For ages, our communities have required a form of leader. Under the name of emperor, king, president, leader, boss, or any other title, this person is usually in charge of leading the way in which a community as a whole is moving toward. Centuries ago, one aspect was fundamental when electing a leader, an important factor that may have carried even more weight than the individual’s intellectual capacity. This factor was health.
Diseases were one of the major threats to big communities, besides invaders and enemies. Diseases have destroyed and weakened entire communities as the Black Death did during the 14th Century or the smallpox pandemic in the 16th century.
This is why the leader needed to be someone who was able to give hope, seek solutions, and protect the community as possible. This leader had to be healthy, or at the very least, look healthy.
Before major scientific progress, diseases used to leave permanent physical damage on a huge number of individuals. Loss of hair, skin irregularities, loss of teeth, and body deformations were only some of the ways in which diseases permanently damaged lots of people. So when a leader looked physically attractive, with a straight posture and healthy-looking skin, this person was more likely to be supported by the people in the community.
To this day, there may still be some truth around physical attraction related to health. Political candidates who are overweight are often advised to lose weight, they may be healthy, but voters want them to “look” healthy.
Dental hygiene has also become a significant aspect to consider, as a smile is a great way to connect with voters. Yellow unhealthy teeth are then related to poor hygiene, which then can be linked to vagueness, irresponsibility, or other characteristics that voters don’t look for in the representative they are voting for.
The Trudeau Effect
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been the Prime Minister of Canada since 2015. His charisma and his physical attributes have created bestselling headlines such as “The Most Handsome Politician in the world” and “Justin Trudeau is HOT AF.” Vogue went as far as calling him one of the “10 Unconventional Alternatives to the Sexisest Man Alive” (Vogue).
Trudeau has definitely leveraged these qualities to connect successfully with people, not only his voters and the people in his party, but also international political figures. Vanity Fair posted a series of photographs of Trudeau’s encounters with relevant people such as Queen Elizabeth, Angela Merkel, former Presidents of the United States, and former president of Argentina, Mauricio Macri. In the photographs, these personalities seem to be comfortable and even joyful with Trudeau’s presence, a phenomenon now known as the Trudeau Effect.
“The country runs better with a good looking man in the White House. I mean, look what happened with Nixon. No one wanted to f*ck him, so he f*cked everyone.” Samantha Jones, Sex and the City.
For Trudeau, his charisma and physical presence have been a fortress, but his work as Prime Minister also gets international attention. Trudeau selected the most diverse cabinet during his first term and became the first Prime Minister of Canada to participate in a Pride parade. Trudeau leveraged his physical attributes and added his charisma and skills to be recognized not just by his looks but also by his actions.
A Male Marie Antoinette becomes President of Mexico
Enrique Peña Nieto was the president of Mexico from 2012 to 2018. His wife, Angelica Rivera, was a well-known actress in soap operas. When the time for the presidential campaign arrived, a fairy tale story with a happy ending became one of the best tools Peña Nieto used to gain people’s votes. The young, attractive couple holding hands and laughing in public events became an aspirational idea for many voters. Before starting the presidential campaign, Peña Nieto served as governor of Estado de México. He started to open this narrative with a highly mentioned wedding that conveniently happened the year before his political party chose the presidential candidate.
Peña Nieto’s communication strategies during the campaign focused on his image. Almost as if it was a fashion editorial, the flyers focused on the politician’s smile and body gestures as if it was a Hollywood movie poster instead of political propaganda. He started his presidency in 2012 with over 50% of approval ratings. (Parametria).
But what does it take to be handsome? More specifically, how much does it cost?
An agreement from the General Coordination of Presidential Air Transport (Coordinación General de Transportes Aéreos Presidenciales y Grupo Habers S.A. de C.V), stated an acquisition for “towels and pads” of $45,599 Pesos (2.400 USD). These towels and pads were exclusively used on the presidential plane. Another significant spending was published later, like USD 12,752 for men’s lotions, USD 2,487 for razors, and USD 3,707 for hair gel. El Financiero). Additional supplies were purchased for the residency.
