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Who Decides What's Beautiful on the "Most Beautiful" Celebrity Lists?

05/13/2013 12:29 EDT | Updated 07/13/2013 05:12 EDT
Hello

Everything has its season, and spring brings out the obligatory "Most Beautiful Celebrity" lists. People, FHM, Maxim, Hello Canada, etc. An excuse to plaster a pretty face on a magazine cover and to get readers debating the selections. Websites and personal bloggers sometimes offer up their own lists, too.

It's entirely frivolous and subjective (no two lists are identical). Beauty, as we're told from a young age, is in the eye of the beholder.

It's actually vague as to what definition these lists use. Does beauty mean "hot"...or simply well-coiffed? Men probably focus on "natural" beauty -- i.e.: someone is attractive even in sweat pants with bed hair. While women often focus on bearing and fashion sense -- i.e.: they look great dolled up on the red carpet.

As modern lists are often co-ed, are the same editors choosing both the women and the men? And if so, doesn't that suggest different criteria? A straight guy probably wouldn't have too much of an opinion on who's a good looking guy...and would quickly be slapped down by the women in the room if he voiced one. Although, funnily, a straight guy equally might be told he's "wrong" when naming a beautiful woman...by straight women. Go figure.

Is beauty cheekbones? Sensuality? Decorum? Does fame count more than bone structure? (The more famous the face on the cover, the more copies you'll sell.)

When these lists can range from 20-something super models to middle aged politician's wives, one assumes different standards are being applied.

Some readers criticize these list for being of celebrities (as if the editors should've surveyed headshots of the entire population!) while others will sneer if they don't recognize all those chosen (yet surely that's part of the point: to mix people you know with people the editors think you should know).

American lists usually immodestly declare their choice the most beautiful "in the World!" But no one's under any illusion that the lion's share of the selections will conveniently be Americans (or non-Americans who appear in Hollywood movies or Sports Illustrated swimsuit spreads).

So sometimes Canadians like to focus on Canadian celebrities. A few years ago, City TV did a TV special or two along those lines. Just recently Hello Canadaunveiled its top 50...leading to Huffington Post Canada offering up a rebuttal of an alternate list.

Because I write, ruminate, and provoke about Canadian pop culture, I see a certain value in a Most Beautiful Canadian list. (Hence why I'm linking to those other lists, encouraging you to check them out -- see how clever I am?) Populist culture can't thrive on GG Awards alone!

A few months ago on my own blog I offered up my own selection of the (cheekily named) 33 Hottest Canadian Babes!

There was a logic in my lasciviousness.

You see: I watch a lot of Canadian movies and TV shows. I also watch plenty of things from Hollywood and other countries. As such, moreso than most people, I don't make as much distinction between Canadian pop culture and American, or global, culture.

I've watched with chagrin as the Canadian press will identify a Canadian actor solely with some minor role in an obscure U.S. series...when s/he has dozens of (Canadian) roles on his/her CV! Sometimes Canadian actors will head south -- and drop off my radar (Heck, I've sometimes found myself wondering "Whatever happened to Grace Park?", remembering her from Edgemont, The Border, and the Canadian-filmed Battlestar Galactica -- only to then remember, "Oh, right -- she's on some American series. Maui 911? Something like that.")

Over the years I often found "Most Beautiful Canadian" lists tended to skew towards Canadians who had an international profile. Whether this was because those making the choices only paid attention to American media, or they subscribed to the notion that Hollywood legitimized someone, I don't know. And those lists that did toss in a few domestic faces often seemed a bit as if the selectors were kind of scrambling at the last minute to fill a token "domestic" quota with the first unscarred face they saw.

Looking at Huffington Post and Hello's selections there seems to be the "usual suspects." International stars, a few super models, and padded out with a few sports stars and TV hosts.

Mind you, I'm getting old. You know you're out of touch with what the young'uns are up to when the TV character you identify with most is Danny from The Mindy Project. There were more than a few celebs on these lists who I had no idea who they were (or that there even was a remake of Beverly Hills 90210!)

And these lists are drawn from across the cultural spectrum -- entertainers, athletes, models, etc.

When I did my 33 list, it specifically focused on actresses. And so a factor in any "beauty" consideration was whether they held your attention on screen, not just on a red carpet.

But the real impetus was to throw together a list that treated Canadians in Canadian productions and Canadians in American productions on a level playing field. And the result -- surprisingly -- mixed Hollywood stars...and actresses rarely seen outside of Canadian productions. It was also instinctive. These were performers who had caught my eye long before I thought of making a list, so I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about it (except when I got toward the end...and then it was just struggling with who to cut).

Something else crops up when looking at these lists over the years -- and I hesitate to address it, because it kind of sprays some red paint on the just-for-fun fur coat of these beauty lists. But I wouldn't be much of a pop cultural provocateur if I steered away from the difficult questions, would I?

When I had finished my list, I'll admit: most of the women were white.

Except, here's the thing: by that I mean, of any specific ethnicity, white women were by far the majority. But in a final tally of simply white to a general non-white, the list actually ended up being closer to 50/50.

But looking over similar Canadian lists from the last few years (in magazines, blogs, or simply IMDB lists) that's not a ratio that seems to occur very often.

I'll leave the wherefores and whatnots of that for others to ponder.

Hello! Canada's Most Beautiful Canadians: Who They Missed