The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Saturday, May 02, 2009

People Magazine's 100 Most Beautiful People List.

People Magazine has published their 100 Most Beautiful People List for 2009. Now, I haven't been one to pay particular attention to this list, in the past, but something made me take notice this time. The list is full of people who shouldn't be on it.

What does it mean to be one of the world's "most beautiful" people? Well, to me, it means to have such great visual appeal, in the aesthetic sense, that almost no-one approaches it. It is clear, however, that this is not what "most beautiful" means for People Magazine.

The biggest surprise of the list is that Michelle Obama, the First Lady, is featured. Now, I have nothing against the woman, but "most beautiful" she is most certainly not. She is well-dressed and well presented and smiles a lot...but that does not make her one of the world's most beautiful women. To say that she is diminishes all the other women who are more beautiful than her - who, in my estimate, would constitute about 45% of the world's women. Michelle Obama, is slightly above average in appearance - and no more. She does not, if one is being truthful, honest and unbiased, have the physical wherewithal to be accounted one of the world's most beautiful people.

There are other surprises, too. Timothy Geithner, Treasury Secretary, appears on the list, as does White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel. Again, these men are well presented, and very polished...but that only makes them well presented and very polished, not "most beautiful" - though it has to be said that both are much better looking people than Michelle Obama, relative to other men. Perhaps this list should be renamed to: the Most Influential but Not Ugly, list, or The People we Most Need to Suck Up to list, or Well Dressed Famous People list.

Other inclusions in the list have more justification: Robert Pattinson, vampiric star of Twilight, has a place, as does Halle Berry. Also present are others, such as Angelina Jolie who is widely considered very beautiful but of whom I have never thought so (some of her features are disproportionate).

A walk down the high street of any major city in the world would reveal better looking people in half an hour, than are contained on this list. The only difference is that such "beautiful people" are unknowns. This People Magazine list is a meaningless annual rite, in that it does not live up to its name. It would be great if it would then be truly of interest, to see who were the most beautiful humans on Earth. However, the Most Beautiful People list is not even remotely a catalogue of the world's greatest beauties. It is a catalogue of well presented famous people, nothing more. It is a list that confuses fame with beauty, that confuses being well-dressed, with beautiful, that confuses influence with being beautiful. Beauty does not come from fame, good clothes, or is in the person, innately, if it is there, at all. It comes from a perfect symmetry of the features, a balanced proportion of the body, a quality of skin and hair, an overall aesthetic perfection of form. It is something immediately obvious when seen - and it is also immediately obvious that quite a few of the Most Beautiful People, do not have it. The most obvious case is Michelle Obama who does not remotely qualify, in the Most Beautiful People category, if one were to be truly impartial. She belongs on other lists: lists of influential people, of well-connected people, of famous people...she does not belong on a Most Beautiful People list.

What worries me about such lists is that they tend to influence the way people think. A principle is at stake here, even though who is beautiful or not, is not a particularly important issue. The principle is that when accolades are given they should truly represent what they are stated to be. Otherwise, people get a distorted idea of the world. In this case, the Most Beautiful People list does not truly represent the world's most beautiful people - it represents a selection of well-presented famous people, at least one of whom is perfectly AVERAGE in appearance. To say that it is a true record of the world's most beautiful people is to lie to the world's people. This is unfortunate, for there are people who will read this list and believe it...they will not trust their own eyes, which might say otherwise, but will actually believe that not only is Michelle Obama, lucky enough to be First Lady, but that she is also lucky enough to be one of the world's top 100 most beautiful people.

In another sense, Michelle Obama's inclusion trivializes her position. Being First Lady should not be about being beautiful - it should be about her role in support of her husband's leadership of a great nation. That People Magazine think she must also be beautiful, is an illustration of what Americans think is important. For modern Americans, looking good is considered to be of immense value. It seems, from this example, that it is of more value than being married to a President and supporting him in his daily role.

I would like to see a very different kind of "Most Beautiful People" list. I would like to see a list populated not with well-dressed famous people...but the 100 people who are truly the world's most beautiful. I wonder how many of them would be completely unknown to the public before their inclusion? I strongly suspect that many of them would be. Now, that would be a list worth looking at.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:22 AM 


Blogger Christine said...

I believe the body is a shell for in which the real person dwells.
I do wish that more people who deserve credit will get it and those who do less won't get so much. I think it's sad that most people couldn't name the latest Nobel Prize winners or those for the Booker/Pultizer prizes but they know who is most beautiful.

6:32 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Indeed, Christine, we live in trivial times in which it is easier to be noted for something of inconsequence, than something of importance.

One reason why more notable achievements are less noted, as it were, is that more coverage will be given to a beautiful person list, than to, say, a Booker prize winner.

