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| May 2, 2011 | People
Eva Rito, MD
Editor in chief Suzy Buckley gathered a diverse panel of influential locals to discuss personal aesthetics on the American Riviera today. Topics ranged from the evolution of plastic surgery to the social awkwardness of teetotalism.
I’ve asked you all here today to discuss what it means—and what it takes—to look good in Miami these days. Why do we care about beauty around here?
ER: I think one of the reasons is because beauty is what’s helped us—as a species—to pass genes. My book was written from the evolutionary-psychology angle, which says beauty is important because the people who are young, fit and fertile pass on their genes better. The women who did that successfully since time began were the pretty women, and so now we’re left the pretty women, or the women who are inspired to be pretty. And we’re also left with all the men who were good at finding the pretty women.
BB: So that’s what it is?
ER: I always say it’s not the men’s fault that they like pretty women: It’s in their genes.
BB: So what happens to all the people who are…
RF: Not pretty?
BJ: Obesity can affect estrogen and testosterone levels, making it harder to get pregnant.
DS: When are you just fat and when are you obese?
BJ: It’s based on your body mass index. Anything over 30 is considered obese.
What makes us fat these days? What’s the root of the problem?
ER: It’s everything from preservatives in our food, to stress levels, to not sleeping enough and lack of exercise. And the fact that so many people commute in cars.
DS: And most people I know have a cocktail every single day. That I know.
RF: Every night, we have an event—at least in my line of work. I had to learn to create balance, and stop going out every day because I cannot drink every night. I had to edit my social life.
DS: But it’s interesting how someone who isn’t drinking can so easily become the focus of the party. We have a friend who hasn’t had a drink in five weeks, and I noticed she’s become calmer. But I’m thinking, OK, she’s not drinking, and now she’s not really being as funny. Is she not funny because she’s not drinking? I was just so hypersensitive to the fact that she didn’t have a cocktail in her hand. I was so uncomfortable that I just decided to talk to somebody else.
RF: Yes, everyone offers you a drink. And if you say no, it sounds very unusual.
David, you’re in the business world here in Miami. Do you think it’s the same?
DA: Yes, definitely. But I really enjoy eating and drinking, so I just try to keep everything balanced. It’s different from when I lived in New York, though. I used to work in investment banking, and that city is truly a hardcore drinking and party culture. You’d work in the office until midnight, then go to the clubs.
RF: It’s expected.
DA: Yes, and then go to sleep at four or five in the morning, but be up and at work by nine. There can be a social pressure to drinking, like you said.
RF: Honestly, when you don’t drink, most people think you are a recovering alcoholic.
DS: When I don’t drink, it’s just because I feel like I look worse the next day. I feel worse the next day, and it’s a source of weight gain. But other than that, I don’t really see the problem.
But maybe our drinking culture is somewhat specific to Miami. I don’t think people drink as much—hard alcohol, at least—in other cities and countries.
RF: It’s true that when you travel outside this country, you don’t see as many overweight people. Haven’t you ever looked at Brazilians and thought, OK, how do these people look so good? You find out they eat a lot of açaí, one of the most powerful antioxidants in the world. These people grow up eating this, and here we grow up eating McDonald’s.
BB: I think the country’s weight problem really lies in our food.
ER: Everything you eat here in the States has preservatives. So when you put it into your body, it’s preserved right on your body!
DS: I didn’t gain any weight the past year when I went to Argentina, Belize or Italy. And I ate everything!
ER: Everything! You can have dessert, wine, cheese and chocolate.
RF: But you walk. When you’re on vacation, you’re so much more active than when you’re working and going about your daily life. I also always lose weight in Europe, where the foods are so natural. I come back to Miami thinner.
DS: Well, when I was in Belize, I wasn’t walking anywhere except from the lounge chairs to the couch.
ER: I have a theory that flying is really a lot more deleterious than we think. It wreaks havoc on our bodies. Look at President Obama—he went gray in one year. It’s not just that the whole world is in his hands, which of course is stressful, but the fact that he flies every other day.
DA: Yes. And flying is so dehydrating.
DS: I look terrible for a full day after I fly anywhere.
ER: Do you ever see what happens to a bag of potato chips on an airplane? Everything expands. The same thing is happening to you and your cells.
While we’re on the subject of traveling, do you think there are particular pressures to look good here in Miami, versus standards in other cities?
ER: I always say that the farther north I go, the better I look. By the time I get to Maine, I’m so hot you can barely stand it! I come back here and, well, not so much.
RF: We don’t have a winter here—we’re always exposing our skin. You go to other cities and everyone is covered; they don’t care as much about how they look. But here, you have to. It’s part of the deal.
DS: We’re always naked!
ER: [People] come here because they appreciate beauty and want to be beautiful.
DS: And I think that the people who come here, even if they aren’t beautiful when they get here, they get better-looking somehow. Anyway, in this—the age of Groupon!—every woman can afford to be beautiful and get her hair and nails done. There’s no excuse anymore.
BB: That’s one of the good things about Miami: You learn a lot from the Latinas! When I arrived from Germany, I didn’t wear nail polish and my eyebrows were crazy. And these women will tell you the minute you arrive: “No, mama.” They really educated me on how to take care of my body. It’s interesting, now that I’ve lived here for so long, I can see that it’s a total culture thing.
RF: But some women here tend to overdo it. They over-groom themselves. I grew up watching my mother who is Venezuelan, always doing her hair, her makeup, her clothes. Everything was like a ceremony.
DA: And when it’s a hassle, then it is no longer a celebration.
BB: But putting yourself together beautifully is sort of a celebration. I just love Latin women, I have to say. I enjoy watching them get ready.
DA: I’m sorry, but we guys find “natural” much more attractive than women make it out to be.
BB: I’ve heard that.
RF: But then, do girls get ready and look good for men or for other women?
BJ: I would say more for girls.
BB: I think for themselves. I think I do my hair for myself: It’s really something that I want to control, and I can’t. It’s about control!
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever done in the name of beauty?
BB: When I was 13, I dyed my hair blonde. For the next five years, I had a ’fro! It was really not cool.
RF: The stupidest thing I’ve done is not read instructions. At Fashion Week in New York, I got a sample of some kind of cream, which I assumed was moisturizer. I rubbed it all over my face, and it turned out to be bleach cream. I had to go to a dermatologist to fix it.
ER: Girls would never do that. We always read the product instructions.
DS: The one thing I hate in this world is feet. I hate pictures of feet, I hate looking at feet and I can’t touch feet. I use SkinMedica’s TNS Recovery Complex, which smells like feet, but it really works. It smells like really bad feet—like walked-all-day feet.
We definitely do a lot in the name of beauty! I’m not going to ask everyone who has had what done, but it’s true that plastic surgery is a big thing here in Miami—maybe everywhere.
ER: It’s more prevalent on the coasts—in New York, LA and Miami especially.
BB: Getting your breasts done is everywhere, but I’ve really only seen anyone get buttocks jobs here in Miami.
RF: I’m from Venezuela, where everybody has something done. It’s a beauty-pageant culture, and we actually tell people to do it. We encourage it, almost. “Your nose is too big, you should fix it. You’re fat, you need to lose weight.”
DA: When I lived in LA, there seemed to be a trend of men getting calf implants, which really freaked me out. To me, that sounded horrible.
Here in Miami, just about anything goes!
ER: It’s definitely a melting pot.
BB: I think Miami is such a good place. It’s like an open fire here—the city really embraces you. There are no rules, which sometimes is really hard, but it’s also great to have the opportunity to learn from other people and cultures, like we talked about. All those traditions, all the ways of communicating and even all the secrets.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY GREG CLARK