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


Mikaya Heart: Allowing Myself to Look Like Me





Mikaya Heart is an award-winning author and a coach in the art of being
fully alive.

I am a 59-year-old woman. As a teenager, growing up in Scotland, I wore make-up, dressed up, and worried constantly about looking good. Then when I was 19, in the seventies, I became a hippie and overnight I stopped spending so much energy on how I looked, wandering around happily in an old jacket and worn jeans. It was a great relief not to be spending so much time, energy and money on my appearance, particularly since it had generated a lot of attention from men, which was frequently difficult to handle. Interestingly, I found that men were still attracted to me when I ceased to obsess about my looks; and they were much more the kind of men I liked, men who were actually interested in me, rather than just wanting to have sex.

A few years later, I started making love with women and came out as a lesbian. I identified as a butch dyke, which meant I usually wore my hair very short, and never wore a skirt. Nowadays I sometimes feel like that is a dress code to which I don’t want to adhere but in the eighties it was great. Within the lesbian community I really claimed my body as my own and completely stopped worrying what other people thought of my looks. I just embraced myself the way I was, and I am really grateful I was able to do that. I escaped the beauty trap, accepting that beauty is an inside job. I don’t know that I would have been able to do any of this, though, if I were not naturally self-confident. I wouldn’t wish it to be any other way, but over the years it has certainly required courage to be so nakedly myself in a world that has a limited view of how women should look.

Strangers often assume (without thinking about it) that I am a man and although I really don’t care, it tends to be difficult because other people are so embarrassed by their mistake. Don’t get me wrong: I like being a woman, I just can’t see why it matters if I am not immediately recognized as female, and I don’t consider society’s obsession with gender as my problem. The severity of the issue and how much I am affected by it varies geographically. It’s easiest in the San Francisco Bay Area, where many women look like me. In other places, particularly in Brazil, I’ve been harassed going into women’s toilets and I’ve had very unpleasant experiences on public transport in Muslim countries where women are afraid of sitting next to someone whom they perceive as male.

In the US, my apparent age is more of an issue for me. My hair is gray and I have spent many years working outdoors, without taking good care of my skin, so my face is very wrinkled—‘weathered’ is what people say when they want to be polite. Since most women of my age are trying hard to look younger and I am not, people tend to assume I am in my sixties. It’s a problem when I am kitesurfing, which is my favorite pastime, because the other kitesurfers on the beach think that I’m going to be a liability. Once they see me out on the water, jumping higher than they can and making it look easy, they treat me very respectfully. I am always torn between wishing they had treated me respectfully to start with and delighting in the fact that I have blown their stereotypes to smithereens.

Although I am not into being traditionally attractive according to media standards, I do enjoy playing around with the way my body looks. I have tattoos—a dragon on my arm and a snake on my back—and I love to use henna to create red stripes in my gray hair, so those factors mitigate being seen as an older person (and therefore infirm, although of course no one would say that to my face and would certainly never say it if they knew me). When I am traveling alone, which I do a great deal, the tattoos and the hair say something like: here is an interesting and different woman who can take care of herself. The people who are intrigued are the kind I will probably get along with; those who dismiss me as weird are exactly the ones I don’t want to know. Nevertheless, although I can rarely be bothered to work at changing my appearance in order to ‘fit in,’ I am aware that how I look sometimes alarms people. But how we actually look is only one aspect of what we are projecting. There is the physical body and then there is the energetic body, which people pick up on without even realizing what they are doing. I am a peace-loving person, with benevolent energy, and that makes me acceptable in places where I might not otherwise be welcome. That is not just a matter of luck—it’s a character trait I have deliberately developed because life would be lonely if I scared everyone away.

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011