Beautiful enough for BeautifulPeople.com?

‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, apparently. And no website better defines this statement than the controversial beautifulpeople.com, the dating website that hit the headlines several years ago for its divisive screening process based on appearance. Current members are able to view the photographs of new applicants, and over a 48 hour period, those members will rate the photos of the budding beauties to deem whether or not they are ‘beautiful’ enough to be allowed access to the site. I spoke to BeautifulPeople’s managing director, Greg Hodge, about the dating site with a difference.

“It’s human nature, it’s Darwinism, it’s millions of years of evolution. It may not be politically correct to say that looks are important but it is certainly very honest – it’s a fact of human nature.” Greg Hodge certainly doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to defending the way his site is run. BeautifulPeople was founded in 2002, and it hit the US and the UK in 2005, before receiving global recognition in 2009, amidst a flurry of media attention, and scores of debates as to whether the somewhat shallow nature of the site was acceptable or not. Hodge said: “BeautifulPeople was founded on a basic principle of human nature; that being, we all at least romantically want to be with someone we find attractive.” Thus; BeautifulPeople was born. Hodge likens BeautifulPeople to Mensa and national football teams, insofar as a theme of exclusion runs through all three, and that his own website simply ‘removes the first hurdle in dating’, in the same way that a football team might audition prospective players, and Mensa sets out intelligence and aptitude tests for its applicants.

Hodge describes the voting system employed in the screening stage as ‘fair and democratic’. It is based on a traffic light system, ranging from ‘Beautiful’ to ‘Absolutely not’. “If applicants to BeautifulPeople get a majority of positive votes they are accepted, otherwise they are shown the door, it’s that simple.” Straightforward enough, sure. Initially, the site allowed all existing members to vote on applicants’ beauty, regardless of gender, until Hodge noticed some tactical voting, especially from the women on the site, whereby jealously prompted women who were already members to vote out attractive new applicants to avoid competition. “Obviously this did not work for us which is why you can only vote on members of the opposite sex.”

beautifulpeople.com rating system
The beautifulpeople.com rating process with its ‘traffic light’ system. Apologies for the crudely-sprayed out, werewolfy faces – Paint is as good as it gets with me

Globally, one in eight applicants will be accepted as a member to the site. However, this leaves the other seven out of eight deemed ‘not beautiful enough’ to be part of the beautiful elite, and surely that prompts some pretty strong reactions from some of the spurned beautiful wannabes? Well, yes, it does. Hodge said that the site has received thousands of angry emails from rejected members, and that every single message receives a reply, often encouraging the applicant to reapply with a different photo. “However sometimes the emails and calls we receive can quite aggressive we have had death threats in the past so some people out there take it a little too seriously.”

You may be wondering what some of the ‘beauties’ on the site look like. “There is no one ‘look’, however the trends in beauty we see on BeautifulPeople  do tend to mirror the trends in beauty you see represented by fashion magazines, the media, Hollywood, and Madison Avenue.” This, I feel, is perhaps a little generous – in conducting my own research into the site, I found many claims from both members and those rejected from the site that it is primarily comprised of skinny, blonde Scandinavian girls in bikinis – in fact, I saw several comments stating that pretty much any girl in a bikini can make her way through this beauty filter. The Scandinavian aspect perhaps is not so surprising, given that the website originated in Copenhagen. Hodge himself said: “If my business partner Nicolai Kofod was deciding what is beautiful for the community, all the women in there would be blonde with big breasts!”

Something that strikes me as interesting is Hodge’s fascination with the website’s function as a real life sociological experiment. He said: “BeautifulPeople reflects society’s ideal of beauty and this can be very different between countries and cultures. It’s quite fascinating seeing the trends in beauty mirrored through the website.” There certainly are obvious trends – Norwegians and Swedes top the acceptance rate charts, with the Brits and Germans trailing behind miserably at the bottom of the pile. Hodge describes this as ‘a fascinating sociological experiment’. And, like any good experiment, in the name of accuracy, stringent checks are put in place to ensure that everyone is who they say they are, including various verification exercises, such as taking a picture of oneself with a piece of paper stating one’s username and date, to show that one’s profile is authentic.

Well, in the name of journalistic curiosity, I had to try to break into this club myself. I applied a couple of days ago, answered all the screening questions (including those about eye colour, weight and, bizarrely, whether I can drive) honestly, uploaded a photo and waited. And waited. And waited. I dread to think how many times I logged in to find out how I was faring in this beautiful world. It’s insane, quite how much the rating system can affect your self esteem. Every time I logged in to find I’d slipped a little further down the slideometer, a little part of my soul died. “Why am I taking this so seriously?” I thought to myself, “I know this is just a silly internet thing, but why do I care so much what strangers from halfway round the world think of what I look like?” My rating swung violently from the ‘Yes’ half of the scale to the ‘No’ half as different timezones entered into the rating process, and presumably different sets of tastes kicked in. I seemed to do particularly badly when Eastern Europeans were voting, but much better when South America scrutinised my looks.

