Stascia L. Horton: There Is More Beauty In Self-Confidence Than You Will Ever Find In A Tube Of Lipstick Or Mascara

Stascia L. Horton

I am a 40-year-old female. I have struggled with self-image since my toddler years. I have been a preschool teacher and seen other toddlers with the same struggle.

There are many things that impact a child’s self-image at such a tender age. It is often a child’s parents who hinder development of self-confidence. That was my case. My mother and stepfather used to actually tell me that I was fat and ugly. I have heard parents berate their small children over their appearance: if their hair was messy or they got dirty or if their clothes were not just so. I simply do not understand doing this to your child, but I do understand that a person who subjects a child to this has low self-esteem themselves. No self-respecting person would subject another person to such behavior. However, even small children have celebrity obsessions or a warped sense of what they should look like. We live in a world so focused on celebrities, beauty pageants and the need to be pristine. Gone are the shows with normal looking children, and in have marched cartoons where the girls and boys are fashionistas. The trend setters are the heroes and the fashion mishaps become the villains. 

I also was born with a spinal deformity on top of being subjected to dismally self-depressed role figures. This made me even more self-conscious. The kids at school made fun of me for the way I walked because of the deformity. This did at least motivate me to work really hard at camouflaging my deformity. It was a feeling of accomplishment when I was successful enough to abate the teasing. 

Despite the fact that I have modeled on occasion, which I did to confirm for myself that I could look every bit as good as a girl in a magazine, I still resent the fashion industry. Being in the industry allowed for enlightenment about the reality of this presumed beautiful array of women. Oh they are beautiful, and they were before all the touch-ups and makeup and posing and lighting. Most people don’t get that inside look to learn the tricks of the trade and aren’t able come to the realization that these people are very real and look like everyone else before all the adornments. Men and women both keep trying to strive to be model-perfect, when in reality most already are. 

Here I am at forty years old finally starting to accept that hey, maybe I can be beautiful just the way I am. I am an artist and I find everyday people to be beautiful. I find their imperfections to be unique. I find their personalities exude an appearance. I am enthralled by smiles and laughter and intelligence and find that people who attract me inwardly are attractive to me outwardly. It took me a long time to apply all of that to myself. 

Forty years old, a scar that runs almost the entire length of my spine from surgery to insert metal rods to keep me straighter, a pin in my right foot with its corresponding scar, crooked teeth from a car accident and stretch marks from having a child and I finally realized that I am more beautiful now than I was when I was younger. I am more beautiful because I am a survivor and a fighter. My story of struggle and achievement are more beautiful than any runway walk I have ever taken. 

The reason? I learned to smile. I cast off people who made me cry and made me doubt, and surrounded myself with people who loved me, believed in me and supported me. I began to smile and laugh again and I have realized that smiling and laughing are what made me beautiful to other people. I realized that I needed to see myself the way I saw others; from the inside out. For I truly can see someone who may look beautiful on a magazine cover but who lives in such negativity that I instantly, upon actual interaction, no longer find them attractive. Yet to me, someone a talent scout would cast off is more beautiful than anyone you’ll see on the cover of a magazine. No magazine cover will ever be able to capture the beauty of one’s heart. 

Something I said recently: There is more beauty in self-confidence than you will ever find in a tube of lipstick or mascara. 

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Copyright Ark Stories 2012


Demi’s Meltdown by Kimberley Johnson










Demi Moore has been in the news a lot lately. Her picture is splashed across every tabloid, stories of her meltdown and her broken heart are everywhere.

On Facebook, I saw a post from a woman who appeared to be 40 years old or older. She was ranting that Demi is whining about getting older and this woman had no patience or empathy for Demi. Her message was to get over it, we all age and if we are alive, we have something to be thankful for.

