February032010

The Press January 2010

THE PRESS

Date: 9/01/2010

Section: FEATURES Page: 1 Edition: 2

How different is it for people our culture calls beautiful? JOHN McCRONE meets fashion consultant and former model Angela Stone to find some answers.

What is it like to be beautiful? I mean drop- dead, stop the traffic, gorgeous? Yes, we plain folk would like to know what the view is like from the other side of those liquid, chocolate-drop, eyes.

Angela Stone bathes me with a radiant smile and pats my arm reassuringly. A Milan catwalk model at 17, now a high society fashion consultant and 37-year-old mother of three, Stone is still one of the most beautiful women in Christchurch.

Her photographs don’t really do her justice. I guess that in a glossy catalogue or fashion magazine shoot, physical perfection is simply expected. There is no element of surprise.  But as Stone unfolds herself from the low couch to greet me in the lobby of a Christchurch hotel, all bronze limbs and expensive clothes, this is different. Beauty in the flesh, beauty that talks and listens to you, beauty you can inspect from its many angles – it can be overwhelming.

I sit down beside Stone to examine the unnatural precision of the lines and angles that compose her face. And then there is what the photos do not tell. The elegant ease of her presence, the dancing warmth of her continually changing expression. Even her voice turns out to be beautiful.

“So what do you consider are your flaws?” I ask, seeking some evidence of sticky-out ears, bumpy nose, anything really.

Stone laughs merrily. “There’s nothing I worry about – apart, perhaps, from
my boobs being too big for a model,” she replies.

In fashion-industry terms, Stone says she is more Marilyn Monroe than Twiggy, more classic beauty than editorial. And even for a model, she is tall. But she has always felt beautiful all over.

“At what age did you discover that you were so attractive?”

“When I was five, when I first started school, I suppose,” Stone replies.

“People used to touch my hair because it was so dark, so shiny, so healthy-looking. And our teeth was another thing they were always commenting on, our smiles.”

“Our?” I ask.

“I’m a twin. I’ve got a twin brother. And he is, like, stunning,” says Stone.

Talk about a lucky double. And being part of a pair, this probably gave every passer-by even more of an excuse to stop and remark.

“Yes, people would see a little boy and a little girl and go ‘Oh my goodness, look at those two children’. There were lots of compliments. We just kind of grew up knowing we looked OK,” she says.

The tap on the shoulder from a local model agency boss – Kirsty Lay, the “face of the eighties” – came when Stone was a skinny-legged 14 year old walking home from school.

“I was in Cashel Mall at the time, no shoes, in my sports uniform, just my little adidas shorts.” It was about as far as you can get from the sophistication of Paris or New York.

Stone lived with her grandmother in Spreydon. “We had no money. But my Nana stayed up all night and made a new dress for me, then popped me on the bus the next day. I’d never even thought I’d be a model. That moment really changed my life.”

“So what did you want to be, growing up?” I ask.

“I was going to be a nun,” says Stone, breaking into helpless giggles at the thought. It wasn’t a religious ambition, just a result of weekly visits with her grandmother to help at an old folks home.

“My idea of a nun was someone who is caring and helps restore people.”

Instead, Stone was quickly living the un- nun-like existence of the jet-setting, international model. There was cash and glamour where before there had been none.

Yet Stone says her ordinary Kiwi roots kept her grounded. “When I first started modelling, there was a big Sunday dinner and one of my uncles said to me in front of the whole family, ‘Angela, don’t you ever change.’

“I remember everyone turning and staring at me. He meant I wasn’t allowed to become a stereotyped model and think I was any better than anyone else.”

I glance again at her features. They say beauty is about fertility. Men are genetically programmed to seek out women with the symmetry of features, the glossy skin and hair, the hour-glass physique, which means they are prime for mating.

The good looks say a woman is not malnourished, diseased or ridden with parasites. She is strong and ready to have many children.