To my surprise, about an hour ago I was granted access. I do believe there could be a random element as to who gets in and who doesn’t, but obviously more than anything, this is good news for this piece, as I now get to explore all of the (free) parts of the site. I can see who rated me positively, who has ‘winked’ at me (quite what this means, I’m not sure) and who has looked at my profile more than five times (a bit terrifying, considering I only applied two days ago, but OK). People who ‘like’ me range from 18 year olds from France, to 60 year olds from Canada. It’s a bit intimidating, but I have to say… not everyone on this site is beautiful. Not by a long way. I think I probably only slipped in because I’m at the younger end of the site’s demographic, and I’m female. There’s not a great deal of ‘beauty’ involved, looking at some of the profiles on display to me. And, I must be honest… the site itself is pretty shoddy. Lots of dead links, lots of freezing, poor functionality… it all feels like a bit of a PR stunt to me. Lots of hype around a pretty poorly put-together operation.

Another fundamental flaw is the fact that it seems like a straight-only site, given you can only rate the profiles of opposite-sex members. Surely not right in 2012? We really should be past this point now. Perhaps a nice touch would be to ask for your sexuality before the screening process, to allow same-sex ratings? After all, why would a girl who likes girls want to be voted in by loads of guys, only to then have to awkwardly sidestep all the male interest? I also asked Hodge what he thought a personality-based version of BeautifulPeople would be like; no photographs, only descriptions and results from personality assessments. His response? “Boring. No seriously.” OK. Right.

Anyway. I’d love to know what people think of BeautifulPeople and the way it approaches dating, and I’d especially love to hear from any members or anyone who has attempted to apply to this site before. What do you think of a dating website so focused on looks and looks alone? Is this really a sociological experiment, or are there nastier, darker forces at hand here?

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25 Comments Add yours

  1. Sven says:

    Personally, it doesn’t sound all that different to any other dating site out there. It’s just that on other sites the “ugly” people are allowed in but generally don’t get much attention because the first thing most people on those sites focus on is the profile picture.

    There’s also something kind of seedy about this site, just because it makes me imagine the male members of the site spending hours on the voting pages clicking endlessly through pictures of women, but probably never messaging a single one of them. Not that this is anything new – Hot Or Not? has a similar idea, only anyone can join that.

    Also, driving ability somehow increases your physical attractiveness? This is something I wasn’t aware of until now! :p

    1. ‘Seedy’ is a good word for it! Everytime I get a new email saying ‘Someone is checking you out on BeautifulPeople’, it makes my skin crawl a bit.

      Yeah, I did wonder about the driving thing! I’ve never been swayed either way about someone over whether or not they can drive, haha!

  2. Simon Clark says:

    It doesn’t sound like a particularly well-thought operation, honestly. It’s discriminatory at the very least, and I would imagine that the amount of negative feedback it receives would be a sign that a lot of people don’t like these vain, shallow idealisms.

    I mean yes, humans can be shallow at times, but it’s not exactly a behaviour that should be encouraged.

    1. Absolutely! I really don’t think that anything serious can come from finding a date on this website. Especially considering the website is a pretty shoddy affair, with payment walls barring really quite important parts of the site.

  3. Ruud says:

    Quite funny you feel your skin crawl when “someone checks you out” while you share your inner thought (+photos) on a blog 🙂

  4. just registered there because I’m sorta out of date options… used a no-makeup, no-fuss picture (the one you’d have to look twice at to like what you saw) just to prove to myself I can get in thanks to the perfection of my facial features, bad photography and absense of glamour notwithstanding. kinda my form of protest against the shallowness of the idea. don’t think I’m getting in with that picture though:D also, they showed me a number of males from my area and, to tell you the truth, one in there was VERY attractive, everyone else varied from pretty average to nearly ugly… wtf with that?..

    1. Absolutely! I think most people probably join out of curiosity and to try to find out what on earth people find attractive… I mean, even when you’re looking through the members, most of them are OK but not beautiful by any stretch of the imagination! I’d be quite worried if people were using this as a dating website rather than for vanity or fleeting curiosity…

  5. Adriana says:

    The ranking they are doing (Brazilians are the most beautiful people, germans and britains are ugly) isn’t very represantive … the difference is, that every day there are 10 to 20 brasilians applying for “getting” in (more than from any other country, and the most of them don’t even receive positiv votation, while you see one or two germans in almost a week who “offer” themself for being voted. So of course there are much more brasilians in there. The reason is simply that for many brasilians it seems to be much more interesting to be a part of such an “exclusive circle” than for other countries…. the others just don’t apply…

  6. Well honestly this site legitly good for good looking above average people. People who are on there regular get hit on or have sexual inter course with cute good looking woman. Any way i was voted in all my life i have been called handsome or goodlooking from good looking attractive woman that society would call attractive. I am very vain sometimes or even conceited. When i look at the winks or gifts i get from women in my area there all above average. But honestly its a good site for finding attractive to develope relationship with. But honestly when scrolling down the members on here some guys and girls are very average i shake my head wondering how some of them got in. But the majority of the site male and female are good looking. So if your a male or female and good looking and looking for good looking or hot people to date or even start a relationship then this the best site in my opinon yes there are some average people on there but majority are attractive and you have a pay a little but almost dateing tell you to pay something to have full access. So check it out

    1. James says:

      As an experiment my girlfriend and I joined. I got voted out within the last hour. Went from green to orange. Curiousity made us join just to see how we faired in the public eye. I don’t think i’m ugly nor good looking. Funny thing is my girlfriend  got accepted no problem. she just submitted a simple pic of her in a summer dress and had about 25 guys checking her out in less than 48 hours. Makes me wonder sometimes if im attractive in her eyes.