I look forward to a better world, in which true talent is recognized...but will it ever come?

9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm what a coincidence, this week Time published the 100 most influential people list. Michelle Obama is on it as well.

1:17 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I didn't know that. How funny. It seems that she is influential enough to get her name on lists she shouldn't be on!

Thanks for your comment.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Valentine,

I wouldn't underestimate the positive impact that the Obamas, Barack and Michelle, are having on the black community in America. For this reason, Michelle's inclusion on the list isn't a stretch.

I don't know about you, but I like to think that Michelle is a worthier candidate than a perennial like Oprah.


12:40 PM  
Blogger Miao said...

You should check out TIME Magazine's list of 100 Most Influential People in the World (latest issue). Names like Zac Efron (High School Musical star) are actually on the list.

12:49 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Michelle Obama's and Oprah's presence on a list of influential people makes sense. However, Michelle Obama's presence on a list of beautiful people makes absolutely no sense at all...since basically half of all women in the world are, I estimate, better looking (if not better presented/dressed) than her.

I have no objection to the appearance of people on appropriate is just when their clout extends their presence onto inappropriate lists, such as that for "Most beautiful" people, that I find my eyebrows creeping upwards.

Thanks for your comment.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Miao, I will take a look at the influential list, too. It seems that what was once regarded as "influential", has changed.

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haha. I think the best way to approach this is just to read the list, laugh and enjoy the rest of the day- much like reading horoscopes. Such list are more for entertainment than anything else.

4:40 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. take them lightly...

Indeed, such lists cannot be taken seriously, for they have little serious research behind them. It would, however, be FAR more entertaining if the lists were REALLY the most beautiful/influential/clever etc in the world. For then, we would be presented with people of interest, to learn about.

Thanks for your comment.

7:42 PM  
Blogger Miao said...

To be fair, a number of them who are on the Most Influential list have indeed made very significant contributions or achieved very impressive milestones in their own ways... But it is simply baffling when a 21-year-old actor like Zac Efron appears on the list.

9:27 PM  
Anonymous jun said...

i agree that michelle obama is not beautiful. she is rather ugly to me - she looks too fierce, her nose is odd and so are her brows. carla bruni imo is far hotter.

in any case i doubt there'd ever be a real beautiful people list, cos then it'd be dominated by young, slim (not necessarily thin; possibly curvy women and muscular men) people with symmetric features, as those are what most cultures consider beauty). and such a list would definitely create an uproar, because some people wish to believe that everyone is beautiful, although that is not possible, despite what dove tries to campaign for.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for your comment, Jun.

Such a list as you describe is required, whether it causes an uproar or not - for that is precisely what a real top 100 most beautiful list would look like. Some people do, indeed, like to propagate such untruths as that all are beautiful...but clearly that is not true and has never been true.

The truer such a list adhered to genuine beauty, the greater its interest would be - for then we would see the limit of what humans can be, in that particular respect. That would be of much greater interest than a list of well known, well dressed, well connected people, trying to convince us that they are "beautiful" as well.

2:24 PM  
Anonymous Saint Splattergut said...

I'm not too worried. There are always going to be negative influences anyway, aesthetically speaking. Like caps that sit too high on the head and skinny jeans that cup the wearer's balls.

2:27 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Saint Splattergut:

Re. Jeans: ouch!

2:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are aware that pretty much nobody else on the planet is taking People's 100 Most Beautiful People List literally right? The purpose of the magazine is so people have something to read while they wait at the hairdresser. Probably best not to take it quite so seriously.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. not seriously.

On the contrary, I have had a number of searches landing on my site for the list, indicating, by their search terms that they DO take it seriously. One of the searchers was from a Nasa IP address and their terms were: "How do People Magazine choose people for the most beautiful list" they took it seriously enough to think about methodology.

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First let's be realistic. This is poeple magazine's 100 most beautiful people list (as in famous well known people) not people magazine's 100 most beautiful people in the "world" list. I agree there are far more prettier people in the world but nobody is going to go around the whole world looking for them. Although there are more beautiful people in hollywood they could have choosen.

In response to the first comment, we live in a world were people are more interseted in beautiful people and things like that than Nobel/Booker/Pulitzer Prize winners. Sad but true. And honestly, wouldn't it be a rather boring world if more coverage will be given to, say, a Pulitzer prize winner.

Last but not least, last time i checked influential means having or exerting influence. An influential person is a person whose actions and opinions strongly influence others. Now, while i agree that having someone like Zac Efron on Time magazine's world most influential people is...stupid when there are DEFINITELY better candidates, he is nevertheless influential (in his own way). So technically the mag is kinda right, KINDA right.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

The question is whether Zac's "influence" is of a trivial or significant type...and whether it should therefore be noted at all. I think it rather trivial...

4:22 PM  

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