She's no Barbie
April 14, 2004 11:11 AM   Subscribe

She's no Barbie To readers of Russian Fairy tales, the name Alyona conjures images of simple peasant girls who become princesses through modesty, hard work and intelligence. A modern day Alyona has surfaced in the cut-throat world of beauty pageants.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk (48 comments total)
How would you like to be famous for being an "unglamorous schoolgirl". How awful is that???

Makes me as mad as this MSN biography of Ron Perlman. The biography describes Ron as a "profoundly unhandsome youth". Now how would you like to be him and go online and read a supposedly professional biography about yourself and have to read that. People suck.
posted by banished at 11:24 AM on April 14, 2004

Well, they didn't say she was ugly (which she is not), they said "unglamorous". Is "glamor" really something to strive for?
posted by stevengarrity at 11:28 AM on April 14, 2004

I think she's lovely, actually. Definitely unglamorous, but pretty and, I don't know, real. Not bad things, IMHO.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 11:38 AM on April 14, 2004


posted by Stynxno at 11:38 AM on April 14, 2004

The statement says the vote for Alyona was "against unnatural beauties who cannot be distinguished from each other, fake emotions, smiles and gazes reflected in the lenses of professional photographers, products of the same type and trademark, popular music, cigarettes without nicotine and coffee without caffeine"

Yes!! Does she have an older sister?
posted by milovoo at 11:38 AM on April 14, 2004

Hmm, I don't really see the hard work on her part since someone submitted her as a prank. And she's not unattractive at all.

Is this just another William Hung in the making?

And banished, Ron Perlman is a pretty damned ugly guy. Not to say he's not a talented actor or that he has a certain charisma but he ain't pretty by any stretch of the term.

One question about the FPP, the two links are to the same article, shouldn't the second link be to something that explains more about what Alyona is all about? Or is that just me?
posted by fenriq at 11:39 AM on April 14, 2004

damn you LMC! you made my snarky comment make no sense!
posted by Stynxno at 11:39 AM on April 14, 2004

Personally, I would love to be thought of as an unglamourous school girl (I'm a proud geek of a certain age). I think she was in on the joke.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 11:49 AM on April 14, 2004

She's ugly and fat to boot. Now she could become substantially more attractive if she tried, but at any rate this kind of rebellion against beauty seems innocuous and bitter to me. What's the point? Russian women are certainly among the most beautiful in the whole world, btw. And what's up with double linking to the same article? Is that the one and only thing googlabe about her?
posted by 111 at 11:51 AM on April 14, 2004

Fenriq, sorry I'm a bit new at this-- I only had the one link. I was just describing fairy tales. I think this Alyona is much cooler, anyway.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 11:53 AM on April 14, 2004

There are other pictures of Alyona available. Forgive my cynicism, but I can't help but think that this isn't necessarily a triumph for "plain" women as much as an ego-trip for them. They can look at Alyona and think, "well, at least I'm better looking than she is."
posted by deanc at 12:14 PM on April 14, 2004


To watchers of American Reality TV, FAIRY TALE TURNS INTO REALITY ON “THE SWAN.

THE SWAN offers women the incredible opportunity to undergo physical, mental and emotional transformations with the help of a team of experts. Contestants must go through an intensive “boot camp” of exercise, diet, therapy and inspiration to achieve their goals. Each week feathers will fly as the inevitable pecking order emerges. Those not up to the challenge are sent home. Those who are will go on to compete in a pageant for a chance to become “The Ultimate Swan.”
posted by deathofme at 12:25 PM on April 14, 2004

While I have no experience being a woman, IMHO, most women are much cooler than you paint them, deanc. She has a pleasant face and apparently a lot of character. I image she could break a lot of hearts if she wanted to. Besides, many of us who would be laughed off a fashion runway manage to find friends, spouses and even admirers. But thanks for your link. It's much better than mine.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 12:26 PM on April 14, 2004

You're a nice fellow, 111, aren't you? Judge not lest ye be judged, and all that...

I sort of agree with the cynical comments, but I also do at least hope that this is a positive story, of people deciding to vote against some stereotypical version of beauty. At some point, I find "beautiful" women repellant, if packaged in a mass-manufactured way, and Alyona is a perfectly lovely, nice-looking counterbalance to all of that mind-numbing sameness that has a lock on beauty these days.