      1. Please don’t worry about that! It is so much harder for guys to get in because the guys who vote girls in want there to be more girls on the site, so the standards won’t necessarily be as high. Not to say that your girlfriend is ugly at all, but more that you shouldn’t feel bad because girls on internet dating generally have very high standards in terms of looks, sometimes unachievably so! I, along with most nice girls, find that personality is infinitely more important than looks anyway, which is why BeautifulPeople was useless for someone like me!

  7. Mel Brown says:

    Lol! I actually did an experiment and I agree with the guy who said show some cleavage, be skinny as a rail and you will get in. There also seems to be some discrimination based on skin tones of African American females. The darker the female , the slimmer her chances of getting in and her positive votes will be less that the Caucasian female. The average looking white girl will get better votes than the dark attractive African American female with the same body type. I have seen white or tan colored Hispanics who look like big breasted drag queens, get better votes than the slim, pretty very dark skinned African American female. In fact the very dark African American females have no chance of getting in. Brown skin females who did make it in, were also showing some boobs. This is based on an experiment I myself conducted and profiles I’ve seen in the members area. This is obviously a shallow site and don’t feel bad if you didn’t make it in. The site has noting to do with beauty. A lot of the pictures are professional pics. A lot of these people will not look the same in real life!

    1. That’s very interesting! My picture was just of my face, and I deliberately chose not to show my body because when I signed up, I was very slim and didn’t want that to be the sole reason that anyone approached me on the site. I find it terribly sad that something like skin tone would cause such a great disparity in responses from fellow users of the site. Perhaps this reflects the type of person on the site rather than society as a whole? I do hope that this is the case…

    2. You’re very right, it’s a VERY shallow site! There is a very set notion of beauty on BeautifulPeople and it isn’t very diverse at all. I’m sure there are some truly beautiful people who are rejected all the time, and it’s a real shame that race or body shape should factor into it. I once read a fantastic piece about BeautifulPeople from a man who had analysed the success rates of various races when trying to join the site. I wish I knew where that article was because it was a brilliant read.

      1. Magnus Maximus says:

        I am sad to say that I have a profile on this particular dating service page. I have been receiving e-mails from them now and then, ever since I was dumb enough to create a profile there (this was a bet between a friend of mine and me).
        However, there is something inherently repulsive about beautifulpeople.com and its way of discriminating.
        I believe that most people that genuinely subscribe to the “ideology” of this page are the ones that will not succeed in finding happiness.
        (And I´m not a “beautiful” person, nor did I get kicked out, for that matter)

  8. Claudia says:

    If this site would have really been for beautiful people, they should have had professionals to vote, artists, critics etc. It’s not a site for beautiful people, that it fake.
    Because we made the mistake to write the truth about us, meaning our profession – Master and PHD in Law , I and my friend were not accepted .I ‘ve been modelling (and still do it) for many years and she is also beautifull, a romantic beauty, different from me. My face has been and is still considered ideal (artists and professional photographs told me so). I am not here to brag, I am here to tell the truth, they are looking for naive girls, maybe real stupid girls. I don’t know why and for that purpose, but not for beauty, this is sure .
    People who seem to be strong, mentally and finacially, as we are, are not accepted.

  9. fractalfive says:

    I just applied, will be voted on for another 40 hours or so. I think it’s a strange idea overall and particularly intimidating, obviously shallow and elitist as well. I mainly decided to see if I could be voted in just out of curiosity although i’m ready to accept many No and absolutely not votes. So far I’ve had a majority of Ok votes but will have to see tomorrow if that changes. Anyway it does seem somewhat flawed though as a concept because there’s always people who are beautiful to one person but not to another, which I’ve noticed tends to happen all the time in reality and in relationships. I think the only so-called darker forces would be something like does it turn you into a marketing product for the company even after you try to delete your profile?

  10. Samantha says:

    the site is shallow, but I feel it serves a very good point…people are shallow if they weren’t the site wouldn’t exist, half the dating sites out there wouldn’t exist, and just about anyone could be a star or supermodel that’s the way life is but… I was curious and as an experiment I put a picture of just my face and was immediately slid up to the end of the green bar, and let in at the end of 48 hours. some people can’t handle the attention and some people can’t handle being told that they aren’t acceptable another eyes, and those people should not join the site if they are afraid…for me it boosted self-esteem greatly but the fear of going through the process for the first 48 hours was torture, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
    the bottom line is this site is not for the faint hearted.

  11. trev says:

    there’s tons of ugly looking girls and guys on that site

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