The faces of unconventional beauty
- Next1 of 11Lily Cole: Jon Furniss/WireImage
- Previous Next2 of 11Bette Davis: John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
- Previous Next3 of 11Eartha Kitt: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
- Previous Next4 of 11Frida Kahlo: Popperfoto/Getty Images
- Previous Next5 of 11Rooney Mara: Mike Marsland/WireImage
- Previous Next6 of 11Grace Jones: Ron Galella/WireImage
- Previous Next7 of 11Kristen McMenamy: Dave Allocca/DMI/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
- Previous Next8 of 11Tilda Swinton: Francois Durand/Getty Images
- Previous Next9 of 11Sofia Coppola: Mike Coppola/Getty Images
- Previous Next10 of 11Monica Vitti: 20th Century Fox Pictures/Courtesy of Getty Images
- Previous Next11 of 11Angelica Huston: Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage
She's So Unusual1 of 11
By Brienne Walsh
Conventional beauty is, well, conventional. Instead, we're more interested in what it is that makes a face interesting. Whatever that elusive quality is, these 11 beauties have it.
With her very (very) wide set eyes and small mouth, model Lily Cole looks more doll-like than human. Apparently we are hardwired to be drawn to a face like this. "Infants have much larger eyes and soft, tiny features that call forth feelings of protection," says biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, Ph.D.
The Eyes Have It2 of 11
The star of films including Of Human Bondage and All About Eve, Bette Davis had expressive eyes—the sort some might call bugged—that allowed her to portray dark, complex characters. "Bette Davis' eyes were not only extraordinarily large, they were also preternaturally blue," says Fisher, who adds that our minds respond very strongly to anything new, so truly unique features will make a lasting impression.
Purr-fection3 of 11
With her wide-set eyes balanced by a strong jaw, this former Catwoman could look either sweet and innocent or cunning and fierce, depending on her expression. Of Cherokee, African-American and European descent, Eartha Kitt had a one-of-a-kind quality and presence that was undeniably captivating.
Arch Support4 of 11
Rather than altering her unibrow, painter Frida Kahlo embraced it, a move that ultimately made her appearance more intriguing and unconventional. "My guess is that if you were to measure her face, it would be extremely symmetrical, which symbolizes beauty," says Fisher.
Fringe Benefit5 of 11
Similar to Kahlo, Rooney Mara (star of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) challenges traditional notions of beauty with her jarringly severe cut and hair color, a move that set her apart from the mass of long-haired starlets. "This is a really, really pretty girl, with a very symmetrical face," says Fisher. "But her haircut is very boyish and imp-like, pairing beauty with masculinity."
Amazing Grace6 of 11
A 1970s club fixture and Andy Warhol muse, Grace Jones relished in her androgynous features. "We find someone like Jones to be arresting because there is almost a cognitive dissonance between the masculine and the feminine," explains Fisher. "We can't really understand it, but we find it exciting because it's different."
Surprisingly Sexy7 of 11
Another androgynous beauty, '90s supermodel Kristen McMenamy stood out among the era's glamazons, including Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer. Although McMenamy has high cheekbones and a wide forehead—traits Fisher attributes to high testosterone levels—her full lips offset her more masculine features. "Big lips signal high estrogen levels, and are strong indicators of female sexuality," she explains.
Looking Sharp8 of 11
With her fair skin, pale brows, sleek hair and sharp features, Tilda Swinton can appear almost otherworldly. Despite her somewhat masculine appearance and minimalist menswear style, Swinton has soft, wide-set eyes that convey a feminine, nurturing quality, says Fisher.
Power Player9 of 11
Fashion icon and award-winning director Sofia Coppola manages to be both demure and strong. "She has very masculine features with very feminine lips," says Fisher. "Her traits represent the face of a fully evolved, sexually confident woman."
Bella Donna10 of 11
One of Italy's biggest stars during the 1960s, actress Monica Vitti apparently thought of herself as "a bit ugly." But the uniqueness of her features—the pouty mouth and slightly hooded eyes—gave her face a beauty and expressiveness that won over countless admirers.
Think Positive11 of 11
This quote from Anjelica Huston says it all: "I remember overhearing a conversation between my mother and father...to the effect that Anjelica wasn't going to be a beauty. My way of dealing with that, even then, was: I'm going to make myself beautiful. I might not have physical perfection, but I'm going to think myself into being beautiful."
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