What's important, I think, is to not see it as a victory for "plain" women but a way of recognizing that you don't have to be made-up within an inch of your life in makeup, hair, and clothes to be a pretty girl. I don't think Alyona is "plain" at all, and it makes me happy, as a woman, to see her version of beauty recognized as sch.
posted by livii at 12:34 PM on April 14, 2004

gesamtkunstwerk, no worries, I was just pointing it out. We were all new at one point.

Deathofme, part of the problem with The Swan is that the "winner" has be just the right amount of ugly and messed but still able to win each week.

And Deanc, damn, that pic of her is far, far, far less flattering than the FPP link. She looks positively awful there. Spunk or no spunk, she ain't winning any beauty contests.
posted by fenriq at 12:35 PM on April 14, 2004

Sorry, stynxno. FWIW, I still knew what you meant.

As for being fat, 111, if the numbers on the site are correct, she has a BMI of about 23 -- on the thin side of healthy. She certainly has a bit of a baby face, but she's by no means overweight.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 12:52 PM on April 14, 2004

Here's also the Moscow Times article article about it, and here's the Miss Rambler website that held the online and call-in polls, then later withdrew Alyona from the voting.

As for the fairy tale, it seems her name might be in the story of Beauty and the Beast (called here "The Scarlet Flower").

111 - class act, as always. (PS: I don't think innocuous means what you think it means.)
posted by taz at 12:53 PM on April 14, 2004

Thanks for this link!
posted by fillsthepews at 12:58 PM on April 14, 2004

She's ugly and fat to boot.

posted by 111 at 11:51 AM PST on April 14

hey, 111, where you been? we've missed you.
posted by Miles Long at 1:00 PM on April 14, 2004

This is a very refreshing story. It's a shame some posters here have taken things literally and thought Russians were voting for this girl because they thought she was the most pretty. Fat or ugly or not, it's nice to see Russians use this online beauty contest to protest against body/beauty fascism/anti-intellectualism.

Russia is high on my list of places to travel to.
posted by SpaceCadet at 1:15 PM on April 14, 2004

Not only do Russians have some of the lovliest women, they're some of the wisest folks on the planet.
posted by alumshubby at 1:40 PM on April 14, 2004

P.S. Can anyone translate the shirt?
posted by fillsthepews at 1:45 PM on April 14, 2004

this kind of rebellion against beauty seems innocuous and bitter to me. What's the point?

111, I'm not surprised to hear you use a term like beauty as if there's one objective standard. After all, for you, there's one god, one truth, etc. Must be nice to have solved all those questions the ancient philosophers pondered.

At the risk - no, the certainty - of stating the obvious: the point of presenting an alternative idea of beauty (or human value, for that matter) is to get people to question why they hold their existing conceptions of beauty and worth, what unspoken assumptions undergird those conceptions, and whether some of those assumptions might well be revised. For example, if people think it should take extraordinary effort, cost, and stress to be beautiful, they would do well to question their beliefs.

Innocuous, huh? Looks like both you and your preznit should both spend a little less time with the bible, and a bit more with the dictionary. And the history books. And some critical theory...
posted by stonerose at 1:57 PM on April 14, 2004

Alright, I've come around to agreeing with you guys, no use standing up for a bunch of ugly people, doesn't increase my social standing any. She is ugly, Ron Perlman is ugly, and everyone that shops at Walmart (as in real people) are ugly. Burn them all.
posted by banished at 2:14 PM on April 14, 2004

All right, I didn't to imply that everyone was going to use Alyona for ego trip purposes, but when someone promoted as "regular/plain looking" turns out to be unattractive, I do have to wonder.

On the other hand, more people should be taking a stand against decaffeinated coffee, so it's hard for me to argue with her pageant platform.
posted by deanc at 2:26 PM on April 14, 2004

No Pasarán means "[they] shall not pass." It was coined by Dolores Ibarruri during the Spanish civil war. Now, it's used by various radical/revolutionary groups. Search Google: "no pasarán", "no pasaran", "no pasaran" civil war, etc...
posted by whatnotever at 3:27 PM on April 14, 2004

Hey thanks, whatnotever!
A word definition, and a history lesson. I appreciate it.
posted by fillsthepews at 3:32 PM on April 14, 2004

Since her age did not qualify "her" for the contest, should she have been disqualified from the voting altogether?
No other "unglamorous schoolgirl" applied?; which for me is hard to believe in this day and age.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:35 PM on April 14, 2004

There's an official Say no to Barbie Dolls site, mostly in Russian, with a couple of English pages explaining the story and the cause. There's also a page of "Fan-art" (in Russian but it's not really a problem).
Oh and you can plug one of her banners on your site if you have Russian-speaking readers.

