Beyoncé and the True Cost of Beauty

I am not a huge fan of Beyoncé. I admire her, but her music isn’t really my cup of tea. I do, however, love People magazine. It’s my 20 minutes of mental erasure once a week. With the added bonus that it keeps me up-to-date on popular culture.

This week I was stunned when I saw this quote from Beyoncé:

“I’m always in pain! My earrings are heavy, and my heels are hurting—they hurt all the time. But you know you have to sacrifice for beauty. You just get kind of numb after a while.”

I wasn’t stunned that she said it, just that People printed it. Every time I see Beyoncé on awards shows (and her pop compatriots like Carrie Underwood, et al) I can’t help but stare at them and think—Good Lord, it must take a lot of work and, frankly, misery, to keep up that look. Now I have proof that it’s true. Would Beyoncé still be as successful if she only wore flats? If she didn’t wear inches-thick layers of makeup, or do whatever she does to her hair to make it unnaturally sparkly and straight? I don’t know. Of course, she is talented beyond her good looks. And people do love to look at that kind of beauty—men and women alike. But what does it cost her? Not just in money, but in pain, and lost time.

For better or worse, I’ve taken the path of least resistance on my “beauty” regime. You could say I’ve given up. I don’t color my hair, or straighten it (it takes 45 minutes to get it straight—that’s 45 minutes I could be doing lots of other things). I hate eye makeup—and in fact, face makeup in general makes me claustrophobic. I only wear flat shoes and, frankly, prefer no shoes. I’ve gone for comfort over beauty, and I must say, it feels good.

However, I would be lying if I said I don’t look at my neck and wish it didn’t have lines in it, or at my hair and wish it wasn’t frizzy all the time. Especially as I think about heading out on “tour” to sell my upcoming book, Organic Manifesto, I worry if I will look fat and frizzy on TV. My stomach, after three kids over three decades, refuses to flatten, no matter how much pilates and yoga I do. And, dear reader, you know I love food way too much to diet!!!

So I will be heading out into the world of media makeovers as just myself: Graying, frizzy, slightly fat, and wearing flats. But at least I won’t be numb or in pain! It might cost me in terms of popularity or fame—which is still a double standard where women are concerned (let’s be honest, there are a lot of ugly, graying, frizzy and slightly fat men wearing flats who have no problem gaining fame or respect).

But as long as my family loves me, I’ll be just fine…and that’s a beautiful thing.

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35 Responses to Beyoncé and the True Cost of Beauty

  1. Jean Nick says:

    You go Girl!!! It makes me happy to be part of Rodale every time I see the real you, and I know my sentinment is shared by many others inside the company and in the community, cause the’ve told me.

  2. Dawn Meisch says:

    This post made me laugh because it reminded me of my mother telling me, “You have to suffer to be beautiful.” when I was 8 or 9. She was combing knots out of my hair. I told her I didn’t want to be beautiful if it had to hurt.

  3. YouGo says:

    And my guess is you are enjoying life more than the rich and famous celebrity.

  4. Jennifer says:

    You have nothing to worry about. Grace and intelligence are their own beauty.

  5. Becky says:

    Well..i like the natural look but I love my 30 mins. in the morning to do my hair and put on my makeup!
    My kids used to say they weren’t going anywhere with me until I put on makeup! So I continue to wear it! But that’s just me …I love color and feel good when I have a least a little eye and lips on!
    My mom always looked good even in a bad mood, she put her makeup on everyday..and was beautiful! After having 9 children, it was a treat for her to buy a new tube of lipstick from Este Lauder!
    Enjoy Life Natural girls and the Painted faces too!! ; )

  6. Deborah says:

    I like your attitude and mostly agree with it. To play Devil’s advocate though–just suppose your significant other watches slender, well-shaped models and dreams and fantasizes about them while YOU are doing your yoga? Wouldn’t that give you pause that maybe you ought to pay a bit more attention to your appearance? Or would it make you all the more determined to be “natural” whatever the cost?

  7. Liz says:

    You look beautiful to me!

