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Andy Warhol on Beauty


“I’ve never met a person I couldn’t call a beauty,” Andy Warhol writes in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again):

Every person has beauty at some point in their lifetime. Usually in different degrees. Sometimes they have the looks when they’re a baby and they don’t have it when they’re grown up, but then they could get it back again when they’re older. Or they might be fat but have a beautiful face. Or have bow-legs but a beautiful body. Or be the number one female beauty and have no tits. Or be the number one male beauty and have a small you-know-what.

Some people think it’s easier for beauties, but actually it can work out a lot of different ways. If you’re beautiful you might have a pea-brain. If you’re not beautiful you might not have a pea-brain, so it depends on the pea-brain and the beauty. The size of the beauty. And the pea-brain.

Never try to keep up with the times – a beauty is always a beauty.

When a person is the beauty of their day, and their looks are really in style, and then the times change and tastes change, and ten years go by, if they keep exactly their same look and don’t change anything and if they take care of themselves, they’ll still be a beauty.

Schrafft’s restaurants were the beauties of their day, and then they tried to keep up with the times and they modified and modified until they lost all their charm and were bought by a big company. But if they could just have kept their same look and style, and held on through the lean years when they weren’t in style, today they’d be the best thing around. You have to hang on in periods when your style isn’t popular, because if it’s good, it’ll come back, and you’ll be a recognized beauty once again.

On the difficulty of looking like your photoshopped self.

Beauties in photographs are different from beauties in person. It must be hard to be a model, because you’d want to be like the photograph of you, and you can’t ever look that way. And so you start to copy the photograph. Photographs usually bring in another half-dimension. (Movies bring in another whole dimension. That screen magnetism is something secret—if you could only figure out what it is and how to make it, you’d have a really good product to sell. But you can’t even tell if someone has it until you actually see them up there on the screen. You have to give screen tests to find out.)


Someone once asked me to state once and for all the most beautiful person I’d ever met. Well, the only people I can ever pick out as unequivocal beauties are from the movies, and then when you meet them, they’re not really beauties either, so your standards don’t even really exist. In life, the movie stars can’t even come up to the standards they set on film.

When you’re interested in somebody, Warhol argues that you should point out all of your beauty problems right away, “rather than take a chance they won’t notice them.”

Maybe, say, you have a permanent beauty problem you can’t change, such as too- short legs. Just say it. “My legs, as you’ve probably noticed, are much too short in proportion to the rest of my body.” Why give the other person the satisfaction of discovering it for themselves? Once it’s out in the open, at least you know it will never become an issue later on in the relationship, and if it does, you can always say, “Well I told you that in the beginning.”

On the other hand, say you have a purely temporary beauty problem—a new pimple, lackluster hair, no-sleep eyes, five extra pounds around the middle. Still, whatever it is, you should point it out. If you don’t point it out and say, “My hair is really dull this time of the month, I’m probably getting my friend,” or “I put on five pounds eating Russell Stover chocolates over Christmas, but I’m taking it off right away”—if you don’t point out these things they might think that your temporary beauty problem is a permanent beauty problem. Why should they think otherwise if you’ve just met them? Remember, they’ve never seen you before in their life. So it’s up to you to set them straight and get them to use their imagination about what your hair must look like when it’s shiny, and what your body must look like when it’s not overweight, and what your dress would look like without the grease spot on it. Even explain that you have much better clothes hanging in your closet than the ones you’re wearing. If they really do like you for yourself, they’ll be willing to use their imagination to think of what you must look like without your temporary beauty problem.

The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) is worth reading.