Dating, Relationships, & Sex, Theory & Essay

How Much Is “Hotness” Worth To You?

When I was younger, my parents and I used to play a particularly morbid game called “How Much?” The game consisted of one of us coming up with a somewhat random and totally morally ambiguous task  — i.e.: “How much would it take for you to put a chicken bone in the collection plate at church?” — and try to figure out the least amount of money that it would take for one of us to do it.

Why was it morbid? Well, the game operates under the assumption that everybody has a price, regardless of how moral or righteous you claim to be. Maybe you wouldn’t run a block around your house butt-naked for free or throw a head of lettuce at a school crossing guard for a 20, but what if someone offered you $1,000? No? How about $50,000? Exactly.

Adding to the morbidity quotient was the fact that this game was usually played while on the way to one of my Pittsburgh Diocese grade school football games. It was quite difficult looking Father Joesph in the eye 15 minutes after admitting to my parents that I’d consider hitting him with a milk-filled water balloon for $3,700.

Anyway, I was reminded of this game while talking to a friend yesterday afternoon. He mentioned that he came across a pretty attractive woman while scrolling through the “People You May Know” sidebar on his Facebook page, and he remembered that his very first thought when seeing her was “Damn. She must have a really easy life.”

I ignored the man code violation (Seriously? You see a hot chick and your first thought is “Damn, she probably never has to sweat”???), and we started a conversation about whether unattractive people should have affirmative action. I assumed that he was bringing this topic up because he’d read my piece about, um, whether “ugly” people should have affirmative action, but I soon found out that he hadn’t — an awkward moment reminding me that I’m not quite as big of a deal as I like to think I am.

Anyway, my ego recovered in time to debate whether we both believed that the more attractive a person is, the better their lives tend to be (we do), if attractive women lead the “easiest” lives (they do), and if there’s an actual tangible price on beauty (there is) — a discussion leading to an inevitable question:

“Since there are obvious long-term social, emotional, financial, and even physiological benefits to being attractive, would you pay to be more attractive?”  

Basically, if you were somehow given the ability to pay money to be 25% cuter or four inches taller or four inches longer or to reshape the head you’ve always been self-conscious about or possess that hour glass frame you’ve always coveted, would you do it?

And, if so, how much would this service be worth to you?

Now, I realize that many of you will scoff at those questions, and that’s understandable. You’re happy with the hand God gave you and you’d do nothing to change it, you love yourself totally, flaws and all, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

If you feel that way, I’ll choose to believe you, and I’ll also choose to believe you’re not one of the hundreds of millions of people in this country who spend billions of dollars a year on artificial aesthetic enhancements — shoes with lifts, makeup, heels, weave, foobs, etc.

If you’re not one of those people, I’m curious: Knowing that a 15% bump in attractiveness might also give you a 15% bump in happiness and success, would you make that investment? If so, how much would you be willing to spend? I mean, if the difference between being a 5 and an 8.5 might be $800,000 in lifetime earnings, that service has to be worth at least $100,000, right?

—The Champ

***An extended version of “Herman Cain: Uncle Ruckus or the Baddest Motherf***er Alive?” has been published at The Good Men Project this week. Check it out of you get a chance***

Filed Under:
Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for and EBONY Magazine. And a founding editor for 1839. And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at Or don't. Whatever.


About #AmberCole

  • Hmm,

    It would depend on how unattractive I was and what my currently outlook based on career trajectory seemed to be. At the moment, I look good enough and possess enough in-demand skills that the extra earnings that I could get by being more attractive isn’t really worth it to me. Because in the scenario you described, that extra only comes over time.

    Now, if instead of getting the benefit as an annuity, I could take it as a one-time lump sum tomorrow, that would result in likely quite a different calculation.

  • Tressie

    Nah. I think I’ll stay passably ugly. I lose some of the lifetime earnings but I remain interesting, to myself anyway. I don’t know how this whole time-space continuum butterfly wings thing works but I assume that if I change one aspect of my person my whole person changes? Then I’ve put all this work into knowing thy self for nothing?!!! Maybe I lack a gambler’s spirit but I’m going to ride with the known quantity on this one.

  • Deeloveli

    I’m not spending anymore money than I already do.

  • The human condition dictates that everyone, even those who we think are the most beautiful, handsome or whatever always have something or the other they would love to change about themselves if given the chance. Some people are more content than others.

    I m saying, we get haircuts, take baths and dress well to make ourselves more attractive of course for hygiene as well. So yeah if I could I would change stuff about myself, but I got no idea what.

  • Damnit, people are getting uglier inside by the day. We still lose focus…

  • First things first. Glitter patrol character Yoles is in the hospital at the moment. She is fine though so don’t worry. I’ll update when I go see her.

    I would pay to be like Clark Kent. I mean someone that looks rather unassuming and plain. I think I would have been far more well adjusted. I don’t know how much I’d really pay for that though.

  • this is pretty deep…however I am not. I would have liposuction and a boob lift if I had the money. If there was a surgery that could make my feet shorter I would do that too. #dontjudgeme
    I would do all of these things to please myself, not because of any advatanges I would get because of these changes. Although I do agree that pretty people do get ahead in life.

  • Bunny.

    That $$$ for the head of lettuce is looking good.

  • lotusflower11

    I like the term foobs.

  • Well, the only thing I would pay to change would be braces for my teeth. Sadly, my parents didn’t let me go through that phase of childhood of being called “metal mouth” or whatever name those cruel little kids say to ppl in that situation. I’m cool w/ my height (5’10”) and wearing glasses. But if someone offered me the right price, I’ll have a weight loss procedure to drop to 185 lbs. Then it’s off to the gym to maintain so I won’t gain (again).

    However, personally, I feel that their is unique beauty in people who have some kind of imperfection or flaw. I guess that’s why I would have a hard time dating a girl who had her whole face lifted and looked like a plastic doll.

    Glad the site is back up. Hope all of the e-roaches & bugs are fixed.

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