What I Remember About Brangelina

(On Lipstick-wearing Babies and MS)

As Seen On
by Lisa Cohen in Beauty, Living With MS

There’s so much buzz these days about the whole Brangelina thing.  Angelina Jolie filed for a divorce from Brad Pitt.  The chatter has been everywhere online: What happened? Did he cheat?  Lots of comments about karma, etc.  It’s gotten the media’s attention even with this insane election season that’s going on, and is making headlines everywhere.  Do I care about the breakup?  Not particularly, but I found it noteworthy for a couple of reasons. First, because it shows that everybody can get cheated on or dumped, even if they look like Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt (proof that appearance is not everything).  Second, it reminded me of a striking Brangelina incident that really opened my eyes to the appearance-obsessed culture that we have here in the States (in spite of said proof that appearance is not everything).

That one incident that sticks out to me about Brangelina was seeing those all-the-rage “first photos” right after she delivered their first baby.  I saw those first photos in a U.S. magazine and also saw them in a Spanish magazine.  In the U.S. magazine, Angelina was retouched to perfection without so much as one blotch on her face after just giving birth…and the baby looked like it was wearing lipstick (I kid you not!).  The Spanish magazine photos showed what mama and baby truly looked like in that moment…natural, beautiful photos with imperfections (and the baby was NOT wearing lipstick).  Both Angelina and baby looked gorgeous and a beautiful moment was captured that looked perfect as it was.

I was appalled to see that one of our magazines over here felt that neither Angelina nor the newborn looked good enough to print as-is.  For heaven’s sake, they felt that even a precious newborn baby’s appearance was not up to snuff (I wonder whether someone even said “That kid could use a little lipstick”).


As women, we already face an extreme amount of societal pressure regarding appearance, weight, and body type.  Add the fact that we’re living with MS to the mix and that pressure increases exponentially.  Add in to that a culture that thinks that a newborn baby needs a bit of lipstick and it’s really over the top.

Here’s the thing: Appearance actually does matter, but maybe not for the reasons that most people think. How we feel about our appearance directly correlates with our self-esteem. Unfortunately, the way that we feel about how we look can make or break our self-esteem and what we believe is possible for us in living with MS (yes, there have been studies that show this).  When we feel good about our appearance, our perception of available resources, our own abilities, and possibilities improves.

As women living with MS, we may have physical limitations that prevent us from being able to look “camera-ready” most days, but you know what? Most people don’t look like that on most days.  Apparently, Angelina doesn’t even look good enough to be Angelina on some days.  I think that one of the first steps toward feeling good about our appearance must necessarily be to stop comparing ourselves to the prevalent appearance stereotypes.  We can recognize that there are forces at work that have warped our sense of reality when it comes to appearance and the reality of what people actually look like.  When the media has decided that half of Brangelina, dubbed the “beautiful couple” is still not beautiful enough, we should be able to ease up on ourselves a bit.  Don’t you agree?

Are you feeling down about your appearance?  Can you think of some gentle ways that you can start taking some of that pressure off of yourself?