Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | October 9, 2002

How about some glitterati reality?

Reality-based entertainment seems to have taken an unexpected but refreshing twist, and unlike “Fear Factor,” I hope this one’s a keeper. There’s a new trend of honesty in Hollywood about a sacred subject: beauty.

Actress Jamie Lee Curtis, a/k/a “The Body,” posed in the September issue of More magazine wearing just her skivvies and without the benefit of makeup or photo retouching. Then she appeared on Dateline NBC to talk about why she decided to do something that might be career suicide.

“We are an industry built on a lot of subterfuge and fantasy and fakery, and I think to tell the truth is brave,” Curtis, 43, told Maria Shriver during the broadcast. “I think that the air-brushing, perfect image that we keep perpetuating is fraud.”

If you didn’t read the article in More, you can see a copy of the photo on Dateline NBC’s Web site. It shouldn’t be surprising, but still, it is, that without all the fancy clothes, expensive cosmetics and careful retouching, Jamie Lee looks pretty average.

Then there’s Patricia Heaton of TV’s “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Did you catch her on last month’s Emmy telecast, showing off her gams and cleavage? I’ve wondered how she manages to look like she does, given that she has four young sons.

Turns out it takes a lot of help from her plastic surgeon. I’m so relieved.

Heaton, who’s written a book that recounts her tummy tuck and breast lift, recently appeared on “The Late Show with David Letterman.” She was up front about the fact that without going under the knife, she wouldn’t have a flat tummy or perky breasts.

Heaton said she wanted women who tell her that they’ve had four kids, too, but that they don’t look like her, to know that if they pay the doctor and lay down on the operating table, they can.

I’m old enough to know better, but I’ll admit that I feel the pressure of the liposuctioned, tummy-tucked, freshly coiffed, flawless skin, air-brushed perfection that is perpetuated by Madison Avenue and Hollywood.

Isn’t it silly? I’ve had two children, but instead of viewing my figure as proof that I successfully carried two babies through high-risk pregnancies and survived two c-sections to deliver them, I pine for my pre-pregnancy concave tummy.

I know that the models I see have been photo-retouched, that most female celebrities have had this tucked, that lifted, those augmented and the other suctioned, but part of me still believes I should be able to look like they do.

Yeah right. I don’t have a celebrity’s income, assistant, personal trainer, chef, stylist or plastic surgeon, but somehow I think the same beauty standards apply.

As I watch my 7-year-old daughter play with a Barbie doll whose figure would translate to 39-18-33, I wonder if she’ll want to remove a rib and add a lot of silicone when she hits adolescence.

After all, if wrinkle-free 20-something models who’ve yet to see a gray hair can be used successfully to sell middle-aged women face cream and hair coloring, why should I expect a 7-year-old to understand that she’s not expected to grow up to look like Barbie?

If I have to pick between Jamie Lee’s idea (drop the airbrushing and cosmetics and go au naturel) or Patricia’s (have the surgery, but don’t lie about it), I choose Jamie Lee’s approach.

Let’s stop pretending that anyone can look like members of the glitterati without oodles of surgery, hours in the hands of hair and make-up professionals and the magic of airbrushing.

Let’s require labels on TV shows, movies and advertisements disclosing any plastic surgery and photo retouching, and listing the number of man-hours that went into perfecting the hair, make-up and costumes.

Let’s remember that plastic surgery is major surgery, and not to be undertaken lightly.

But most importantly, let’s recall that beauty is only skin-deep, and like Mom always said, what’s really important is inner beauty. When you get right down to it, people have very little control over what they look like. It’s a matter of what you win in the ol’ DNA lottery.

Perhaps poet and philosopher Kahlil Gibran put it more eloquently than Mom did: “Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.”


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