2014 – 5th Grade National 2nd Place Winner

Justina Wojahn, Minnesota.

The Ugly Beautiful Disease

Shelley turned the radio up. She liked this song. As it continued to play, she had a vague jolt of recognition. It was the song “Crazy” by Simple Plan. She had never really listened to the lyrics, but she decided to do so now. She was bored and had nothing else to do.

“Tell me what’s wrong with society, when everywhere I look I see, young girls dyin’ to be on TV, and won’t stop ‘til they’ve reached their dreams, diet pills, surgery, photoshopped pictures in magazines, tellin’ them how they should be, it doesn’t make sense to me, has everybody gone crazy…”

The words hit her hard. At first she couldn’t figure out why, but then the realization came to her. IT was because the lyrics were true. So true they made her heart beat faster.

The part about magazines telling girls how they should be…that was the truest part of all. Shelley looked in her beauty pamphlets for advice on how to do her makeup perfectly. She always tried out the newest fashions, no matter how, for lack of a better word, revealing they might be. And she knew a few girls who were obsessed with their bodies. It saddened her to see them, because she could count all their ribs, yet they still thought they were fat.

She vowed to look for signs of people vying for and obsessing over beauty at school the next day. Maybe this obsession was growing into an ugly disease of “beauty,” because this certainly wasn’t beautiful to Shelley.
- - -
A week later, Shelley went out with her friends to the mall. On the way to a fabulous makeup shop, they passed a TV store. On the screens, a commercial for Covergirl was playing. Immediately Shelley’s self-esteem about her outward appearance dropped several points. She felt embarrassed and fat and ugly all at the same time. She struggled with these irrational thoughts and emotions and told herself it was fake. At the same exact moment, she also wondered by people went to the trouble of making it fake so the model could be more beautiful. And why did beauty matter so much to Shelley?

Then, finally, after so much wondering and contemplating, the truth hit her right in the face. Though, she reflected, not as hard as the fact that she was angry at herself for not being as gorgeous as the model that wasn’t real.

The model was fake. False. In short, not true. And she was false, not true, for beauty. Understanding dawned over Shelley. Beauty meant more to society than the truth. Looking pretty had a greater, stronger impact on society way more than true-to-the-core information, no matter how important it might be.

A wave of sadness swept over her. This is what society had come to. She remembered the most recent 9/11. It was a day for mourning and remembering. That was truth. Terrorists had come, and many had lost their lives. The United States had an official day for recalling it all. That all was true.

But in the years that followed…Truth was pushed away. Just to make way for beautiful celebrities who planted rich, gorgeous rumors to make their way to the magazine headlines. Now, even the magazines weren’t true.

Shelley recalled other lyrics from “Crazy.” “Makin’ kids feel like it’s World War Three…”

No, she thought miserably. The war between truth and beauty has already come and gone. The ugly beautiful disease, she realized. That’s what she would call it.

Shelley sighed. She turned and walked further into the mall, passing more signs of this crazy obsession.


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