  8. Michelle says:

    I’m with you Maria! (Except I color my hair!) If I have to put on my face in order to go out, I’ll stay ay home thank you! I’d rather be in my garden anyway.
    As for people who suffer pain in their feet- I love you! My daughter is studying to be a podiatrist and you will be keeping her in business for a very long time.

  9. barbarellakw says:

    I’m with you on all of it! I’m lucky my husband backs me up on these things as well. Life is too short to worry about such trivial things. In the end all that matters is that you are beautiful inside. Good luck on the tour!

  10. Maria says:

    Dear Deborah,

    I don’t mind my husband drooling over those cheerleaders while I’m doing yoga. He doesn’t mind me drooling over cowboys and country music stars while he’s watching the games…but we both know where all that drooling needs to end up! But I also believe no one should ever take anything for granted and I appreciate my husbands appreciation of me every day. And he sure does like my cooking!

  11. Maggie says:

    I’m right there with you! After years of wishing I had curly hair, trying perms (yikes!) and curling my hair, I have found that no one likes their hair. My moment of enlightenment came when a friend (whose hair I envied) told me that she wished she could get her hair as straight and shiny as mine. I hadn’t done anything but wash it and brush it that day! Besides, my family loves that I can be ready to go at a moment’s notice!

  12. Deborah says:

    Maria,

    Thanks for the beautiful insight into how you manage the external vs. the internal. Congratulations on your level of understanding with your lucky husband. I’m sure you could write a very good book about how you and he achieved it!

  13. Caroline says:

    I think I look better with basic makeup on my face, but rarely do I have the time or energy to apply it.
    Thank goodness my husband has never liked me wearing makeup!

  14. Mariska says:

    Ditto, ditto, ditto. The biggest mystery to me: All those THOUSANDS of wasted hours blow-drying hair. Really?? Spend 20 minutes a day fry-drying your hair, only to get it wet the next day, and do it all over again? I just don’t get it!

    (Now, granted, it wouldn’t hurt for me to get my hair cut a little more often…)

    If you ask me, you radiate health and couldn’t be a better spokesperson for all the merits and benefits of organic living. I think your book will open many minds — an impact way more meaningful and long-lasting than the “right” shade of lipstick — in part *because* you present yourself as you really are. Knock ‘em dead, Maria!

  15. Donna in Delaware says:

    Gosh Maria, it is so uncanny how much we have in common. I absolutely hate wearing makeup. This is partly because I have always had oily skin and hated patting and wiping my face constantly as a teen and young adult. The other reason is because it feels so uncomfortable on and unnatural to boot! I love the feeling of clean, breathable skin. I try to eat well and keep it unblemished as much as possible, which has been much work in and of itself since my teens, to wear make-up on top of that, I don’t think I could have stood all of the work that would have been involved. As I have said before, there is nothing wrong with self improvement, as long as you don’t overdo it! I rarely wear makeup and as for my hair, well, that’s a different story altogether. I used to get perms every 6 to 8 months from the time I could remember. I stopped perming my hair years ago and allowed it to heal and breathe naturally. Just wash, condition and cut the ends. When it’s so bad, and if I am traveling overseas for a month or more, I take a wig along. I’ll be darned if I am going to pay $100 or more for a wash, cut and style. When my husbandd visits his hairdresser/barber in Switzerland, he pays about US$45-50 for a hair cut and beard clipping. It’s crazy!
    I wear lipstick and some mascara when I have somewhere to go, but that is the extent of it.
    I am really quite tired of Beyonce and those mermaid outfits that she wears, and herself designs, just to show off her curves. If you’ve got, flaunt it, is getting tiresome. I’m tired of seeing these women exposing their breast also. I hope that they stop it before they age.
    Keep it natural Maria. My husband told me that he didn’t marry me for my hair and looks, but because of the person that I am. Who needs more than that?!!!!

