Style and Substance: Hotness vs. Talent

Years ago I interviewed an actor friend of mine and asked him what factors increase a person’s chances of success in the world of professional acting. He looked me right in the eye and bluntly stated “be hot and talented.” The idealist in me didn’t want to accept that hotness plays as much of a role in an entertainer’s(particularly a female’s) success, but my inner realist knew he hit the nail on the head. Of course neither hotness nor talent or combination thereof will guarantee success, but it will increase your chances.
So armed with this knowledge of the winning formula to increase my success as an musician/performer/artist I find myself constantly balancing style with substance. The following is a list of questions I have had to answer when taking an honest inventory of my artistic integrity vs. marketability of the content I produce.

So what is the right ratio of style to substance? 

Appreciation of aesthetic is part and parcel of being a visual artist. Style is integral to what I do and does bleed into my other artistic mediums including the music I make. So how important is the packaging? For me personally, the packing must be a reflection of what is on the inside. It must make a strong impression and draw the audience into the concept being conveyed through the medium.

We all judge a book by it’s cover to a certain extent and that is something I keep in mind when designing that cover. I want the outside to be an accurate reflection of the lies underneath.
Artistic intent conveyed through style is not just art for the sake of art. Every visual element is deliberate and tells a part of the story.

So what about using sex to promote yourself as an artist?

I’m innately drawn to anything sexy as I think most humans are so that’s wht sex sells. When it comes to my artforms though, the questions I ask myself are, “Am I selling sex? Is sex in anyway integral to the concept I’m relating through my art?” If the answer is yes, then of course I’m going to use sex as a promotional tool because that is what the song or painting or performance is about. Using sex as a promotional tool in that context is truthful and doesn’t compromise artistic integrity.
However, let’s say I’ve written a song about my dad’s death. Am I going to sex myself up to promote the song? Of course not, because it’s not artistically relevant and it would be painfully obvious and sad that I was using sexy images of myself just to gain popularity.

The song We’re All Whores uses a sexual metaphor lyrically and visually to convey the concept of human commodification as a result of capitalism.

Does hotness matter?

Sadly, yes. Especially if you’re a woman, but make no mistake if you rely solely on hotness to gain popularity and the try to legitimize yourself as a serious artist afterwards, it’s harder to be taken seriously. You could be super talented, skillful, accomplished and intelligent but if you ride the hotness train to popularity town you’ll find it harder to change people’s perception of who you truly are because you bombarded them for so long with only one dimension of yourself. Some people just don’t care to see beyond the hotness. It takes longer to gain a fan base by not exploiting just your sexuality, but in the long run you’ll be appreciated for your art and not just your image. Marilyn Monroe was a legitimately talented actor, but do we talk about how talented she was, no we talk about how beautiful she was.

So how do we strike a the balance between being a sellout and being naively idealistic?

In the end our art is our legacy it out lives us. So being mindful of that fact, we should aim to promote ourselves and our craft with truthfulness and integrity, but sometimes that does mean being overtly sexual. Ultimately, what brings about lasting success is being true to one’s self. After all, in art everything is subjective including hotness and talent.

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