We have all witnessed, and perhaps even guilty ourselves of, being seduced and giving preferential treatment to beauty: the hot girl standing in line at the coffee shop; the impeccably dressed interview candidate; the handsome waiter; the better looking presidential candidate. Beauty is rewarded by the masses and is a universal theme found from the superficial shores of California to the enchanting streets of Rome.
At our core, I suspect we were all appalled by this reality of favoritism. And yet, perhaps only at a subconscious level, we are all guilty of this behavior. The slight bias, the added smile, the bigger tip, the better salary – all are rewards often based on the power of beauty. Consider the following scenario that plays out daily in the corporate world: two candidates of equal experience and merit being considered for a promotion, both equally qualified and yet one is significantly more attractive. Who do you suppose upgrades to the new corner office?
Consider the phenomenon known as The Kardashians (okay, now I’ve surely struck a nerve!) You can’t escape seeing this sleazy family in all the tabloids at the supermarket, but most of us have no clue why they are even famous or warrant having a TV show. Yet we know all about these surgery altered gals and the disastrous dramas that unfold. Has Paris Hilton done anything noteworthy in her life besides being a hot heiress? Are heartthrobs like George Clooney and Brad Pitt really brilliant actors that have mastered their craft? Consider Emma Raducanu, the US Open tennis champion: sure, her amazing tournament from out of nowhere was incredible, especially at the tender age of eighteen. But her infectious smile and gorgeous looks equally won over the crowd as sponsors are now lining up to offer her endorsements. Some have speculated she may be the first billionaire female athlete thanks to all the sponsors and attention she will receive. Did I mention she’s ranked #23 in the world even after her victory? Do you really think her natural beauty has nothing to do with her vaulting to the top of popularity and perhaps being the richest female athlete ever??? But the ultimate winner that takes the cake was a blond bombshell on the tennis circuit named Anna Kournikova. You may remember her though you can barely pronounce her last name and she had never won a major tournament. So why was she both fabulously popular and wealthy due to product endorsements with a rabid universal fan base? She retired with no major trophy to her name but was in Top 5 of a survey challenging fans to remember ladies tennis players.
Beauty is indeed a currency. It is a transaction we all witness in our daily lives. Occasionally it’s a blatant, obvious selection but more often it’s a subtle, intangible nod of favoritism. The little biases, the added preferences, the bigger favors – all rewards reaped by the beautiful ones. You cannot attach a price tag to it, but they are powerful advantages nonetheless. It has been suggested that a very attractive person can offer 30% less (less education, less experience, less effort) than their ordinary looking peers and still achieve the same level of success. Talk about getting a hall pass in life!
Beauty is often in the eye of the beholder. But I’m generally referring to beauty where there is a universal consensus of attraction. The true currency of beauty is one that transcends gender, nationality, religion and other hurdles ordinary people typically confront. It is so powerful that we all generally pay up with that bonus nod of favoritism.
So look around you, and even inward, and witness the reverse discrimination of beauty that plays out in all our lives and the media on a daily basis. It is ubiquitous and we are role players contributing to this bias, feeding the currency.