I agreed with this woman on Facebook. But after having a conversation with someone about Demi and my lack of empathy, it was pointed out that Demi lives in the Hollywood bubble. Her reality is different than those of us who do not make a living based on how we look. Youth is King in Hollywood. Maybe I didn’t see things from Demi’s point of view because for the last two and a half years, I’ve been living in Northern California. I’m not in the acting biz anymore and even though I have not acted since 2002, living in Los Angeles has its own set of unique pressures when it comes to age and looks.

It’s very easy to criticize someone when you haven’t walked in their shoes. One of the comments on the woman’s post was that Demi has never been compared to or talked about like Meryl Streep; that all she has are her looks. To a degree, this is true. Demi is not known as one of the greats. But she does hold her own and has turned out some pretty decent performances, save for a few flops. But she has been known for her looks. She’s gone to extremes with her physical image when preparing for such roles as GI Jane and Striptease. She has breast implants, lived on a raw food diet and God knows what else in order to keep up a youthful appearance. It’s exhausting for me to think about. I can’t imagine what it must be like for her to live it.

The way she looks not only determines her income but how she values herself. This is true for all of us to a degree but for someone like Demi, it’s magnified. She’s almost 50. In Hollywood years, that’s 110. It’s death to those who’ve relied primarily on their physical appearance.

I worked on Days Of Our Lives for seven years. My part was small but I understand the pressure. The women on the show are tiny in stature as well as very thin. An impossibility for me. I am six feet tall. My bones and frame are big. I can get too skinny but I can never compete with a woman who is 5’5 and weighs 100 pounds. It’s an awful feeling when your value is based on looks and even though I never became a big time actress, I had wanted to for many years. I had to be prepared for my “big break.” I was always consumed with my looks. When I think of Demi, I really cannot imagine how she must be feeling now. It must be horrid.

Demi married Ashton Kutcher who happens to be sixteen years younger than she is. This young man has enormous charisma. Sexy, smart, hysterical and poised to be one of those Hollywood actors that has an extremely long shelf life. George Clooney, Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood had that charisma when they were young. Even in their 60’s, Eastwood and Newman pulled it off, sexually speaking. It’s common among men but not for women. It’s the rare woman who can still have sex appeal after 60 and more often than not, most of it is due to a LOT of plastic surgery. That’s the sad truth and trust me, I hate it. But it is what it is. I don’t blame Demi or feel she got what she deserves but she did set herself up for this to happen. It’s my theory that part of her attraction for him was that he was much younger. It validated her desire to appear younger. Madonna went through a similar situation with her younger ex-husband Guy Ritchie.

It is my personal belief that no woman should EVER marry a man sixteen years her junior. Yes, there are exceptions but they are EXCEPTIONS and they are few and far between. When women are in their 40’s they can look great. But as they approach 50, the hormones start freaking out. Our bodies change, perimenopause rears its ugly head and there’s not much we can do. The aging process takes away our youthful allure. It’s scary to let go but it’s what we all go through. And though it’s a bit easier for men, they still have to deal with losing youth and sex appeal as well. No one likes it but when you take a look at Europe, they seem to have a better grasp on reality than the US. Their actresses don’t have to be Barbie Dolls. They can be real women and still be respected.

Demi’s personal life affects millions of women who have insecurities with body image. It continues to promote the idea that when a woman ages, she loses her value. This statement is only true for those who buy into it.

I don’t blame Ashton. He’s 33!!!! She’s almost 50. As much as we all want to believe that it’s not about age, it is A LOT about age. It’s not negative or ageism. It’s human nature. It goes both ways. I am 43. I am not attracted to men who are 60. I’m just not.

Sadly, Demi has fallen victim to the message that youth and looks are the most important thing a woman can have. It’s what’s been reported on over and over. This message is poison and slowly seeps into the minds of many women who pick up the magazines while in line at the supermarket or reading the online articles. We read about her woes, her use of drugs and her inability to accept the most recent movie offer that has now gone to another actress because Demi is unable to cope with her break-up.

