To Have It All: The Case for the Ugly Duckling

Susan Ahn holds a bachelor’s degree from New York University. She currently resides in Los Angeles, and on her free time she enjoys exploring the city and discovering new eats with her friends, hiking, reading and watching movies. She is ever on the quest to live her life fearlessly and is constantly on the lookout for ways to better herself.

In terms of fashion, I didn’t completely come into my own, so to speak, until my later years of college. I grew up as a tomboy with two older brothers, and as the only girl in the family I desperately wanted to fit in with the only peers in my microcosm. So I eschewed the ornate hairpins and velvet dresses my mother pressed on me in favor of cargo pants and plain T-shirts. The only thing about clothes that I, as a child, had an opinion on was utility—in effect, whether my CD player could fit into my pockets. I scoffed at the prissy girls whose favorite pastimes included doing their nails and gossiping.

But as I grew older I, too, was subtly enticed by the trends my peers (this time in school) followed, by their denim skirts and lace blouses and fashion-forward shoes. As an insecure teen I desired to be admired, as most teens do.

Still, it wasn’t until college that this desire to look pretty became strong enough for me to accept and act upon. I had elected to attend college in what could arguably be referred to as the fashion capital of the world, or New York City, for a more pedestrian moniker. By sophomore year I had noticed an unmistakable trickle-down effect: Living in a city filled with so many beautiful people had profoundly inspired and invigorated the closeted fashion enthusiast in me.

My revelation was coupled with other motives—the eagerness to be taken more seriously in the professional world, the need to look polished and respectable. Of course, I can’t discount the desire to be attractive to the opposite gender. But my main motivation was that I wanted to look like I had it all—which, to me, meant brains, beauty, and the drive to take care of myself while not compromising my ambitions in the process. I wanted to be among the multifaceted people who worked hard but played just as hard, who could handle the pressure of a demanding job with the finesse and poise of a fashionista.

In time I came to own it. I was never without perfectly manicured nails, having mastered my own version of gradient glitter nails, and I rocked four-inch heels to class and around the city. By the end of my college years I owned two lonely pairs of skinny jeans, a wide assortment of skirts and dresses, and likely more eye shadow than I could use in my lifetime. I became fluent in the language of makeup and clothes, inducted myself into the world of smokey eyes, teardrop earrings, high-low skirts and strappy sandals.

But the point of this post is not to brag about my personal transformation. It is also not to champion superficiality merely for the sake of superficiality—never will I be known to say that looks are anyone’s single most important quality. I am of the firm belief that what is on the outside is of no consequence if the inside is rotten. No, no, the point, my friends, is that anyone who is willing is capable of such a metamorphosis. If you, the reader, decide that looking good is equally as important to you as being successful or being a good person, this post is meant for you. You, too, can have it all.

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