Survival of the fittest may get you through the Jurassic period, but in this age, when dinos and raptors have become extinct, is the aphorism still relevant? According to celebrity dermatologist Dr. Vicki Belo, now is the age of the "survival of the prettiest."
In today's society, making a good first impression is more important than ever. At the end of the day, Belo said, good looks trump brains and talent.
The doctor to the stars, who talked about the importance of getting "Belo-fied," was the guest speaker during the Public Relations Society of the Philippines general membership meeting last week at LRI Design Plaza in Makati City.
"It takes only 1/80th of a second for people to judge you by your looks. And no matter what they say about not judging a book by its cover, people will always judge other people by their cover," she said.
Belo cited a study she carried out as a student of psychology at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman. In the study, she said, two UP grads took her theory for a road test. Girl No. 1, who had an average GPA, was sexy and beautiful; Girl No. 2, who graduated cum laude, was pimply and overweight. She dressed them up in the same outfit and sent them off to apply for jobs.
Not surprisingly, Belo said, the prettier girl got more job offers than the brainy one. Even better, she was offered a higher basic pay than Girl No. 2. "The bottom line really is, looks do matter," Belo said.
Our desire for good looks, apparently, is not just something the media has fed into our psyches, but is a biological adaptation. Simply put, our perception of beauty is not something learned; it is an instinct shaped by natural selection, according to a book cited by Belo titled "Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty," by Nancy Etcoff.
"It's genetic. We like beauty the way we like to eat," Belo said.
In the book, Belo said Etcoff performed an experiment on children and babies as young as three months old. The infants, the study said, stared longer and smiled at the attractive faces.
When presented with an unattractive adult, the babies turned away. Even five-year-olds, when shown photos of good-looking people, perceived them as honest and kind, Belo said.
"You get easily distracted by good looks at the beginning. For example, when you are overweight you are perceived to be lazy and lack self-control. This is so unfair, I know, but this is reality… If you have the personality you'll have to work really hard. That's why life is more fun when you're beautiful," she said.
Belo, candid as always, talked about her childhood issues and insecurities. As an adopted daughter-she was adopted by her biological mother's sister-she faced daily bullying from classmates in kindergarten. At age 5, she said, she ballooned to 100 pounds.
Children taunted her, she said: "Pinamigay ka ng parents mo!" "Hindi ka mahal siguro because you're pangit." "No, it's not because she's pangit. It's because she's so fat!"
"I was always crying, so at five I knew I wanted to make everybody beautiful so that they will be loved. I'm not vain at all. I even hate pictures because I feel pangit. But I have this desire to make everybody beautiful because of how I felt back then," she said.
The best people, Belo said, are the ugly ducklings who grow up to become lovely swans, because these are the people who develop a personality as they age. "They read up on self-improvement to compensate for their lack of luck in the genetic lotto," she said.
Those born good-looking normally do not bother developing their charm and intelligence, relying solely on their good looks to get by. When the looks begin to fade, they would be left with nothing.
But these days, when everyone is a photographer posting selfies on Instagram and Facebook, you will be perceived as well according to your posts. And, Belo said, it helps if you look good.
"I am the doctor to the stars and I see that all the time-you get paid more if you're better looking, and people are naturally attracted to you. Everybody needs help in the looks category. Trust me. Even the stars need help no matter how much they want you to believe they wake up each day looking that good," she said.
Perhaps the adage "survival of the fittest" isn't outdated, after all. To combat illnesses, you need to stay in top shape. But if you want to get ahead in life, a little nose job or laser liposuction may give you the confidence to see your goals through.