  16. Donna in Delaware says:

    PS. I can’t remember the last time that I wore high heels. The highest heel I wear is 1-2inches, and that’s rarely. My feet are comfortable and I’m not in any pain. Unlike Mariah Carey, who wears stillettos as soon as she arises because she cannot wear flats or walk barefoot. The muscles in her back legs have shortened over the years. If she is barefoot, she walks on tippy toes because she can’t straighten her feet. It’s sad what we do to ourselves for the sake of looking good.

  17. Vanessa says:

    After nearly paralysing myself wearing heels for 9 years, I gave them up 2 years ago and haven’t looked back. Bliss is a pair of flipflops. Makeup has gone the same way. It’s incredibly brave and liberating to be able to ‘bareface’ the world, and everyone should try it once. Might not be your cup of tea, but worth a go.

  18. Linda says:

    Okay, I admit it. I’m an old hippy. What-you-see-is-what-you-get. I haven’t worn heels in over 35 years and have to intention of ever wearing them again in this lifetime. I don’t own any makeup. I never started coloring my hair because I knew I wouldn’t want to keep it up and it looks awful growing out again. I have lots of lines in my face and loose skin under my chin, but you know what? I’ve earned every wrinkle and gray hair that I have. They are badges of courage and honor and I’m proud of them. People finally take me seriously (when I want them to) and I don’t have anything to prove. I have raised 3 intelligent kids of whom I am very proud. There is no greater compliment that you can give a parent than telling them that their offspring have a great work ethic, and I hear that all the time about my 3 contributions to the future of this world. I might be an old broad, but I say, “Damn straight, Maria.”

  19. Laura says:

    Without her professional styling team, Beyonce is an ordinary-looking young woman with frizzy hair and strong thick thighs that would look bigger if she wore flats and God forbid a woman look so sturdy.

    I am practically addicted to pop journalism and I have seen so many remarks from female stars saying what a pain it is to maintain their glam image – not eating for a few days before an awards show, hours of prep time, tanning, body wraps, hair extensions, UGH! It’s all an illusion, and all fascinating!

    You’ll be lovely on your media tour! Your personality will sparkle.

    Easy fix for the frizzies if you’re indeed worried what the camera will pick up: a little -little!- Ojon styling cream on your hair when dried will tame and define natural curls without looking “styled.” Try a smear of Tarte blush on the cheeks so the photogs’ flashes don’t wash out your natural radiance. Now I sound like the People beauty and style pages, no?

  20. annette says:

    Many years of wearing heels will result in foot problems that can be very painful when one least expects or needs added pain. Bunions are not fun. Many orthopaedic surgeons would support your views and encourage more reasonable shoes. However women like Byonce keep them in business and there will never be a lack of patients as long as vanity rules.

  21. Jennifer2 says:

    I have to agree with Becky. Although I am beginning to choose comfort over beauty, I still like to wear my makeup and feel better when put together. I LOVE the smell of my makeup. Nothing turns me off more than a new brand of facial lotion that stinks . . .

  22. Carl says:

    Maria, I just wanted to share a man’s insight to what you said. You are beautiful- I am not talking just about your physical beauty, but the beauty that comes from your heart. Your article struck home about a subject that has been bothering me for a long time. I am so tired of these plastic women that feel their idea of beauty is something that is universal and should be forced upon the rest of the women in our society. If your confidence lies in the “mask” that you put on every morning then you are missing something in your soul! Find yourself and that missing part before you are lost forever. Stop being so shallow and remember the important things in life, your higher power, your significant other, your children and the beautiful planet we are lucky to inherit.

  23. Ann Noel K. says:

    Actually I think you are very beautiful. You wear your confidence well and that can be worth a mountain of fancy beauty products.

  24. Maria (farm country kitchen) says:

    You all are so wonderful! Thank you so much for your comments and compliments. I wasn’t fishing…honest!!! Thanks to all of you, I FEEL beautiful.

  25. Amanda says:

    As far as celebrities go, I give Beyonce a lot of credit for being bold and curvy and herself. At least she was honest in her assessment of the illusion!