All in all the girl rocks. This is a profoundly clever way of subverting conformity - and also a testament to the media savvy of the Russian catastrophe generation.
posted by talos at 4:10 PM on April 14, 2004

Miles baby, I missed you too. Everybody else: you know what? Sometimes it's better not to say anything at all, but if you have to choose between the truth and what seems to be either blatant self-delusion or outright disingenuous, ego-supporting PC propaganda (as in "hey, she's not unattractive at all!" or she has a little "baby fat"), the harsh truth is sometimes preferable.

With some effort and discipline, she could easily become, say, a 6 or 7 depending on your own POV, which would be a tremendous improvement. But to campaign for ugliness? What's the point? Natural beauty in people does exist, but it is rare and needs constant maintenance. Those women who'd rather not use make-up, for instance, are obviously free to do so, but ideological explanations for beauty like "the male gaze" are very often self-deceptive. Love yourself as you are, but please do not attempt to distort concepts and hey, learn to deal with the fact that not everybody can be beautiful or rich or whatever, and those inequalities cannot be explained away by some magic verbal trick.

stonerose, there is a standard: symmetrical features, good skin, expressive eyes and so on. It's all in a book called "Survival of the Prettiest". That doesn't mean people outside this golden rule of physical beauty are necessarily ugly, but as a species we know fairly well what beauty is. Classroom children tend to think, for instance, that good looking teachers are more competent than ugly ones. Beautiful people get the best tables. Beautiful women marry up. No matter how much you dissect and deconstruct this, that's what happens in the real world.

Finally, what do you have against innocuous as in "useless"? To be more precise, what word and what meaning, if any, did you have in mind?
posted by 111 at 4:18 PM on April 14, 2004

Raise your hand if you get the vague impression that 111 not only sounds like a horse's ass, but that he most likely resembles one, as well.
posted by GeekAnimator at 4:30 PM on April 14, 2004

Geekanimator sure, if I defend beauty as an objective concept I must be some hideous geeky shut-in or an unshaved, heavily pierced lesbian. On the other hand, those who rebel against Barbie types and the very idea of beauty are surely gorgeous supermodels and movie stars. I envy not only your wholesome attractiveness, but also your Aristotelian powers of reasoning.
posted by 111 at 4:38 PM on April 14, 2004


It's all in a book called "Survival of the Prettiest".

Oh! It's all in a book. Well, why didn't you say so?

Classroom children tend to think, for instance, that good looking teachers are more competent than ugly ones.

Classroom children also shit their pants. And then, except in your case, they learn more appropriate standards of behavior.

what do you have against innocuous as in "useless"? To be more precise, what word and what meaning, if any, did you have in mind?

Since you apparently ignored taz's link, here it is again.

unshaved, heavily pierced lesbian

I see that your absence hasn't changed your propensity to equate homosexuality with ugliness. Cheers.
posted by stonerose at 5:23 PM on April 14, 2004

Can we please ignore the troll for once in our lives? Maybe he'll go away again if he can't stir up the ruckus that is so necessary to him.
posted by languagehat at 5:40 PM on April 14, 2004

I see that your absence hasn't changed your propensity to equate homosexuality with ugliness. Cheers.

Well stonerose, the book happens to have been written by a woman and is quite well-researched, having won praise from her peers. RE children's perception, what you must try to understand is that we unconsciously cherish and welcome beauty and the company of beautiful persons, and no there's no explaining away to that.

What about the link? What's your objection against using innocuous in that context? And sister, not everybody bought into the Queer Eye/Straight Guy thing, you know. Finally, before the gay stuff even starts, I refer you to the Pixies FPP above, where I name a well-know homosexual the greatest artist of all time.

People, can we pleeease ignore the troll? Please? Pleeease!!! He's hurting my tender feelings!
posted by 111 at 5:47 PM on April 14, 2004

Let me take a stand for the radical middle. It seems clear to me that beauty has both universal aspects and socially constructed aspects.

