On any given page of any given issue of any given magazine, there is at least one beautiful woman. Be she a television actress, a movie star, or a video-honey-turned-bride-of-rap-Gods (Amber Rose), any woman that Hollywood photographs is attractive.
Or is she? Although attractiveness fills seats (and shorts!), a cardboard performance can still ruin a film no matter how alluring the performer may be. Christina Aguilera is a knockout, but critics gave Burlesque mostly bad reviews citing her acting, even though she was literally playing a sexy girl with a good singing voice. Rihanna’s role in Battleship was suspiciously short, with various publications running a “Here Are All of Rihanna’s Lines From the Movie” feature, presumably because the songstress was incapable of any more depth than additional lines would have required.
Beauty might seem paramount at a glance, but actual talent is sometimes enough to power an actress’s career. The fifteen following women show this, being not ugly but rather plain, but with enough telegenic charisma to get their names up on the marquee.
15. Tilda Swinton
Tilda Swinton’s looks are so bizarre that she could be in a museum. Actually, she did performance art for the MoMA in New York. The piece, called “The Maybe,” showed the Bowie doppelganger sleeping inside a glass box. Although it might seem like a plea for attention or a jolt to a stalling career (Shia LaBeouf “[IS] NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE”), her career is doing just fine. She was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2012 for We Need To Talk About Kevin. However odd her appearance, the camera eats her up like candy and she enlivens whatever she appears in.
14. Melissa McCarthy
No one is trying to convince us Melissa McCarthy is a sex symbol. From her first major role as Sookie in Gilmore Girls, to her slapstick roles in Tammy and Identity Thief, no one has ever cast Melissa McCarthy as a sexpot. That being said, she’s still a successful actress. Between 2012 and 2013, she almost doubled her annual gross, and she now rests at a comfortable estimated net worth of $20 million. If sex sells, so too does laughter and Melissa McCarthy has us roaring in our seats.
13. Tori Spelling
If you want to be an actress and your dad is the executive producer of some of the most popular and culturally enduring television shows ever taped, it’s going to happen regardless of your appearance. Aaron Spelling executive produced 7th Heaven, Beverly Hills, 90210, and Melrose Place, among others. Tori was one of the main cast members on Beverly Hills, and although youth and wealth gave her an air of sophistication, she always lost out to Jennie Garth’s effortless next-door-over effervescence.
12. Barbra Streisand
As the characters of her movie Funny Girl sing: “If a girl isn’t pretty like a Miss Atlantic City, she’s a real Miss Nobody, U.S.A.” They try to convince the young Fanny Brice, played by Barbra, to give up on stardom for her lack of good looks. But Fanny perseveres and eventually makes it big, later singing her own song: “His Love Makes Me Beautiful.” Once again, animated by youth, Barbra Streisand is nothing to turn away from, but, like Lea Michele’s Rachel on Glee, her talent is the true attraction, proving Mrs. Strakosh wrong that “when people pay good money… they want something to look at.”
11. Gabourey Sidibe
Gabourey Sidibe is best known for her role in Precious. In the movie, her character is said to weigh 350 pounds. Viewers can suspend their disbelief for certain things (that exes can stay friends), but when you have people muttering that Meghan Trainor is not “fat” enough to sing “All About That Bass,” then you have to cast a convincing actor to play a 350-lbs character. Since then, Sidibe has had several television roles, starting with Showtime’s The Big C, moving on to American Horror Story: Coven, and then Empire.
Madonna is no movie star. Nor is she a TV star. She is above all else a musician, and one of the best-selling musicians of all-time, at that. But she has acted, albeit to scathing reviews, in such films as Desperately Seeking Susan and Evita. Many people have compared Lady Gaga to Madge, due to both their approach to their craft and to their personal narrative: they’re both peculiar-looking Italian New-York Catholics with dogged work ethics and spectacular ambitions. Unlike Katy Perry or Beyonce, Madonna has never been a sex symbol. Sure, she sold sex like a condom commercial, but never did she do come-hither dances on Brazilian beaches or sing: “It’s time to bring out the big balloons.” Tough and talented, Madonna was never hot.
9. Whoopi Goldberg
Very few people get the EGOT, the BINGO of the entertainment awards (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony.) Whoopi Goldberg is one of those people. She won an Emmy as outstanding talk-show host of The View in 2009, a Grammy for Best Comedy Recording in 1985, an Oscar for best-supporting actress in 1990, and a Tony in 2002 for best musical. She’s an accomplished actress of board and big screen. Even though she had an affair with Cheers cutie Ted Danson, Whoopi has never been that cute herself.
