When Trump took his oath of office, it was the American Dream made manifest — business tycoon and macho reality TV icon ascends to the highest position in the land; the tall blonde Eastern European-born model was his wife; the tall blonde American entrepreneur his daughter.
On television, his army of pro-Trump pundits and shills replicated that image: craggy, pudgy old white men like Jeffrey Lord argued that Trump’s travel ban was equal to President Abraham Lincoln’s actions during the Civil War, while young beautiful bombshells argued that the president’s conspiracy theories were valid and his legislation was constitutional. On CNN, there was Kayleigh McEnany, asserting that even if former President Obama didn’t wiretap Trump, “something suspicious was going on,” even though there wasn’t a scrap of proof. On MSNBC, there was AJ Delgado claiming that Trump’s new tax plan didn’t favor the rich — even though it does. On The Blaze, Tomi Lahren once again “took down” the Black Lives Matter movement.
This is all rote Trump administration business by now, but what’s still hard to swallow is the fact that the women who press his message all look like variations of each other. Yes, it’s crass to judge a woman by her looks, but it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the women of Trumpland all share a similar aesthetic: beauty queen.
You know the look: Hair that is long, layered and blown to salon perfection; makeup that covers the face in foundation, paints the eyes with subtle smokey shadows, and adds coat upon coat of mascara. There are the glossy puffy lips the color of pink Starburst; outfits that tend to be what your mother would call “smart” dresses — the type of A-line skirt and stiletto heel that is mass marketed for #WomenWhoWork. The dresses are important, as a fit-and-flare frock is infinitely more “traditional” and less threatening than the pantsuits of Hillary Clinton and Rachel Maddow. And while not all the women in Trumpland are blonde, blondes are disproportionately represented.
No doubt it’s a look that pleases our Dear President, former owner of the Miss Universe pageant, and a guy who has, in no short order rated women based on their physical features, publicly berated a Miss Universe contestant for gaining weight, and allegedly asked female White House staffers to “dress like women.” “Trump is so image-obsessed that he surrounds himself with a very specific type of person,” says Elizabeth Clark-Polner, an associate research scholar in law at Yale university, whose research centers on implicit bias — the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our actions. “Even his sons’ wives look similar to one another and to their sister Ivanka.”
All presidents like to convey an image. “Barack Obama’s appeal was that he came from humble beginnings, so he appealed to the middle- and working-class,” says Jessica A. Levinson, a law professor at Loyola Law School and political commentator. “George W. Bush didn’t come from nothing, but he had an amazing ability to look and sound accessible.” The image Trump projects is money, power, the beautiful model on his arm. In an administration that is all about appearances and very little about substance, this is a key part of his message.
The desire to be surrounded by beautiful women isn’t exclusive to Trump. Republicans in general tend to favor a certain kind of women, whether it be their candidates or their news anchors. This tendency that dates back to Nancy Reagan, whom Clark-Polner points to as the first Republican style icon. “Empirical analysis of the morphological features of the female candidates the GOP recruits suggests that they share traditionally ‘feminine’ features,” Clark-Polner says. That means, “smaller jaw-to-cheekbone ratios, thinner nose bridge, smaller forehead, and so on.”
Whereas Reagan was applauded for her "simple, elegant style,"and subdued, but glamorous, hair and makeup, the women in Trump's circle embody a more hyper-fem style akin to a pageant girl. The evolution from buttoned up WASP á la Reagan to cleavage-bearing bombshell has been part of a two-decade process beginning with Fox News in the mid-'90s. The conservative network built a reputation for emphasizing its female anchors' bodies over brains (the infamous leg cam; a preference for blondes), a reality even more apparent in the aftermath of Roger Ailes' comeuppance.
For most of that time, the schism between conservative-looking conservative women and hot-looking ones remained a clear divide between politics (Laura Bush) and television (Megyn Kelly). Then came Trump to bridge the divide.
So why exactly do all of Trump’s surrogates look like members of the same family? (Or, at least, clients of the same hairstylist and makeup artist?) The answer is a complicated dive into the science of attractiveness, the bias surrounding hair color, and exactly what men in power look for in a woman.
The Golden Ratio
No matter what the poets tell you, there is a clinically accepted version of what constitutes a “beautiful” face — and that is what plastic surgeons, dermatologists, psychologists, and other experts who study faces call the Golden Ratio.
“When experts initially started looking at what makes someone attractive, they started analyzing hundreds of photos of ‘attractive’ people, and they came up with guidelines on how to measure it,” says Dr Clyde Ishii, MD, president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. The practice, which is called facial mapping, analyzes symmetry in faces.
