Reality TV can be pretty ugly

By Megan Jicha

The Long of It

True Beauty isn’t just skin deep. It isn’t good television either.

ABC’s new reality competition show, ‘True Beauty,’ pins six beautiful babes and four gorgeous guys in competition with one another for the title of ‘America’s Most Beautiful Person.’ Besides the title, the winner will walk away with $100,000 and a spot in People Magazine’s 100 Most Beautiful People issue.

Although the contestants think they are competing in a mere beauty contest, in true reality TV fashion, there’s a secret twist: They are being judged on their inner beauty, too. So with the help of hidden cameras and set-up scenarios, like a man holding too many coffees who’s having difficulty opening a door, the 10 beaus are given a chance to let their ‘true beauty’ shine through. Sounds heartwarming, right?

Unfortunately, reality TV like this is far from heartwarming. In fact, the show ‘True Beauty’ is pretty ugly.

No matter what the program’s description says, or how many times the judges (former TRL host Vanessa Minnillo, supermodel Cheryl Tiegs and fashion expert Nole Marin) remind the viewers the competition is about inner beauty, the contestant’s outer beauty always comes first. Only after a contestant is deemed less attractive than the other contestants is he or she judged on character. On the premier episode, the two contestants up for elimination were the least beautiful according to a scientific test.

To me, this is not true beauty. Show me the least scientifically beautiful person in the world who devotes time from their schedule to volunteer for charity or simply offers their seat to elders and you’ll be showing off true beauty.

It’s like the Shrek movie series. Prince Charming may have the looks, but he has the personality of an egotistical, scornful pretty-boy. Shrek’s kind heart and likeable personality shines through his green exterior and he is ultimately the more attractive and appealing of the two. Princess Fiona knows real beauty – why doesn’t ABC?

My mom recently received chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer and lost most of her hair during this time. Even then, no one (including reality TV hosts) could ever tell me someone like Minnillo, Jessica Alba or Scarlett Johansson is more beautiful than she. My mom’s strength, selflessness, courage and kindness will always make her the most beautiful person in the world to me. This should be how Americans hold beauty in their hearts.

No one should ever be judged on their outer appearance more than their inner assets. While I know this can be a cruel and harsh reality of the world sometimes, it isn’t something we should be literally broadcasting.

The show, however, does have some heartwarming moments, few as they may be. These moments come from the contestants themselves. It is the show itself that is ugly, not necessarily the ‘beautiful’ contestants.

In the first episode, contestant Chelsea Bush explains that true beauty is being unique – a concept obviously unimportant to the judges, since being unique doesn’t factor into the scientific formula for a handsome person.

In this past Monday’s episode, contestant CJ Miller revealed his softer side when he appeared before the judges for possible elimination. When asked why he should remain in the game, Miller explained how one’s true beauty is on the inside and the judges let him stay. What? Someone already figured out the show’s little twist you ask? No, he’s just a human Shrek.

But in the end, the show boils down to the ideas that external looks are most important when judging someone’s beauty, it’s OK to trick people in order to see their inner appeal and reality TV has truly hit an all-time low. All of this leads me to agree with Giulia Rozzi of The Huffington Post when she wrote on Jan. 6, ‘Put a not-so-typically attractive person in People Magazine’s 100 Most Beautiful People issue because they have done something amazing to change the world. And then maybe I’ll believe in this whole ‘beauty is only skin deep’ shenanigans.’

So if you’re looking for a feel-good reality TV show, keep your TiVo set to ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.’

The Short of It

True beauty should be seen through one’s actions, personality and demeanor, not through the edited footage of a reality TV competition.

-Megan Jicha can be reached at [email protected]

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