‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ and since the worldwide launch of the controversial new website beautifulpeople.com in October, there can be a lot of wonderful eyes to behold you. Beautifulpeople.com is an exclusively ‘beautiful’ online community where the world’s finest-looking communicate and create personal and professional relationships with each other. This is the first community of its kind and has become a global phenomenon, gaining success in 16 countries; it was founded in Denmark in 2002 and has since progressed all over the world, most notably Canada and now also the UK. To become a member of the elite club, applicants are judged on a complimentary picture of themselves by existing ‘beautiful’ members of the opposite sex. Applicants are left anticipating the result for 48 hours before their beauty rating is given the thumbs up…or most commonly, down; the odds on actually being accepted are very low with only twenty percent of applicants making the grade. BeautifulPeople admit that the site ‘does not define beauty, it simply gives an accurate representation of what society’s idea of beauty is.’
The website has obviously caused much controversy and discussion. Besides, who doesn’t have something to say about a website that rates or hates people depending on their looks? Appearing on various American television programmes, Greg Hodge, the Managing Director of the website, has had to defend beautifulpeople.com profusely and from all of the interviews that I have seen, he seems to have perfected his rehearsed speech…or defence. Hodge describes the website as ‘an elite online club where every member works the door. Everyone wants to be with someone that they are attracted to; Beautifulpeople.com is just a way of getting over the first hurdle. Once you have been accepted as beautiful, there are various tools to get across the character behind the beautiful exterior.’ So personality comes second to looks does it?
He is aware that one of the main points that offend people is the rejection of applicants, who just aren’t deemed ‘beautiful’ enough. He tries to justify that ‘exclusion is prevalent all through society. We see exclusion in football teams, Mensa and college fraternities. We have to exclude people to serve the purpose of the community.’ Canadian Greg Hodge sums up the website as ‘The best little black book in the world. If you think of the social networking market as a nightclub, BeautifulPeople is the VIP room’; extravagant, expensive and exclusive events are regularly put on for these fine-looking specimens. Besides, they deserve it don’t they? I mean, isn’t it hard to be beautiful!
When I first came across this website I laughed. I thought it was ridiculous that people would take it seriously and my curiosity and intrigue forced me to join up. I wasn’t worried about getting swept up in something so shallow so didn’t think twice about it; I just wanted to see what it was like. I managed to get some friends to join up too and we set up a mini-investigation. According to statistics only one in five applicants are successful and so five of us made profiles and eagerly awaited the response. I didn’t want to give too much information away and so just submitted a picture from a recent night out and fake name. This is where I started to contradict myself.
Although I thought I wouldn’t care about it, I found myself searching through my facebook profile pictures for a relatively nice picture of me, one where I thought I looked semi-beautiful. But why did I care? I realised that a want to be deemed as beautiful and a fear of rejection was starting to creep in. A friend who also applied found the site ‘unnervingly addictive’ and it soon became her guilty pleasure. She was surprised at how the exclusive members weren’t as ‘beautiful’ as you would expect and were actually pretty average looking. But who am I to judge who is beautiful?
My male friends who signed up found it all quite funny and, even though they won’t admit it, put a lot of effort into their profiles. In a television interview Robert Hintze, the founder of the website, suggested that ‘beauty’s a package’ and that some members decided that mentioning their assets (money, cars, jobs) in their profile may help them gain some votes. A very accurate representation of true beauty then, which car you drive?
As we browsed the website, we noticed some absurd behaviour. Not only is there a ‘Top 50’ section where the hottest of the (supposedly) hot are compiled, but members rate each other’s pictures and send each other ‘hugs’, just as you or I would ‘like’ someone’s facebook status. I discovered that this ‘beautiful’ world is actually rather seedy and very flawed and it was concerning that my friends and I actually began to get sucked in and wanted to be accepted. As much as we laughed about it and said it was a competition, I did begin to care.
According to regular surveys carried out on the website, the UK has the least beautiful people, along with Germany. Swedish men are the most likely to be accepted onto the site as are Norwegian and Brazilian women. This made me feel a bit better when I received an email a few days after joining saying: ‘Unfortunately your application to the BeautifulPeople network was not successful. The members of BeautifulPeople did not find your profile attractive enough.’ Great. I was however consoled with the option to ‘apply again with a better photo or more interesting profile.’ And there is always the ‘Day Guest Pass’ for people who are ‘too ugly sign up.’
Printed in Redbrick: 12th February 2010