    To be honest, people like to look at beautiful things (that includes people). What about the “perfect” gardens featured in the pages of Organic Gardening? There is an element of illusion there, too.

    Humans love to dream and to believe there is a perfection toward which we can strive. On the other hand, beauty and perfection do not come in only one size/shape/color/etc. Assuming it does is where the collective “we” run into problems!

    And, Maria, ditto the comments already made…you are gorgeous and an inspiration just the way you are. Be true. Be honest.

  26. Deborah says:

    Could we please clone Carl?

  27. gina says:

    The best part of your post: “let’s be honest, there are a lot of ugly, graying, frizzy and slightly fat men wearing flats who have no problem gaining fame or respect”.

    This discrepancy is the real issue.

  28. Donna in Delaware says:

    Maria, when I saw your spot on the Martha Stewart Show a few weeks ago, I thought that you were very pretty and natural, but had an inner beauty that came through. Alluding to what Gina said, there has always been a doubled standard for beauty for women and men, hopefully, sometime in the future, we all will be individually judged on more than just physical beauty, but inner and mental beauty as well.

  29. Sharon R. says:

    I was looking at a picture of your mother yesterday and thinking about how stunningly beautiful she was. Like my mother – she always had her hair done, her makeup on, and the jewelery to compliment her attire. I know that when I go to visit my mom, the first thing she says to me is – you need to put some makeup on, I shouldn’t have to look at you like this. Ugh… There was a day that I wore makeup all the time. Now I wear moisturizer faithfully everyday; then I throw on 4 (little itty bitty) dabs of face makeup; a swirl of blush on each cheek; and then I hope for the best that it stays there long enough for my co-workers not to feel offened as my mother does when looking at me. Sometimes I will put green eyeshadow on to represent my son who was in Iraq in the Army, but he’s home now – so I don’t feel like I’m taking something away from him (like he’s really going to care); I will where mascara – I put it on 3 feet away from the mirror without glasses – and you can just imagine how much it does for my lashes. I do wash and dry my hair everyday; I also color it either from a box or sometime the splurge to Fantastic Sams, or the bigger splurge Lords & Ladies. But you can count all those times every year on one hand. My mother’s hair is a beautiful white, as was both my grandmother’s hair, and I believe that someday – I too will have a head of beautiful white hair. I had gastric bypass surgery 2 1/2 years ago – so my hair is thinning, I’ve lost 146 lbs and there are areas where that other person “skin” sags on me. But what you see is what you get. It’s just me – and I really do look forwad to the day I wear no makeup, I don’t wash & dry my hair everyday and I am looking forward to the white hair that comes from those wonderful ladies in my life. When that day comes I will be just as happy as today. Maria, I can’t imagine you any different than you are today – an amazing, strong woman, a fabulous wife – who loves to cook, (my husbands dream wife) and a mother of 3 beautiful daughters. Whether you are out in your bare feet, or your flats; your hair is flat ironed or frizzy – you will always rock, or boot-skoot-n-boogie.

  30. Arian says:

    I too was FLOORED by Beyonce’s comment in People (yep guilty pleasure for me too). Obviously it hurts to wear heels for extended periods of time- I did it two days ago to go out to dinner and a show-my feet were killling me by the end of the evening- BUT I felt beautiful and sexy and confident AGGGGGG!!! I do not have any productive thoughts about this cultural dichotomy except to say that I participate rarely and am married to a man who tries very very hard to avoid “drooling” or looking at the women on TV (as we have not TV maybe this is easier for him), etc. and comparing them to me-Our mutual goal is to tune out those impossible, corporate, depressing ideas about sexuality and beauty (both male and female) particularly when it comes to our own relationship.

  31. Janice says:

    Shame on you ladies! Especially you Laura! You guys are jealous of Beyonce! Let’s face it she’s under 30 and she looks fabulous! Whether she wears high heels or not! When will we as women learn to lift each other up instead of tearing each other down? I can still remember turning heads in my 20′s. Those days are long gone now that I ‘m in my fifties but I still take pride in my appearance, with or without make-up!
    Beyonce is African-American, I can assure you that she doesn’t need layers of make-up to be beautiful, (We have it like that!) What we women of all ages and races should do is never stop taking care of ourselves because our men still like a pretty woman, nobody WHAT he tells you! I know, because last weekend, while out with my man, I managed to turn a few heads myself. Thank God there were no twenty-somethings around to steal my thunder!!

