The Not-So-Pretty Truth of Being a Beauty Queen's Daughter

Lots of little girls think their mom is beautiful. But I had empirical proof: My grandmother showed me the newspaper clippings of my mom with her hair piled beehive-high, eyes dramatically outlined, and a sheaf of roses in her arms; people gathered around to bask in her light. She was wearing a tiara. My mom was a bona fide beauty queen.

What’s it like being the daughter of Miss Westchester County, winner of the Miss New York swimsuit trophy? It’s like waiting for a seed to grow, or for a superpower to manifest itself. It might be nice to have a beautiful mother, if you’re just as beautiful. People were always telling me I was lucky to have such good genes. But I was always the “cute” child, and now I’m a cute adult. There were some grim years in between—let us never speak of the frizzy perm or the acne—but cute has always been my narrative. Lots of people would counsel that cute is nothing to turn one’s freckled nose up at. Absolutely true. But when you’ve been convinced that, if you’re just patient, you’ll someday turn into the beautiful swan, it can feel a bit… inadequate.

This isn’t a story about how I overcame that feeling. I wish it were. Instead, this is a story about how that never quite went away.