short, another potential health worry. I have to undergo an ultrasound on Monday, and of course, I need to pay out-of-pocket. Today, I was sent for another extensive battery of blood tests; this time, they took 16 vials of blood from me. Last visit to the lab, it was 20. That’s not counting the 6-8 taken in the ER, and the countless IV’s. I am exhausted, and have no more blood left to give. While the experience is always anxiety-provoking for me, this is the first I’m feeling the physical effects of blood loss. :( Oh, and I have my super-duper, majorly expensive ear test coming up on the 30th. I am at the point where i don’t care what’s wrong with me; I just want a diagnosis and a normal life. I’m not masochistic enough to enjoy all the pain and discomfort of the “Guess what’s wrong with Alayna?” game.
  • Friendship drama. I’ve really been saddened by a falling out with someone I’d just started to connect with and consider a friend. The falling out seemed inevitable; for whatever reason, we don’t seem to have the ability to discuss anything of a serious nature without conflict arising. It doesn’t necessarily make sense to me; I have plenty of friends with whom I don’t see eye to eye on politics, or personal matters, and the discord is hardly one-sided. Being an overly-sensitive person, I’d find this person would inadvertently hurt my feelings, causing tension. On the other side of the coin, the friend has a habit of arguing things until his point is made, and then, if you continue to defend yourself, to dismiss you; i.e. “If you’re going to say this, I see no need to continue the conversation.” or “You’re much smarter than the argument you’re making and I expect more of you”. I think this particular friend and I just exist in kind of different spheres of being, and don’t understand how to communicate well. I brought this up and provided the opportunity to discuss our communication issues, but we somehow just never got there. While being “dismissed” by someone you actually like and respect and would have desired a friendship with is extremely hurtful for someone like me, I’m not sure we’d ever have gotten past our inability to communicate. A pity, because we actually have a good deal in common. Unfortunately, the things we’ve in common are all the wrong things. In retrospect, the way this friendship played out is very similar to another in my past, which is likely why I kept pursuing it rather than just saying, “C’est la vie”. I never received the closure and validation I needed from that friendship, and it doesn’t look likely to occur here, either. I’ve grown to realise that I’m too valuable to be “dismissed”, and if someone doesn’t see that, of course it hurts…but there are those that do. Sometimes, those you believe have the potential to become great friends turn out to be acquaintances, and that’s just the way of life. Maybe Adele should write a song about that. :P
  • Writing. In addition to working on writing for work, I’ve been devotedly reassembling my collection of lost poems and short stories, most of which I figured were gone for good. I also, after many years of the idea being suggested, have decided to work on writing a novel, and it’s going surprisingly well. I’ve never been able to work on such a large project without losing interest before. What started as a collection of anecdotes and autobiographical diary-type entries has turned into a cohesive story that has transitioned from being about me to being about the lives of these characters I’ve created. I do not know if the manuscript will ever see the light of day; although much of it is fiction, there is also much about it that’s biographical and autobiographical in nature, and perhaps too personal to expose to the world (on the assumption anyone would care to read a book by someone they’ve never heard of, or just because they’re friendly with that person.) But there’s nothing like thinking your health is so fragile that you might die soon to get you motivated to leave behind a piece of art, a piece of your soul that will outlive you. I don’t think it’s mere coincidence that some of the most revered classic writers and poets died at a relatively early age.
  • Swap-Bot! As it turns out, I love making packages, cards, postcards, and writing letters to virtual strangers. I also love receiving them. It makes me feel connected with the world at large through creativity, and because many of my friends in my life here in Atlanta aren’t artistically-inclined and don’t care if I’ve drawn, written, or crafted something, it fills a definite void.Sometimes, I think that’s the thing that’s missing most in my life; someone who truly understands my desire to express myself and make an impact upon the world, and doesn’t dismiss it as “That’s too long for me to bother reading”. For instance, we’re (the boyfriend and I) are going to the opera tonight tomorrow to see Lucia di Lammermoor, and I remarked that I was excited to see a coloratura performance (I was trained as a lyric coloratura), as I hadn’t in ages. I didn’t get any sort of response to that, and it made me feel as if I’m missing something in my life, not having anyone who shares and understands my passions. It isn’t a failing on his end only; I don’t necessarily understand his passion for science fiction, and know little about computer programming. It just often feels that so many people in my life are so opposite from me, it’s hard to feel completely understood, as if I’m really connected.It doesn’t mean I love those people less, it just means I go through life feeling as if about half of me is something even those closest to me “don’t get”.

    I guess, simply put, I miss having a soulmate, platonic or otherwise. I miss connecting with other human beings on a soulful and visceral level. I’ve found terribly little of that since moving to Atlanta, which is one of the main reasons I can’t see myself staying here. It’s as if I’ve sacrificed a lot in order to try to fit in to a culture that doesn’t really reflect me, and never will.

    So, those are the things that have been keeping me away from my blog (another hobby few of my friends really “get” or care about, but is important to me nevertheless.) I’ll have to try harder to have thoughts worthy of sharing more frequently. ;)