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We interviewed Lluisa Ricart, journalist and consultant of beauty and fashion firms about her studies of UGLY BEAUTY where she reflects on the concept that the ugly and the sick is related to beauty and fashion creating trends..

Canadian model Winnie Harlow has vitiligo, a depigmenting disease.

You claim that fashion is not just a reflection of beauty.

Exactly, as a system of shortcuts of the discourse of reason, human thought is organized in structures of concepts. For example, the antithesis: good is good because there is bad, pleasure/pain, light/dark, beauty/faithfulness, health/disease…

Thus, fashion can also be a conscious voice that we are vulnerable and perishable. In this paradox lies an undoubted power of attraction.

You have been working on it for several years…

I have analyzed how, throughout history, designers, artists, makeup artists, photographers, social trends… have been inspired by different diseases to create aesthetics.

Has it always been like this?

I note the attraction to disease, also in art, long before the 19th century, but my study focuses on that period: the whiteness of the complexion and the red lipstick inspired by the blood of tuberculosis was seen as something beautiful.

Red lips come from a disease!

It’s funny how we tend to think that fashions don’t affect us, that we are “outsiders“. There are signs that in Egypt they colored their lips with pigments, but the glamorous red of now is born of a disease, the tuberculosis of romanticism.

Ugly Beauty

Nicole Kidman reinterprets Satine, a tuberculosis-stricken dancer

What about fashion?

In the twenties of the nineteenth century, women wore white. Narrowness was imposed on the waist, even forcing it by means of corsets. With the ironic sense that tuberculosis mainly affects the lungs.

The more immobile the ladies were, the more financially well-off their husbands were.

As I was saying, to preserve their discoloration, ladies protected their skin with sunscreens. Good health was vulgar, rouge fell completely out of fashion and some impudent women even drank vinegar to cause anemia.

And is that the tan as a synonym of status appears later, with Coco Chanel.

And from tuberculosis to now?

What is beautiful in one place and time may not be beautiful in another.

There are clear references to AIDS, drug addiction, anorexia, epilepsy, cancer, schizophrenia….

Drug addiction?

The complex plague of the 80’s spread like an oil stain and rarely was a person who, either by himself or by family or close friends, was not a victim of the phenomenon.


Fall 2007 campaign “Sisley fashion junkie” whose concept was fashion addiction, photographed by Terry Richardson.

In fact, the use of tracksuits outside the sports field was extended by drug addicts because it was easy to leave the extremities in the air for the puncture.

That “emaciated” and thin look is what later led Kate Moss to break with the stereotypes of the top models of the 90s.

Do you distinguish more references to sickness today?

As I read in an interview with the philosopher Byung-Chul Han,“people sell themselves as authentic because everyone wants to be different from everyone else”.

Model Winnie Harlow, who has become fashionable thanks to the standardization of her vitiligo, a skin depigmentation disease.

I discovered a model on Instagram, Jazelle (@uglyworldwide), who plays with the alien, androgynous, almost cancerous look, and the codes of success are the same as in other periods, especially, because it is something she favors with her image, it is not imposed by life.

We are in a time of many changes, especially in the digital realm, and in the requirement to give voice to gender identity. And Jazelle responds very well to both social trends.

The model sometimes also implants a false space between her two front teeth with a black insert, simulating a diastema.


It is the excessive space between the upper incisor teeth. Vanessa Paradis, Madonna, Lara Stone, Lauren Hutton, the actor Quim Gutiérrez… Well, the demand for orthodontics to force the separation of the teeth and create imperfect smiles has increased.

David Delfin put on braces to have diastema, Vanessa Paradise and Lara Stone have gap teeth and created a tendency to this imperfection.

David Delfin’s proposal for Spring-Summer 2009 was entitled Diastema. A collection in which pale models with oxygen tubes connected to his nose paraded to the rhythm of a sound that simulated the heartbeat heart.

David Delfín himself provoked this separation assuring that “the defective is much more interesting”.

Now, which trends are surprising?

Authenticity is taken to the extreme, we see it on Instagram, in phenomena such as #FreeThePimple, where people with pimples post their photos; or in #DyedPits, the trend of not shaving your armpit and dyeing it with colors.