  32. Selena says:

    I must say I just stumbled onto this website because I was impressed with the fact that beyonce can dance so well in heels and my daughter said she saw an interview where she stated that she wears heels all the time so the curious cat that I am I went scouting to find if it were true. Having said all that I do agree with those of you who said that a woman should take pride in her appearance wether you are the type to go all out or the type to keep it to a minimum. I think however that the motivation behind a good appearance should stem from wanting to look and feel good for oneself not for someone else. And also I truly believe that if we learn to accept ourselves flaws or no flaws we will be stronger more confident women. Really that is what this whole blog is about. Also along with the outward beauty we must also work on the inner beauty learning to love beyond ourselves and living at peace with others. So ladies, women, mothers, wives, go forth and set a blazing trail of individualized beauty both outward and inward and the rest will fall in place.

  33. Ria says:

    Beyonce “might” look good appearance wise but she lacks versatility.Her look is always the same. Blonde wigs, heels, short skimpy outfits. She does not have that true inner sex appeal like Halle Berry, Madonna, or Angelina Jolie. This might be because she lacks a personality. So she makes up for it with her high maintenance appearance. Frankly I find her very over done and mindless. It’s like she has no aura. That is why she doesn’t have the true love & respect in the industry like Aaliyah who was a successful singer and actress. Alicia keys and Jennifer Hudson are both very sexy and beautiful women whom can sing and act very well. They have that respect that beyonce doesn’t have because they both have a more classy reserved way about themselves that doesn’t cry desperate attention as in beyonce’s case. Bottom line is beyonce is a very good singer and dancer but in a Vegas show girl type way. A pretty lady to look at but that all. Her clothing line reflects that as well. Glamy, trashy, shiny & mindless.

  34. Jen says:

    Maria, I think you look beautiful. Real beauty comes from the inside and shows through your smile. Last year I stopped using commercial personal care products to avoid the chemicals. I did choose to continue to color my hair with natural henna since I was going red anyway. About a month ago, I also stopped wearing makeup (which I wore only occasionally anyway) because I went to put it on one day before a meeting & it seemed so disgusting to me that I just couldn’t do it. I’ve focused my thoughts to affirm that i am beautiful just as I am & just the other day my mom commented to me on how good my skin looked. (I’m 42 & had been noticing the signs of aging). Your thoughts impact your beauty far more than piling on products ever could!

  35. Peep says:

    I’m with Becky, who wrote “Enjoy Life Natural girls and the Painted faces too!!”

    Women, please stop treating other women who have different beauty values like The Enemy. These women are not pitiful and superficial as some of you portray them to be. Nor are any of you superior to them.

    These high-maintenance women may get more attention than you do, yet let’s not ridicule them for being who they are or simply meeting the requirements of their high profile careers. I find all of the superior attitudes I’ve been reading here to say far more about the writers than about folks like Beyonce and her kin.

    I’m a natural gal myself, mostly because I’m lazy and my lifestyle doesn’t really require a lot of glitz and glamour. Thank heavens and lucky me!

    How much work it must take to be a celebrity commodity with such outrageous job requirements. I sure don’t envy these women’s lives anywhere near as much as I do their portfolio balance. What a luxury it must be for celebrity women to hide from the paparazzi, take off their makeup, and don any old comfy clothes they wish.

    That being said, I’m 100% behind these women and their choices. I’m not about to criticize the hours they spend with their makeup artists and hair salons. Nor will I talk smack about their stilettos, cosmetic surgeries, and workout schedules. These are job requirements for these women if they want to remain in The Industry.

    Please be tolerant of the choices of other women, even if you don’t share their values. To me, that sort of grace is what true beauty is all about.

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