Certain things like ideal hip-to-waist ratio, symmetry, clear skin, etc all seem to be universally seen as beautiful, regardless of cultural context. Other things, like ideal skin tone, nose shape, or body size, seem quite variable between times and cultures. From the standpoint of evolutionary biology it stands to reason that certain features, which appear to signal good genes or fertility, would be universally appealing. On the other hand, other things seem to be more about a quest for social status and so dependent on the culture.

The other question is what standing we should give to beauty. Should we reject all comparisons, since beauty is partly arbitrary and in general not a sign of moral worth? Or should we give great weight to beauty and disdain ugly people because after all, pretty people please our aesthetic sense?

Again, I think the right answer is somewhere in the middle. There's nothing wrong with appreciating beauty or even competing over it. Like eating tasty food or hearing a good song, looking at a physically attractive person can be an enjoyable experience, and there is nothing morally wrong with that. But we should also be careful not to overgeneralize, and realize that looks are only one of many attributes that people have, and rarely the most important. Judging people based on appearance in cases where it is not relevant is a serious (though common) error.
posted by maciej at 5:56 PM on April 14, 2004

someone up there mentioned her body mass index. i just checked it out and i suspect there's something odd in the numbers given on that site. i'm a pretty skinny person (if someone shouts at me in the street, they sometimes call me "flaco", for example) and my bmi is only slightly lower than hers. i have slightly sunken cheeks, for example, while she certainly doesn't...

seems odd to campaign on being a real person and then fiddle the numbers. maybe i'm mistaken and bmi doesn't correlate much with appearance, or covers a wider range than i expect.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:05 PM on April 14, 2004

(OT) hey, 111, where you been? we've missed you.

Miles, speak for yourself, and not for me, please. (/OT)
posted by Wulfgar! at 6:29 PM on April 14, 2004

While I have no experience being a woman, IMHO, most women are much cooler than you paint them, deanc.

Actually, it's been my experience that most women are just as tedious as most men, but in new and mysterious ways.
posted by jonmc at 6:32 PM on April 14, 2004

very nicely put, maciej.
posted by stonerose at 6:38 PM on April 14, 2004

Miles baby, I missed you too.
posted by 111 at 4:18 PM PST on April 14
Miles, speak for yourself, and not for me, please. (/OT)
posted by Wulfgar! at 6:29 PM PST on April 14

looks like i forgot the (dripping with sarcasm) tag.

111, how can i say this, that's a real asshole thing to say. You wouldn't say someone's 'ugly and fat' to their face, would you? You email your mom with that keyboard?
posted by Miles Long at 7:14 PM on April 14, 2004

111: Your use of innocuous is not ideologically impure; it's just illiterate.

As Maciej points out tactfully, we all know that people respond well to classic good looks. But people big people also react well other attractive attributes, such as intelligence, charm and tact. Some of my best friends are beautiful to the populace as a whole. Some of them aren't.

FYI, I know so many gorgeous, unshaved and pierced lesbians who live to bust balls on trolls like you. And I love them for it.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:16 PM on April 14, 2004

My apologies, Miles.
posted by Wulfgar! at 7:41 PM on April 14, 2004

It's a matter of perspective.
posted by deborah at 9:54 PM on April 14, 2004

"I'd hit it" remark in 3... 2... 1...
posted by timyang at 10:35 PM on April 14, 2004

Ron Perlman may be ugly, but he's one hella sexy guy. And I'd wager every thin dime I own that he gets more in a week than 111 has over an entire career of pity dates.

Double or nothing that Ron's way smarter, too, but hey, that's a gimme bet.
posted by clever sheep at 9:23 AM on April 15, 2004

I see that your absence hasn't changed your propensity to equate homosexuality with ugliness. Cheers.

stonerose, look at what 111 commented in the Pixies’ thread. Don't think you have 111 totally pegged.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:47 PM on April 16, 2004

Also which of her photos was submitted for the contest?

The posted thread seems backwards as: "unglamorous schoolgirl" was rewarded and at that time she posed for a picture which was posted,"unglamorous schoolgirl".

Does this seem odd at all we are reading the story backwards too? Especially after seeing some pictures posted in the comment of this thread that make her very attractive looking.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:59 PM on April 16, 2004

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