The two easiest ways to recognize if someone is “attractive” according to these guidelines, is by 1) checking whether or not the horizontal thirds of a person’s face are balanced, and 2) whether the golden ratio exists in their central vertical thirds. The three horizontal sections are the hairline to eyebrows, eyebrows to nose, and then nose to chin. All of these areas should be even.
To assess the central thirds, mappers will draw two lines straight down the face that hit the innermost corners of the eyes. “Ideally, the lines would also graze the sides of the nose,” Dr. Ishii says. You can do this to yourself at home (although we don’t recommend it) — just hold a ruler vertically against your face, so that an edge matches up with the inner corner of your eye. “The ratio of the inner eye as compared to the distance between the side of the nose and the outermost portion of the cheek would be the ‘golden ratio’ — 1.618. The distance between the innermost corners of the eyes would be 1.”
We sent Dr. Ishii images of a dozen Trump’s female family members, supporters, and surrogates: AJ Delgado, Allie Stuckey, Ann Coulter, Ivanka Trump, Kayleigh McEnany, Kellyanne Conway, Lara Yunaska Trump, Melania Trump, Sandra Smith, Scottie Nell Hughes, Tomi Lahren, and Vanessa Trump. And we asked him: Do these women all have similar facial ratios?
The answer was a resounding yes. “They all fall into the idea of balanced thirds with the horizontal sections of their face,” he said. “And when you look at the central canthus of their faces, every single one falls into that desired ratio of 1 to 1.618. Their facial proportions are good.”
The Golden Ratio isn’t exclusive to white women by the way. Omarosa Manigault, a black woman who Trump met on The Apprentice and is now one of his political aides, also has a face with these proportions. She may be the only person of color he’s invited into his inner sanctum, but rest assured: She ticks off nearly all the boxes for conventional beauty he seems to require.
The Triangle Of Youth
The so-called Triangle of Youth is when a woman’s forehead is wider than her chin. It’s also marked with high cheekbones. When a woman ages, her cheeks tends to droop, making the bottom of her face appear heavier and negating the triangle. That’s why many women will get fillers around their cheekbones — it mimics that youthful, angular shape. This triangular look is considered the most “feminine” of facial structures. And all of Trump’s ladies have it.
“They have an ovoid shape in the cheek, which is an egg shape that extends from the corners of the mouth to the outside of the eye,” Dr. Ishii says. “They all have the ‘triangle of youth’ — which means a wider forehead than chin. Even Kellyanne Conway and Ann Coulter, who are in their 50s, have this triangular shape.”
Dr. Ishii says that these women’s clear skin, eyebrow shapes, and full lips are also indicators of “youth,” which, of course, is an indicator of conventional “beauty” in our society. “All 12 of them possess very feminine features that are youthful and attractive,” he says. And while we hate to make this comparison, Hillary Clinton, now the most recognizable female face of the Democratic party, does not adhere to Trump’s preferred formula. Her lips are thinner; her face is more square, rather than triangular, and her features fall outside the golden ratio. That's not to say she's unattractive — but by the numbers, she's outside of this ratio.
Blondes Really Do Get A Leg Up
The race component is obvious — blondes are the whitest of whites. While women and men of other races can dye their hair golden, when we think of a “typical” blonde, white people of European descent tend to be the ones who come to mind first. The age piece is also important: because children's hair often gets darker as they age, the light hair color is implicitly youthful. And because youthful implies less-knowing, blondes are also “judged to be less independent-minded and less willing take a stand than other women and than men,” writes Jennifer Berdahl, one of the women who conducted the study, in her blog.
Just take an unscientific scan of Fox News, the RNC, and Trumpland, and it’s pretty clear that this is a look new Republicans prefer. “Conservatives may recruit and promote people who fit a particular aesthetic — blond, gender normative, and on and on” says Clark-Polner.
In a vacuum, an army of television bombshells wouldn’t be a threat to the strides women have made in deconstructing traditional beauty norms. But at a time when bodies are heavily politicized, it’s concerning to see one of the most unattainable standards of beauty being praised above all others. Trump has been outspoken when people fall outside of his ideal — whether it be Alicia Machado or any woman who has ever sipped a Diet Coke. He claims to have “tremendous respect for women” — but given the way he talks about women in addition to the image of the women he surrounds himself with, it’s pretty clear that his idea of what qualifies as a “woman” to respect is very narrow.
A pageant girl with a perfect, youthful face (even well into her 50s) who dresses like an upper class professional is an incredibly tight ideal to fit into. The White House isn’t the Miss Universe pageant, which is itself working to modernize. Consider this one more way the president is behind the times, and attempting to pull us back with him.