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Beauty Vs. Charisma?

“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:


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:


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.

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?


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)

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