Face Facts- What's so great about Kate?

Written for Nova Magazine 1999 (not published)

kate draw

Kate is gorgeous. Not many men would dispute that. And a surprising number of women agree. Even forgetting the money, the boyfriends, the glamorous lifestyle, Kate somehow hits the spot. She has an extraordinary beauty.
But such wide-ranging agreement about one face is surprising: men and women tend to prefer very different attributes in a female face, and yet both sexes agree about Kate. In the Far East, across America and Europe, in the depths of South America or Africa - Kate's faces can launch a thousand ad campaigns with unrivalled success. So what makes her so universally attractive?

The rules of attraction have confounded psychologists. In fact it has become a hot topic of debate for geneticists and behaviouralists in the past fifty years. Some theories suggest that we are attracted to facial features that represent high levels of male or female hormones, associated with sexual fertility. Other theories say that we are attracted to what is most familiar -partners like our Mums and Dads.

continue »

All these tendencies are part of our human nature, which has evolved slowly over the past two million years. The theories available are based on very careful guesswork - but there is no doubt when an exquisite face like Kate's captivates us.

Kate's face can be biologically classified as a “sex bomb”. The phenomenon of the “sex bomb” particularly intrigued geneticist Richard Dawkins. In his book, River out the Eden, he tells the story of his old teacher creating a fake female stickleback fish that caused the male sticklebacks to go into a frenzy of arousal. The fake “babe” was a vaguely fish-like silver shape possessing a huge swollen belly as would be displayed by a female laden with ripe eggs -a big turn- on for male sticklebacks. This is a classic example of a “supernormal stimuli", not dissimilar to a creation like Laura Croft. Both “super-babes” have exaggerated fertility signals and the potential to provoke higher levels of arousal in males than a typical example of the real thing.

continue »

Kate's face is that of a “Sex Bomb” as are most of the faces we see on fashion magazine covers, but they don't represent “supernormal stimuli” quite as much as Kate.

The face of a “typically” attractive female will have regular, symmetrical features. Average proportions of facial features can be measured in thirds, as the Ancient Greeks used to do. From the hairline to the eyebrows is one third, from the eyebrows to the tip of the nose is another, and from under the nose to the bottom of the chin is the last third. The eyes measure almost halfway down from the top of the head to the chin, and typically are set at distance of one eye-width apart.

Female models differ from this norm in that their eyes, nose and lips are set slightly further down the face. Usually a model's eyes are bigger and set further apart than average, the nose is usually shorter, the lips are fuller and especially higher, and the chin is usually smaller. Essentially, the faces of female models differ form the norm by having features that appear younger.

continue »

Kate's face is a more intense version of this already exceptional difference. Having young-looking facial features goes hand-in hand with a face perceived as ultra-feminine. A face like Kate's has all the signs of high female hormone levels. A small chin and delicate jaw-line will advertise that a woman has passed through puberty with minimum amounts of male hormones, which produce a heavier jaw-line.

The anthropologist, Doug Jones, used a computer to analyse the facial proportions of female models in comparison to “average” female faces. When the computer was asked to assess the facial proportions of fashion models, it guessed that they belonged to girls between the ages of six and a half and seven and a half. This does not mean that if we find a female models attractive we must be closet paedophiles: it is quite easy to tell the difference between a seven year old and an adult female with young looking features.

continue »

We all know that Kate is not really a little girl, despite the fact that she was hailed as “the super waif".But we can't get enough of her face she seems to trigger some kind of primeval response.

It has been suggested that prehistoric man developed a tendency to seek out these ultra-feminine facial characteristics to choose which mate would have the best reproductive longevity. The women he lusted after were those who appeared to be at the beginning, rather in the prime, of their reproductive life. It is also possible that his preference aided the evolutions of the human skull to become finer and more delicate, particularly in the area of the muzzle and brow-bone. Even 50,000 years ago people preferred refined features. Nobel prize-winner, Konrad Lorenz, once said that the reason Neanderthals were wiped out, was because Sapiens Sapiens came along and everybody thought they were much “cuter".

continue »

No one wanted a vulgar Neanderthal when compared to an adorable Sapiens Sapiens. Kate's faces is adorable in the extreme, like a “super sex bomb", because the proportions of her facial features are similar to those not of a seven year old, but of a toddler.

Another amazing thing about her face is her lips. Full lips indicate continuing high levels of female hormones. In most women, lips reach their fullest at the age of about fourteen. With the onset of puberty, the body fat is redistributed, and one of the new sites is the lips.
From this point on, their fullness will constantly decrease, but high levels of oestrogen slow the deflating process down. Kate's lips have a particularly distinctive shape: the top lip has a high upward curve towards the centre. These are beyond the full lips of the pubescent girl and like those of a baby. In the eighties, fashion photographers used to tell models to do dumb things like blow air through their lips softly to achieve that pouty look: with Kate it's there already.

continue »

Most species are biologically programmed to fall in love with babies. The way a baby looks provokes profound psychological reactions: it makes us want to protect them; it turns off our aggression. The specific type of facial features that elicit these responses are called “neonate": large eyes, small noses, small chin, and widely spaced eyes. Kate's face couldn't fit the bill more closely. Kate is constantly tugging on our heartstrings. And we love it.

Sigmund Freud had a lot to say about the way adults relate to babies. He coined the phrase “his Majesty the Baby” to describe the overvaluation parents bestow on their offspring. When grown-ups watch their young children, they re-live the intense self-importance they once felt themselves as small children. As Freud says, “the child shall fulfil those wishful dreams of the parent which they never carried out - the boy shall become a great man and a hero in his father's place and the girl shall marry a prince as a late compensation for her mother".

continue »

It is precisely those cute little noses, big eyes, and sweet rosebud mouths that make us see them as perfect little human beings. Babies can do no wrong, and we idolise them. And Kate.

But, on the top of her cuteness, Kate also possesses something extra - strong cheekbones. This is the facial feature which today represents maturity, and it's important because it signals to men that she is ready to produce off spring. Every epoch has had its preferred sign of facial maturity. In the renaissance it was the long nose, and in Edwardian times it was the double chin. In our own time we have fallen in love with the chiaroscuro produced by film and photographic lighting. Our love affair with cheekbones stems from Hollywood films and their signature lighting on such actresses as Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich (the latter had several molars removed to give her the beautiful curved shadows produced by pronounced cheekbones under strong direct lighting.)

continue »

The combination of neonatal facial features with very pronounced cheekbones is the secret weapon of Kate's beauty. The maturity her cheekbones suggest, work in direct contrast with the immaturity her other features depict. So on the one hand, we love Kate's faces for its maturity and on the other, we are captivated by its immaturity. We are well and truly hooked.

So there it is: Kate's face has the proportions of a child, the cheekbones of an adult, the jaw-line and lips of an oestrogen laden woman, and the mouth of a baby. Kate's face make us love her, desire her, respect her, and want to nourish and protect her. It's a one-in-a-million face. Subliminally, the big thing her face advertises is that she could have load of kids. The average fertility rate of women using no form of contraception is 8-9 children. This was of great importance during the time of the Great Ice Age, but is it still? Granted, Evolution is a slow process, but nothing lasts forever.

continue »

When Kate's face shows its own signs of maturity the chances are, her audience will cease to see her as an object (desired image first, and real person second) and she will become a subject (real person first and desired image second). Her experiences and history will be written all over her face, to the extent that there will be no room for us to project our own fantasies on her anymore. She will not be the perfect repository of our dreams and desires: her face will show traces of her own reality.

«return to index