Beauty and ostentatiousness
In the second half of his presidency, the family traveled to London, where his wife Angelica Rivera and Sofia Castro, daughter of Rivera from her previous marriage, wore very ostentatious clothing. One of the dresses that Sofia Castro wore (who didn’t serve any role in public office) cost USD 7,225. The minimum wage in Mexico around this time was around USD 670 a month. So when the step-daughter of the president wore a dress worth almost 11 months of minimum wage work, it was almost like a reinterpretation of Marie Antoinette telling the french people, “let them eat cake” when they barely could afford to buy bread.
This and other reports and articles about huge spending, plus several political challenges, made Peña Nieto leave the office with the lowest approval rate of a President of Mexico. (Tribunal Electoral). He is still remembered as one of the “most handsome” presidents. There were even some polls to vote for the most attractive president where he competed against Justin Trudeau and Barack Obama, who governed around the same time as Peña Nieto. He may have won some of these beauty polls, but his party lost 61% of the votes in the last years of his presidency.
In a race with four presidential candidates, Peña Nieto won with 38.21% of the votes. However, he left office with a 24% of approval rate. The lowest approval rate of a President of Mexico.
Beauty isn’t enough. There must be something more. Eva Herzigova.
Beauty and Leadership - Jacinda Ardern
The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, is the third woman in this role and the youngest woman to do so. Since she took office in 2017, Ardern’s policies managing the pandemic and stopping gun violence have been widely discussed around the world. However, Ardern’s charisma, smile, and outstanding presence make her an admired person by people in and outside of her country.
People need more than a pretty face during times of uncertainty, and Ardern has had some truly memorable moments as the Prime Minister of New Zealand. In December 2019, the Whakaari / White Island eruption took 21 lives. Ardern got together with first responders, giving a touching message recognizing the loss and grief of the victims’ families.
“You are forever linked to our nation, and we will hold you close.”
Beauty and Faith
Georg Gaenswein is the prefect of the Papal household and worked as the Personal Secretary of Pope Benedict XVI. Ganswein started to receive lots of attention during the first months of Pope Benedict XVI serving his role. This unusual attention got him the nicknames “Il Bello Giorgio.” (The Beautiful George) and “the Vatican’s George Clooney.” The former secretary made it to the cover of Vanity Fair, and served as an inspiration for one of Donatella Versace’s fashion collections.
It is quite rare that a religious personality gets this kind of attention, especially in recent decades, as the rates of younger generations following the Catholic faith are declining heavily. Sometimes people with beauty pursue a role without wanting mainstream attention, but still, they get it.
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Peter 3:3-4
Power and Sex Appeal
With so many images of lingerie, deep necklines, and explicit content becoming mainstream, it can be challenging to imagine how politicians can explore the idea of “sex appeal” without looking silly or losing some of their authority.
Former Secretary of State under George Bush’s presidency played with this idea when she arrived at the Wiesbaden Army Airfield in Germany.
Rice didn’t go for the generic pantsuit for this visit. Instead, she wore a long navy coat with seven gold buttons that opened just below the waist. As she walked, she was able to show a tailored skirt with knee-high black leather boots.
The combination is spectacular. The long coat with the great tailoring, the collar, and the chosen color gives a sense of authority and formality. The buttons elevate the look creating a vertical line that makes her torso look taller.
The knee-high black leather boots help her to elongate her legs. The pointy tips, the roughness of the leather, and the juxtaposition with the few inches of leg she is showing give her a sex appeal that is definitely interesting. She still looked like the authority figure she was, and she was able to play with fashion ideas outside of the established lame dress code of a pantsuit for women in politics.
Other sexy politicians who have captivated hearts and votes.
So what if I’m ugly?
There’s a Danny Trejo in Hollywood, a Ronaldinho in soccer, and a Barbra Streisand who refused to get a nose job as much as the people around her suggested her to do so.
Talent, skills, and persuasion become fundamental when pursuing a nomination, a job, or a certain number of voters to support you. People may feel instantly attracted by the physical beauty of a person, but it is the authenticity, kindness, and intelligence of a person that prevails. The joy of a pretty empty box only lasts for a few moments. The fascination of an imperfect box full of treasures will prevail for a longer period.
Politicians with a pretty face may make it to the ballot and get a certain number of votes. Voters will find them “healthy looking,” “attractive,” or “hot af,” but they can’t rely on beauty to solve their problems, and we as voters, can’t rely solely on a pretty face when electing a leader.