I am on a hunt to find the most beautiful woman in the world. She’s lurking out there somewhere. I just know it.
My quest began when, earlier this year, People magazine declared Gwyneth Paltrow to be the most beautiful woman in the world, circa 2013. I have reservations about this choice. Paltrow is unquestionably beautiful. But her strenuous efforts to achieve perfection—thrashing around a gym morning noon and night with Tracy Anderson and eating nothing but plankton and kale juice—leave us all shrieking, “What would she look like if you took away her battery of Pilates gurus and aura cleansers?”
I’d argue that in order to be crowned the most beautiful woman in the world, you should be living your life full-throttle à la Liz Taylor—more on her in a moment—rather than tormenting yourself with some deranged, ascetic self-maintenance regimen. Non?
Watching the cadaverous models parade down the runways of New York’s recent Fashion Week, I found myself wondering whether one of these gals—a lissome Latvian, an elongated Estonian—might not be the most beautiful woman in the world, or MBWITW. A fashion runway seems, on the face of it, like an OK place to look. But the most beautiful woman in the world should also have a cheeky demeanor and a decent rack. Sadly, these two attributes were in short supply.
Our cultural fixation on the identity and whereabouts of the MBWITW has been going on for a while. Helen of Troy was the first groovy chick to win the title. She was very unusual because she used her beauty to launch ships. This was a first, and a last. None of Helen’s successors showed any maritime aspirations. Instead they cashed in their God-given attributes to acquire shoes and jewelry.
After Helen, there was a bit of a lull. In the Middle Ages people were too busy trying not get burnt at the stake or eaten by wolves to spend much time worrying about beauty. Things perked up in the late 18th century. Enter Pauline Bonaparte.
There is no celeb today who is as horny, outrageous, or spendaholic as Napoleon Bonaparte’s gorgeous sister Pauline. Pauline was a walking, talking, shagging, shopping, drop-dead gorgeous tour-de-force. She makes Kim Kardashian look like Anne of Green Gables. In August 1803 she hit the mother lode and married Prince Camillo Borghese. She moved into the Borghese Palace in Rome and swanned about in transparent frocks striking Grecian attitudes. A marble replica of Pauline adorns the Villa Borghese, giving woodies to visiting males to this very day.
After Pauline kicked the bucket there were a whole bunch of wars which caused another lull. This one lasted until lasted until the 1950s. Enter Elizabeth Taylor.
According to my mum and my blind aunt Phyllis, Liz was definitely the MBWITW. Everyone was in the thrall of that violet-eyed, bejeweled, hooch-guzzlin’ brunette. (Everyone except Debbie Reynolds, whose husband, Eddie Fisher, ditched her for the MBWITW.)
After Liz, things sped up radically and the MBWITW came thick and fast. Enter the C-words: Capucine, Claudia Cardinale, and Catherine Deneuve. These sultry soubrettes were mute most of the time but when they spoke it was with a mysterious foreign accent. Europe was definitely having a MBWITW moment. Scandinavia too. Remember Nina Van Pallandt? Frequently touted as the MBWITW, Nina was one half of the folk duo Nina and Frederick and a regular on British TV. The fact that the most beautiful woman in the world hailed from the out-of-it world of folk music is proof-positive that the MBWITW might be lurking absolutely anywhere.