“A social success is a pretty girl who plays her cards as carefully as if she were plain.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote these words to his daughter, Scottie, in a letter of advice over 70 years ago – and while the letter may be old, the advice still rings true today.

After all, you only need to look around to see that beauty is still a worshiped quality in the world. Men and women deemed “attractive” by today’s beauty standards cover billboards, appear in commercials and dominate the news. In fact, social psychologist Dr. Lynn McCutcheon points out that many celebrities become famous and even receive more accolades than “real heroes” who save people’s lives because they are good looking. Even more concerning, two-thirds of surveyed young women would rather be “mean or stupid than have a less than perfect body.”

But is being beautiful as helpful as it seems? And should the modern women put her intelligence second and lead with her looks? Here’s why a savvy girl with brains won’t think she’s beautiful – or, at the very least, won’t make her beauty the top qualification on her resume.

The beauty of being beautiful …

Although beauty is subjective, a “looks do matter” study from Rice University in Texas has shown that women who meet certain beauty criteria experience more success in life. 

Marilyn Monroe is one woman in history who can credit her beauty for her fame and success. In almost every image of Marilyn Monroe, she’s flaunting her voluptuous body in tightly-fit apparel. She’s the ultimate Hollywood sex symbol. She also personified the “dumb blonde” character in most of her films, which helped normalize the notion that beauty and intelligence are mutually exclusive.

For a more modern example, think of Kim Kardashian. Sure, her reality TV show or makeup line didn’t magically appear without Kim pulling a few strings. However, as American news anchor Carol Castello points out, “It’s not like Kim goes around urging little girls to use their brains. She is sending them a decidedly different kind of message.” A message that says something like sex – and a very curvy, attractive physique – sells.

READ MORE: How the Kardashians Have Monetized Being a ‘Cool Girl’

There’s also evidence to suggest that beautiful people don’t have to work as hard to get what they want out of life, like a job or a date.

Students at Rice University used an eye-tracking technology to compare the job interview scores of applicants with facial scars, blemishes and deformations, to those without. The results concluded that “looks do matter” when it comes to getting hired, and that clear skin and symmetrical faces will more likely earn you positive scores during a job interview. Not only that, but research also shows that beautiful people have a “halo effect” in which they are assumed to be funnier, kinder and overall better people just because they were born with some pretty wrapping paper. 

Of course, you might be telling yourself “duh, beautiful people have easier lives, but female rocket scientists aren’t using anything but their brains to succeed.”

However, that isn’t exactly true. In fact, Professor Hakim wrote an entire book called “Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom” arguing that women should use any asset, even their attractiveness, to get ahead … just like men do. One female investment banker agrees, saying, “My friend thought that it was heinous that I was using [my sexuality] in my tool kit, but my view was, why make my job any harder than it already was?”

The truth is, being beautiful is a secret weapon – and women have been, and still are, using it to succeed in a variety of fields.

Why you should value your brains instead …

So what does this all mean for the savvy and beautiful woman? Should beautiful women take advantage of their own attractiveness or act oblivious to their looks? 

Dr. Nancy Etcoff, a psychologist at Harvard Medical school,  believes that “beauty ushers women to a place men want them, out of the power structure,” as she explains in her book “Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty.” She goes on to argue that beauty has no place in intellectual discourse because it doesn’t solve or explain anything. Instead, beauty is rather insignificant.

This became true for Marilyn Monroe  when she couldn’t depend on her sex appeal to get a raise with Twentieth Century Fox in 1955. She responded by starting her own production company, which successfully produced the films “Bus Stop” and “The Prince and The Showgirl.”

READ MORE: You’ll Be Shocked at Marilyn Monroe’s Secret Talent

The same could also be said of Kim Kardashian. Although she is worth a whopping $150 million, she didn’t earn all of that money by just looking pretty and sitting on (or flaunting) her behind. She’s created a Kardashian empire complete with books, fashion, skincare, and a “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” mobile gaming app that reportedly earned $62 million in its first year (2014-2015). 

Entity shares what Marilyn Monroe and Kim Kardashian teach us about beauty and brains

Chart of the Revenue from Kim Kardashian’s App, From I4U News

Beauty isn’t without its downfalls, either. Studies show that, when judging others of the same sex, people often assume that beautiful people’s accomplishments stem from their attractiveness, not talent or brains. Not only that, but beautiful women can actually be less likely to be hired to work masculine jobs or when the person in charge of hiring is a woman who feels threatened by the applicant’s beauty. So maybe physicist Fabiola Gianotti is right to say, “The brain is much more useful in life than beauty.”

The true meaning of Fitzgerald’s advice …

So would F. Scott Fitzgerald deem Marilyn’s move as a social success even though she had already earned a reputation as Hollywood’s blond bombshell?

Fitzgerald passed away in 1940, so we’ll never know for sure. But we can draw our own conclusions by acknowledging Marilyn’s individual growth when she broke ties with the studios and took control of her destiny.

READ MORE: How Every Businesswoman Can Succeed in a Male-Dominated Workplace

Self-reliance became the key to her success and modern figures like Kim Kardashian seem to portray a similar pattern. Other beautiful and capable women who follow Marilyn’s example will reject generalizations that beautiful women are also ignorant, spoiled, lazy or foolish. Instead, they will prove that a woman can be more than a sex object defined by her looks.

It’s true that Marilyn is an extreme case. However, based on other testimonies by successful women and recent studies, it stands to reason that no matter how beautiful you are … perhaps, the best career decision is to put your brains first. 

That must’ve been F. Scott Fitzgerald’s true wish for his daughter.

Edited by Casey Cromwell

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