This in turn means that to be beautiful is to be average looking – although in a super- average way. A Victorian scientist, Francis Galton, the pioneer of intelligence testing and an obsessive measurer of all things human, discovered this.

Galton was overlaying photographs of criminals, vegetarians, and other groups of people to see if he could find the basic facial characteristics that might identify the various classes of people.
Instead, what he found was that the more faces of any kind he averaged, the more attractive the composite picture generally became.

Biologists call it koinophilia, a desire for super-normality. Though o course in the modelling world, it is a fine line. Like Twiggy, a top face also has to be memorable. There has to be a touch of something wonky or exotic to set a girl apart.

Stone agrees she is fairly vanilla. Just your super-average gal. Yet in person she also has the extra that makes a person truly magnetic – the zip, confidence, humour and concern that completes the package. The inner beauty that illuminates the outer.

So what is it like to be you, I ask?

Already we have had one chap, some nondescript but a rather pleased-with-himself businessman, come up to shout a big “what a nice surprise” hello.

Anyone in the hotel lobby would have seen that he too knew this lovely creature. Like me, he could dally a while in her charmed space.

Who was that? I inquire, after she dismisses him smilingly with the words: “Oh, I’m doing an interview just now.” Stone says she ought to remember. She has seen his face before. But anyway, right there I have seen a little of what it is like being her. It is not the men you have to watch out for but the women, Stone tells me.

The reaction of males is on the whole, pretty straightforward and precisely what you would expect.  However, women can become difficult, Stone says.  At a recent dinner party, there was a classic case. “You can feel the women becoming very self-conscious about themselves when they’re around you. Especially if they’re with their man. They are always checking, making a lot
of eye contact with their partners, seeing what kind of energy there is going on.” One wife, arriving with her husband, seemed particularly flustered. “She wasn’t coping well with me sitting there. She wouldn’t direct any conversation at me. She didn’t want to include me at all as that would be accepting me being there.  “So I had to work extra hard to bring her into the conversation, to make her feel comfortable with me, to show that I was no threat,” says Stone.

She says this is what she ends up spending a lot of time doing – reassuring others, breaking down the barriers that beauty can create.

Beauty has a way of making waves wherever it goes. It cannot be in the same space and be ignored. The natural reaction of people is to look. And if you are looking, you have to be deciding. Which means you are already beginning to anticipate the judgment in return.

Then if you don’t feel up to par socially – and how many would? – your instinct can be to reject before you get the chance to be rejected.

“That’s exactly right,” Stone says softly. “It happens all the time. You see people turn around to stare at you. And you know why they’re staring. They are looking you up and down, then judging you. They have to put you in a box.”

Stone says some models are too shy or introverted to cope with this continual social evaluation – the guessing about the person inside, which is even more tiring than the gawping at the person outside. They don’t reach out to put the people around them at ease and so get a name for being
snobbish or shallow.

Stone says a dear friend, another former top Christchurch model, is just like that. She gets rejected by people who fear she may reject them first. “She’s amazing, she’s lovely, she’s a very successful businesswoman. But she’s exceedingly shy, so she gets mislabelled all the time.”

Being beautiful is like being on stage all the time, says Stone.
And she says she probably found the best way to cope with it by becoming a model, then founding her own model agency, and now, most recently, by
carving a career as a wardrobe stylist, fashion consultant and compere of
“best dressed” competitions at gala events like Addington Cup Day.

Beauty has become her product, so she can step back and acknowledge its
worth, maintain and care for it, understand its workings in a healthily
detached fashion. When people tell her she is gorgeous, Stone can say thank
you. She can agree, she does not need to quarrel.

Stone says this kind of self-confidence is what is actually attractive, even
if you are not so genetically blessed.

Every child has beauty because there is an innocence and purity, she says.
“They have that dance, that little skip in their walk. They are not clouded,
or bogged down, or heavy.”

