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The Definition of Beauty

Perhaps my biggest production challenge for "Beauty: In the Eyes of the Beheld" was choosing the women I would interview.

The scientific and entertainment communities offer a framework with which we can begin to define human physical beauty. Within that framework, however, are widely varied interpretations of that definition; all influenced by time, culture, and individual preferences. I found that beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, as the saying goes.

As I state in the film, I chose women who were referred to me by others who considered them "beautiful". That way, I would not be the only judge. I was surprised at the variety of looks that came my way. In fact, I ended up interviewing some women whom I personally did not consider beautiful. Sometimes I grew to see their beauty as time went on in the edit room. Other times, I never saw it; but I believed they were "beautiful" because of the stories they told me.

During various stages of the editing, I asked small audiences to preview my film and give me feedback. Again, I was struck by the differing opinions about the women and their beauty. Even in the case of makeovers, perceptions clashed. Some women saw the beauty of one of the characters only when she wore make-up; whereas many men preferred that same woman without makeup. Furthermore; as the film progressed, the personalities of the women affected their perceived attractiveness.

As I continued interacting with audiences, I started to realize how contextual our perception of beauty is. A makeover may seem beautiful on the television screen, but unattractively artificial in real life. Similarly, a woman with no makeup can seem obviously beautiful in person yet markedly plain on the television screen.

Ironically, many women try to emulate what they see in the media; which might be sabotaging their goal of being beautiful in everyday life. For example, the anorexic skinny look may seem beautiful in fashion magazines, but frighteningly unattractive in real life. Since my goal was to document real life rather than media created portraits of beauty, some of the beautiful women in my film may take some getting used to. Others will appear strikingly gorgeous right off the bat. Of course, that would depend on who you are.

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