Why People's Most Beautiful List Makes Me Sad

(Jeffrey Mayer/Wireimage/Getty)Can we all agree that Julianne Moore is, by most standards, conventionally beautiful?

Tell that to People Magazine, judges of the annual celebrity beauty pageant—formally known as People's Most Beautiful Issue. Their latest issue reads like a yearbook for Hollywood High's most popular kids. There is the prettiest freshman (Ireland Baldwin), the gorgeous grad (Jane Fonda) and the number one most popular, beautiful, blondest winner of all, Gwyneth Paltrow.

And then there are the eight women who are, well, "Unconventional Beauties." Moore is number one on that less flattering sidebar, and next to her name, in all caps, is the word FRECKLES.  The caption reads: "With her fair skin, Moore's freckles are hard to miss—something the actress has come to accept with age."

If this really were a high school yearbook, the caption would read "Julianne Moore: Most Freckle-Faced." It's just another "real beauty" trick of the magazine trade: make like you're celebrating someone's stand-out features but really, just point them out.

If that wasn't People's intention, they should reconsider how they packaged this "unconventional" list, leading with a celebrity's name, and then in bold, their "unconventional" physical feature. (At least they wisely avoided using the word "flaw".)

There's "Jessica Pare: Teeth," "Leah Michelle: Nose" (Yeah, what about it?), "Tina Fey: Scar," and "Tyra Banks: Forehead." In case you forgot, this list is here to remind you the model was nicknamed "five-head" by high school jerks.

I have never analyzed Banks's forehead or Michelle's nose long enough to decipher what's so oddball about either feature. To me these women just look like pretty, famous people—pretty, skinny, famous people. None of these "unconventional" beauties, mind you, are "unconventionally" sized by Hollywood standards. Maybe it's better that way. A list like this offers a chance to pick apart, rather than draw inspiration from, celebrities' physical traits.

The real headline might as well be: "She's pretty, but you know what's weird about her?" It's not all People's fault. We have a hankering for stories where celebrities reveal their so-called "flaws." It's the feel-good version of a tabloid magazine spread on stars with cellulite.

Despite the inspirational quotes from stars about how their unique features make them special, People's list doesn't really translate to readership self-empowerment. For example, if Cindy Crawford (#6 on the list) is unconventional, I'm a Martian.