8. Rebel Wilson
Rebel Wilson’s name in Pitch Perfect should tell us all we need to know: she’s called Fat Amy, or what she later reveals is actually Fat Patricia. In the movie, her looks are played for laughs. When she originally introduces herself, the gorgeous and bewildered Anna Camp asks: “You call yourself Fat Amy?” To which she responds: “Yeah, so twig b*tches like you won’t do it behind my back.” But later in the film, after a falling out, she is shown “doing her own thing”, or cavorting in a pool surrounded by JPG-model looking men. Turns out the old adage is true: confidence is everything.
7. Mayim Bialik
As the main character on five seasons of Blossom and one of the main characters on the widely-adored Big Bang Theory, Mayim Bialik undeniably has the chops to keep people’s attention on the screen. But her acting talent is their only reason for watching. Although she’s cute for a nerd on the CBS juggernaut, she’s kind of nerdy for anything else. She was even on a 2009 episode of What Not to Wear, as the week’s frump-to-frill cautionary fairytale.
6. Lisa Kudrow
Lisa Kudrow, as far as we’re concerned, was Friends’ red herring. Without her, the group would have been too attractive, especially the girls. Kudrow is cute enough, but she cannot match Jennifer Aniston’s movie star sex appeal or Courtney Cox’s pre-Arquette and pre-surgery dark-haired sprezzatura. Aside from Aniston, who stars in big-budget movies, Kudrow has had the most successful career of the six Friends since 2004, she having had two critically acclaimed, premium-cable television shows.
5. Helena Bonham Carter
Eternal muse to elusive director Tim Burton, Helena Bonham Carter has been in many movies throughout her career. She was in Fight Club, The King’s Speech, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Alice in Wonderland, and even in the Harry Potter franchise. She has been nominated for two Oscars, one for best supporting actress and one for best leading actress. Despite these impressive accomplishments, Carter has never been very beautiful. Although interesting looking with an intriguing Gothic darkness, she is not the kind of woman everyone wants as a girlfriend.
4. Elisabeth Moss
Elisabeth Moss is best known for her role as the homely and ambitious Peggy Olson on Mad Men. Next to the cartoonishly attractive Christina Hendricks (seriously, Google “Christina Hendricks Jessica Rabbit”), she looks mousey and forgotten. But her career is happening, or at least it was until the end of Mad Men (we are not seers), one of the most talked-about shows ever based solely off of gut-reaction and not empiricism, with a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Having participated in that, chances are she will continue to get roles even without great beauty.
3. Ellen Page
On a recent list of unattractive male celebs, we included geek-hero Michael Cera. As Mindy Kaling describes him in This is the End, “f******g pale, 110-lbs, hairless, probably has a huge c**k… Ugh, it’s so hot.” It was funny because it referred to Michael Cera’s universally acknowledged lack of sex appeal. This is what made him such a perfect match for Ellen Page in Juno. As the song “Anyone Else But You” from the movie states: “Here is the church and here is the steeple/ we sure are cute for two ugly people…” Although ugly is maybe a bit of an overstatement, it’s not as though Juno and Paulie Bleeker are the sexiest couple in town…
2. Toni Collette
Toni Collette is not often discussed but is immensely talented. She was nominated for an Oscar in 2000 for her role in The Sixth Sense and she played a woman with dissociative identity disorder from 2009 to 2011 in The United States of Tara. Not only did she have to scrub her native Australian inflections from her accent, but also she had to portray five different characters. But with all that said, Toni Collette is still not all that pretty. Even though she has all the typical characteristics of female attractiveness – tall, tan skin, long hair – she never quite became viewed as a sex symbol in popular culture
1. Renee Zellweger
Renee Zellweger was once acknowledged as one of Hollywood’s preeminent beauties. Even playing the chubby basket case Bridget Jones, she could convincingly have heartthrobs Colin Firth and Hugh Grant joust over her. But recently Zellweger tried out a new face in which she is unrecognizable. Without her signature chubby cheeks and nibbled-lip, she now looks odd and uncomfortable. For some reason, her eyebrows also seemed to be largely missing, which is hilariously not cute. It’s a shame, but Renee Zellweger has chops and her career will undoubtedly persevere.