Stone says when she is working with women chief executives and others
looking for a beauty makeover, only half her time is spent on hair, makeup
and wardrobe. The rest is about learning to stand straight and project.

“To look sensational, you must be feeling sensational,” says Stone. It is a
performance that you can turn into a day-long habit.

So what about the reaction from men then, I ask?

Stone says it is a sad fact that of the one- in-10 men actually bold enough
to strike up a conversation with her, the guy is too often likely to be the
cocksure type. And many of his kind are just looking for arm-candy. They
want the attention you will bring them from other men.
Getting back to the caveman genetic programming, you become the trophy, the
badge of their virility.

But who’s complaining really, says Stone. You eventually work men out when
you have seen it enough. And beauty has to be an asset if you can manage
other people’s reactions to it.

“I’m seeing it with my own children – the doors that get flung open for you
when you’re beautiful. People enjoy being around good-looking people. They
want to talk to you. They’re interested in you already.” We are getting
ready to say goodbye. Which in an interview, as people relax completely, is
often when the most revealing things start to be said.

It has certainly been a life of contrasts, I remark to Stone.

“Yes, my grandmother was a school cleaner. But she brought us up as best she
possibly could. She fought for every dollar. She taught me how to cook, and
sew, and clean – how to do everything by the time I was 10.”

And her parents? From her purse, Stone drags a collection of tiny black and
white snapshots. Three of her children, one of her dark-complexioned,
Spanish heritage, mum, the other of her blond and blue-eyed dad.

“They married young. Both of them were drop-dead gorgeous. But much shorter
than us. Both me and my brother are like 10 foot taller than either of
them.”

Stone says her mother was a gentle soul – beautiful on the inside too, as
her grandmother was always saying. But also deeply troubled. Clinically
depressed. It was the reason her parents were not there for her as a child.

“I was a very sad little girl. Very sad. All I wanted was my mum and dad,”
Stone admits. There is plenty of stuff that she has had to work through.
Then six years ago, her mother took her own life. Three years ago her twin
brother disappeared. Stone says he too was wrestling with his demons and
simply vanished one day.

“He could be anywhere. Anything could have happened. We just hope that some
time he will turn up.”

Her grandmother, her rock, passed away about a year ago. Stone heaves a
heavy sigh. There is a tremor in her briefly downcast eyes. You can see
where the dreams of being a nun, of soothing and healing people, must have
come from, why Stone goes out of her way to warm people with her beauty, why
she becomes so passionate when she talks about helping other women find
their inner confidence.

Even the fear she must have felt about her mother’s mental illness, the need
to guard against a similar danger, the need to stay always sunny and strong.

But Stone is laughing again now as I’ve just asked her if she is worried
about ageing, about wrinkles and losing her looks.

“That doesn’t even touch the sides. I’m the happiest I’ve been right now,”
Stone exclaims. “I’m doing what I really want to do. And that’s helping
people,” she says firmly, before she gives me one last radiant smile and
departs.

February022010

Lemon Verbena and Lavender Foot Bath

Ingredients

  • 15g / 1/2oz dried lemon verbena
  • 30ml / 2 tbsp dried lavender
  • 5 drops lavender essential oil
  • 30ml / 2 tbsp cider vinegar

Put the lemon verbena and lavender into a basin and pour in enough hot water to cover the feet. When it has cooled add the lavender oil and cider vinegar. Sit down and immerse your feet in the bath for 15 minutes. Dry your feet thoroughly afterwards.

See more make it at home recipes

February022010

February022010

Nutty Rice Salad

  • 2 cups of brown rice cooked
  • 1 ½ cups of raw peanuts (or use 1 tin of chickpeas drained for those with allergies)
  • ¾ cup sultanas
  • 1 chopped green pepper
  • 1 cup cooked peas
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/3 cup extra light olive oil
  • ¾ cup salt-reduced tomato sauce

Combine all ingredients, mix well and refrigerate for 1 hour.

February022010