Since Renee Zellweger attended the Elle Awards on Monday, I’ve seen several news articles about her “unrecognizable” face. As other outlets have noted, people seem to be surprised that Zellweger is no longer the spunky 20 year old she was in Jerry McGuire, or that she would turn to cosmetic enhancements to preserve her beauty. But really, it’s not very surprising. Being beautiful is pretty complex for women. A meta-analysis headed by Alice Eagly found consistent evidence that people ascribe more positive traits and life outcomes to attractive people.1 But other research found that men benefitted from being handsome across hiring situations, but that women only benefitted from being attractive if they were applying for a non-managerial position.2 More troubling, social comparison theory has been applied to the link between thinness pressure and bulimic symptoms.3 There is, however, evidence that getting facial plastic surgery can help increase self-esteem.4 Since we know how influential beauty is, we shouldn’t be shaming any celebrities or peers about their physical shortcomings, or attempts to correct them.
- Eagly, A. H., Ashmore, R. D., Makhijani, M. G., & Longo, L. C. (1991). What is beautiful is good, but…: A meta-analytic review of research on the physical attractiveness stereotype. Psychological Bulletin, 110(1), 109-128.
- Heilman, M. E., & Saruwatari, L. R. (1979). When beauty is beastly: The effects of appearance and sex on evaluations of job applicants for managerial and nonmanagerial jobs. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 23(3), 360-372.
- Irving, L. M. (1990). Mirror images: Effects of the standard of beauty on the self-and body-esteem of women exhibiting varying levels of bulimic symptoms. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 9(2), 230-242.
- Arndt, E. M., Travis, F., Lefebvre, A., Niec, A., & Munro, I. R. (1986). Beauty and the eye of the beholder: Social consequences and personal adjustments for facial patients. British Journal of Plastic Surgery, 39(1), 81-84.