Is It Ever Okay To Call Somebody Ugly?

Emily Ratajkowski seems to think so

Emily Ratajkowski

by Samuel Fishwick |
Updated on

Ugly is underrated. Give us your wonky vegetables (cheaper), your dorky Christmas jumpers (cosier), your world's ugliest dogs (here's to you, 2022's winner Mr Happy Face).

The model Emily Ratajkowski, 31, objectively one of the world's least ugly people, has caused something of a stir by weighing with the u-word word this weekend — but it seems like she likes the ug, too.

In a TikTok, Emily joined in on the app’s viral 'He’s a 10 but…' trend in a duet of a post from user @Pierina.

She gave a nod at the original vid, which stated, 'When he thinks he’s a 10 because he pulled you but you like ugly men' — which some took to be a pointed dig at her estranged husband, Sebastian Bear-McClard.

She later pinned a follow-up note in the comments section, reading, 'For legal reasons this is a joke.'

Nonetheless, fans couldn’t help themselves from lauding the 'epic' dig.

'Emily this is god tier breakup behavior 👑,' one user wrote.

But is it? Surely what young Emily is indirectly implying here, in a roundabout way, is that you don't have to be a beauty contest winner to date a supermodel — and, if anything, it helps. Call this flabby old writer a fool, but that's hardly shade.

Only beautiful people worry about being called ugly. It's often, quite literally, the way they make their way in the world. Sure, beauty is at a premium. Daniel Hamermesh, a leading scholar in this field, observed that an American worker who is among the bottom one-seventh in looks earns about 10 to 15 percent less a year than one in the top third. An unattractive person misses out on nearly a quarter-million dollars in earnings over a lifetime.

The rest of us normies just roll with it, accept we're never going to be catwalk models, and develop a cracking personality instead. I have no available data for a personality's value in the jobs market, but anecdotally I can tell you that it's worth a fortune. Emily, of course, is someone who has written and thought at length about beauty standards. Her debut essay collection, My Body, tackled all sorts of thorny issues in this area: what power does beauty really have? What are the politics of sex appeal? How much agency do women have under capitalism?

Emily Ratajkowski has, in long, thoughtful, viral essays, argued it's harder to be conventionally beautiful than it is to be conventionally attractive. Which is sad to consider. The greatest rewards in life come from learning to recognise that beauty beyond body. Instagram is itself a beauty pageant. Indeed, the internet has created a never-ending conveyor belt of people so bafflingly good-looking that everyone else is immediately rendered ugly by comparison.

Maybe that's why so many teens on TikTok have tried to reclaim the word, as reported by Vox earlier this year. Ugly has come to simply mean unexceptional. 'Rather than trying to compete for views and likes with the genetically gifted,' writes Vox's Rebecca Jennings, 'kids are pivoting to self-deprecation in a way that’s less depressing than it might seem to concerned parents: it’s a reclamation of mediocrity in an online space where everyone else is an overachiever.'

Of course, none of them are ugly — but if that's a word they want to dismantle and disarm, fine. We grow up. We stop worrying about the word ugly. We learn Emily Ratajkowski likes ugly men. Good for ugly men, we say.

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