Friday, December 29, 2006

"Western ideals" of beauty look to the South   posted by agnostic @ 12/29/2006 11:29:00 AM

Following a recent suggestion, I was just checking out the Lacey Chabert spread at Maxim's website, where I noticed a hottie ranking of theirs called 2006 Hot 100. Granted, individuals may quibble with aspects of the ranking, but it is presumably the product of many minds with diverse tastes in female appearance, so it's objective enough to get a rough idea of what young American guys find attractive. There is a bias toward current "it" girls, but I doubt the racial variation would be changed much if we looked at "it" girls from five years ago. And because Maxim panders to the lowest common denominator of male interests, it would have to be suicidal to feature a significantly lower proportion of women of a certain appearance if red-blooded males truly desired to oogle women of that appearance (e.g., if it featured few blondes when the average potential reader was blonde-crazy). We can thus test whether the ranking actively glorifies or passively reflects a desire for Nordic features, whose hegemony is a common canard in discussions about standards of beauty and ethnic variation in appearance.

Top 10 by hair color and race below the fold:

10 Christina Milian. Brunette. Cuban.
9 Keira Knightley. Brunette. Scottish, Irish, English.
8 Kate Bosworth. Brunette. English?
7 Cameron Diaz. Blonde. Cuban, English, German, Cherokee.
6 Scarlett Johansson. Blonde. Ashkenazi Jewish, Danish.
5 Stacy Keibler. Blonde. German?
4 Angelina Jolie. Brunette. French, Iroquois, Czech.
3 Lindsay Lohan. Auburn. Italian, Irish.
2 Jessica Alba. Brunette. Mexican, Danish, French.
1 Eva Longoria. Brunette. Mexican.

If Nordic looks reigned supreme, we should expect to see more blondes than 3 of 10, which appears at or below expectation for a majority Northern European country, judging by the graphic at the Wikipedia entry on hair color. On an absolute level, there's no shortage of blondes, so if the media devils really wanted push the "blondes are more beautiful" idea, they could've easily packed the top 10 with them. The racial backgrounds underrepresent the average Northern European phenotype: since Keira Knightley and Lindsay Lohan have the "Black Scottish / Irish" look, that leaves just Stacy Keibler, Kate Bosworth, and Scarlett Johansson who look Nordic.

Turning to the entire 100 (go to the bottom for more detail on the following numbers), those of African and East Asian descent are not well represented. In fact, only 2 of 100 are East Asian, and they rank very low. That's at expectation, since Americans of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese descent make up 2.1% of the population. Vanessa Minnillo ranks highly at 15, but she's mixed Filipina / Pacific Islander and Irish-Italian, not East Asian. Overall, 3 of 100 are African-American. This is quite below their percentage of 13.7% in the general population, and none score very highly. Finally, 9 of 100 have partial African or East Asian ancestry, and they are fairly evenly distributed in the ranking from 90 to 22.

Latin Americans, though, do pretty well. I make no claim about what their neutral markers would tell us about the individuals' racial backgrounds, and I therefore included a couple "half"-Latin Americans for the same reason I included "full" Latin Americans. The point is simply to show how a mixed-race, decidedly non-Nordic group does. There are 14 of 100 who are Latin American (including Daniella Alonso, who I also put in the "part-East Asian" group), which appears at expectation since Hispanics make up 14.1% of the US population as of 2004. However, the Hispanic population surged in the US in the wake of the 1986 amnesty, and since the women in the ranking are mostly in their 20s or older, the Hispanic percentage among their age group is surely lower than 14.1%. So, Hispanics are likely somewhat overrepresented. Furthermore, the lowest-ranking Hispanic clocks in at 71, and 4 of the top 10 are Hispanic, including 1 and 2. The strong performance of Latin Americans in international beauty pageants is nothing new, so one wonders why the Nordic hegemony idea has persisted into the second half of the 20th C. (In this respect, it is like the idea that the WASPs are keeping the Sicilians and Semites under their golf cleat -- perhaps true awhile ago, but clearly false for decades.)

The numbers:

East Asians

98 Yunjin Kim
93 Grace Park


82 Vanessa Simmons
77 Ciara
43 Gabrielle Union

Interracials of African or E.Asian background

90 Chilli (1/2 Af-Am, 1/2 East Indian)
88 Tila Tequila (3/4 Vietnamese, 1/4 French)
84 Amerie (1/2 Af-Am, 1/2 Korean)
79 Halle Berry (1/2 Af-Am, 1/2 English)
53 Moon Bloodgood (Korean, Irish, Dutch)
45 Beyonce (1/2 Af-Am, 1/2 Louisiana Creole)
41 Daniella Alonso (1/2 Puerto Rican, 1/2 Japanese-Peruvian)
40 Alicia Keys (1/2 Irish-Italian, 1/2 Jamaican)
22 Mariah Carey (1/2 Afro-Venezuelan, 1/2 Irish)


71 Roselyn Sanchez
68 Cinthia Moura
60 Shakira
59 Jordana Brewster
55 Vanessa Marcil
41 Daniella Alonso
39 Nadine Velazquez
27 Eva Mendes
19 Jamie-Lynn Sigler
16 Christina Aguilera
10 Christina Milian
7 Cameron Diaz
2 Jessica Alba
1 Eva Longoria

From the archives: see here & links therein.
Update: changed the info on Chilli, Beyonce, and Vanessa Minnillo.