Note: I was contacted by Eileen Grubba, one of the people quoted in this article. She said that she was misquoted and/or quoted out of context herein. She wanted to stress that she has great respect for Lili and considers her "a talented, likeable actress." Ms. Grubba also wanted to clarify that her comments were meant to be general statements about the role of looks in the selection of actors and actresses for particular roles and were in no way meant to impugn Lili's features.

Actresses win or lose by a nose

Powerful probiscuses lend character to the faces of several rising stars

Quick -- what do Claire Danes, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Aniston and Lili Taylor have in common?

They're actresses, of course. All fairly attractive. Talented. All on the young, or youngish, side. And, they've all got these...well, funny noses. Not petite. That bee-stung thing.

Lili in Star Tribune
This means something. For decades actresses have had slender, smallish, button-like noses. Exceptions have popped up here and there (Barbra Streisand, Meryl Streep, etc.), but few and far between. Now there's a whole crop of actresses with bigger, bolder schnozzolas. Is this a cutting-edge beauty trend -- i.e., naturalism -- or just some blip on the fashion screen?

Watching Lili Taylor's nose in "The Impostors," says L.A.-based actress Eileen Grubba, was "very distracting to me...I saw it with some friends, and her nose was bugging everyone, although we all loved her acting."

Grubba says she had the same reaction to Chloe Sevigny in "The Last Days of Disco." "I kept asking myself, 'How did she get this part and why is her nose that way?' You don't like her. You're expecting her to be brilliant for the way she looks, and she isn't, so it's disappointing."

Perhaps Danes, Sevigny, Blanchett & Co. are a members of the nasal avant-garde. Or perhaps they're fated to join those legions of actresses who have turned to the surgeon in order to have better relations with the camera.

A female literary agent puts it bluntly: "They haven't had the surgery yet, but they will. It's just being practical. If your nose isn't small and petite, it's harder to get a flattering angle. Especially when you get older."

"You can't change the way the camera's going to see your face," says actress Sandra Holley ("One Fine Day," "Donnie Brasco"). "We're more accepting of young girls when they're not perfect...when there's still a lot of growing to do. Sooner or later they grow into women, and I think that's when we start getting harder on them. I don't think it's right that we do that, but I think that's what happens."

Talent manager Joan Hyler also thinks it's a matter of time. "When you've got that 18-year-old bloom, you don't need to do anything," she says. "If I were one of these girls, I wouldn't do anything, either. They're the new bohemians...the antithesis of the supermodels."

Liz Mazursky, West Coast editor of Glamour magazine, says that larger noses are part of a new, everyday aesthetic. "Sometimes actresses will tap into the cultural moment, and their beauty -- not the norm -- becomes the new look."

"I like beauty, but I like character especially. I don't like it when people are too pretty, like they are on soap operas. There are a great number of people who relate to more real-looking faces. A lot of what is going on today is about people making themselves feel better, from a self-esteem perspective."

"It's more of a real look," says Allure magazine editor Courtney Small. "Especially for young actresses. You can empathize more with a woman who looks like you than some idealized thing. It's different than the '80s when everything was perfect -- you were idealized beauty or you were nothing. Now there's this individualized thing.

Actor Tommy Hicks ("She's Gotta Have It") says he finds women with larger noses "very erotic. I like those Barbara Streisand noses. I find it to be a very sensuous point of reference...Women with little noses, noses like Michelle Pfeiffer's, that don't do nothin' for me."

Copyright Star Tribune 1998
Date: Sunday, November 22, 1998

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