Jolie Laide translated literally means ‘Pretty Ugly’. For me, the woman who is not classically beautiful but who has created a truly original and striking character for herself is absolutely the most inspiring of individuals.
When I think of famous Jolie Laides, I think of Cleopatra (who was by no means the great beauty she at times has been made out to have been) whose powers lay in her shrewdness and her powers of sexuality and seduction. I think of Wallis Simpson whose style, wit and presence made up tenfold for what she lacked in classical beauty and who as we all know won the heart of a King who was so enthralled he gave up the throne rather than lose such a formidable woman. We can also look at the great editor of Harper’s Bazaar, Diana Vreeland whose facial features certainly were not those of a great beauty but, with her extreme sense of inimitable style, she became an iconic work of art whose advice on all matters of style was avidly taken heed of by millions of women reading the magazine during the 1950s and 60s. We can also look to Isabella Blow, Iris Apfel, Rossy de Palma and many others who certainly were not born with a ‘model’s good looks but who each carved out a hugely recognisable signature style for themselves. They decided that owning a particularly strong nose or a wonky chin was not going to stand in their way of being remembered as the powerful and incredibly exotic creatures that they wished to be.
Wallis Simpson and the former King Edward
If you search for quotes from Iris Apfel the American decorator and style icon (now in her 90s) so much of what she has to say about looks versus style offer the most insightful and valuable lessons for women who may struggle to accept their own looks and who may believe that as nature did not bless them as they would have liked to have been, they would never be or should never be noticed. Iris said on the subject of her not being conventionally pretty that
“I never liked pretty. I mean it’s nice, don’t misunderstand me, but I never got upset and I was quite glad in a way because it put my mind to other things.”
As with other ladies of notable style, Iris choses to use her body and face as a blank canvas and her vast collection of clothes, jewellery and glasses to decorate that canvas in the most glorious of ways. I believe as Iris herself has stated, that if you are in possession of slight quirks in the looks department, that you may feel more inclined to make more of an effort to create something more exciting than one who can rest on the laurels of perfect symmetry and beauty.
It is also so important to remember that the way we present ourselves to the world in terms of our presence, the way we stand and walk in to a room, the way we conduct ourselves, our behaviour towards others has a huge importance in terms of how attractive and interesting a person we are. With a poise that announces that we are not afraid to enter into a situation, with cultured and intelligent conversation, with warmth and kindness and with a confidence that we each have our own special attributes whatever they be, we are all, unique and beautiful. Luckily, as women, we have a huge choice of tools with which to create the work of art that we chose to be!
Rossy de Palma