On one hand, I feel for her. She lives in the bubble and has since a very young age. On the other hand, as humans, we always have a choice. It’s easy to compare yourself to another. There will always be someone who has something you covet whether it’s material success, love or looks. We can and must choose to be healthy, to be fit and to look good for our age whether in our 20’s, 30’s, 40’s 50’s and up! But by defining ourselves only by age and looks, we lose.

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Copyright Ark Stories 2012


Food Is For The Birds


Suraya 31. 
As far back as I can remember I have always thought of myself as being the “fat” one. I was born in Jamaica with three sisters, me being the youngest. My sister Mary and I were closest in age, only a year and half apart, and my mother had us together everyday. Practically raised us like twins but there was always a distinguishing fact between us: she was skinny and I was chubby. My mom would dress us alike and introduce us to others and the first thing people would say was “Mary is so pretty and Suraya is so chubby”. As I got older, I got taller and my weight increased. My sister on the other hand, got more beautiful and thinner. What I hadn’t realized was that my weight increased because of my height not because of an increase in body fat but I did not see that when I looked in the mirror. I saw someone who was morbidly obese compared to my tiny older sister. In high school I wore boy clothes three times larger than my actual size. I covered as much as I could and played the “ugly duckling” role for years.
My family migrated to South Florida, where we lived in a Jamaican populated area. The boys were attracted to girls who had large breasts and large derrieres. In high school I had neither and although my breasts were growing, I always had them covered. I was told many times by people around me that I was shaped like a white woman because I had no ass and my new nickname throughout high school, apart from nerd, was “nosatall”, which means “no ass at all”.  It was during high school that I realized I was different and would forever be different and accepted my “fate”.  At least the one I made for myself, which was I will always be the fat ugly chick.
I was always active in high school, as I played sports, but that only brought on more ridicule from my gorgeously thin sister who would call me thunder thighs because of my involvement in tennis. I would diet quite a bit, always trying something new to see what worked with my body and what didn’t. I went on a rice diet, an all meat diet, no meat diet, only water diet and then the worse of all, an all you can eat and vomit diet. I hadn’t realized how badly I feared getting any fatter until I got pregnant at 18. I was already fat but now I would get even fatter and disgusting by carrying a child. Most women abhor the thought of morning sickness but I embraced it and loved it, especially since it didn’t happen before breakfast but just after dinner, not-self induced. When the morning sickness went away I was devastated because that meant I would now hold in all that I shoved in my mouth. That is when I started my all fruit diet. During my pregnancy, which lasted only seven months, I gained fifteen pounds, five of which I lost at the very end because I was diagnosed with Preeclampsia and I started to not eat anything at all due to my sodium levels being so high.  
I believe the media has always influenced the way I viewed myself as well as others, but for me it was more of a “what I would never look like” type of thing. I know my bone structure and how my body is built and I know that I will never be a Victoria’s Secret model nor will I ever be as thin as my sister. I also know that I will never want to look like the actress from Precious because that would definitely bring on suicide. My cultural background also plays heavily in how I view myself. When visiting family back home the first thing that is said after hello is, “you put on weight eh?” I would cringe and will cringe at those words every time they are said by aunts, cousins and even grandparents. No one wants to be the fat one in the family and for those that are, they are the butt of every joke.
I haven’t really given much thought of how others see me. I just know how I see myself: tall and somewhat fat. I know that I am not obese but I could stand to lose some more weight or at least tone up. Have I overcome my negative self-image? Not sure I have because I have no clue what a positive self-image is. Will I wake up every morning and look in the mirror and not see something I would like to change? Probably not because I know I can never be as perfect as I would like to be. I have not and do not intend on seeing a therapist because Jamaicans do not see therapists. *smile* I cannot say the way I look has always determined how I feel but it does play a part at times. I have told myself in the last few years that it matters not what people think but what I believe about me that makes me great. Does that mean I will start stuffing food down my throat and allow myself to get bigger? No. It just means that I care what I look like when I look in the mirror. If I like me the way I am, then others will and I can only accept that.

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011