Happy Birthday Hedy

11/09/2015 - 10:30am
Hedy Lamarr was born November 9, 1914. The Jewish starlet's beauty belied her gorgeous brains.

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I have a standing appointment at a threading salon every other Thursday at 3 o’clock sharp.  I have a habit of biting my nails until they are sore, so my mother schedules a manicure for me every two weeks. My hair is chemically straightened and requires being flat ironed once a week. The public eye has never seen my form in sweatpants nor do I ever wish them to. I have never felt disdain towards the countless refinements that make me feel pretty. I feel polished, sophisticated and powerful.

Being feminine never struck me as a disadvantage as a child. Not once, did anyone tell me that I could not do something because of my yellow smocked dress and black, curly pigtails. But as I exchanged my pleated corduroy skirts for chiffon blouses, that mentality changed. No longer was I allowed to pursue a career or life that I genuinely liked, but rather what was in alignment for me as a Jewish girl. It was instilled in me as a child by my Persian society that a lady must be “delicate, soft and feminine, with ample time to create a family” but never to be “too smart or overpowering” because I would lose my femininity. But why couldn’t I be both? I never understood why strength, intelligence and affluence were synonymous with masculine identity.

I am not the only Jewish girl caught in a society where a woman must choose between her exterior beauty and her accomplishments.  In fact, Hedy Lamarr experienced the same predicament. She was a woman known for her exotic beauty and defined by her relationships, but never acknowledged for creating innovations for the modern world. Lamarr was never taken seriously for her accomplishments in science, despite the fact that she helped America defeat Nazism in World War II with her invention. (She helped invent a communications technology that made it impossible for the enemies to intercept classified radio messages.) To the rest of the world, she was simply a pretty face. Lamarr was well aware of this social construct claiming, “Any girl can be glamorous. All [she] has to do is stand still and look stupid.” Lamarr understood the norm of her society although she opposed it.  Beauty and idiocy are not the same, similar to how intellect and masculinity are not equal.  However, the idea that a striking woman who cared about her appearance was actually capable of such ingenuity was unfathomable in the 1930s, and still today.

Although I am still in high school, and I do not yet know what I want to do as a career, a few things I am certain of.  Years from now when I stand in my synagogue grasping my daughters while singing “L’dor V’dor,” I will pass down what I have learned from Hedy Lamarr. To never underestimate a beautiful face and to remember, never abandon your pink lipstick and hair bows to get ahead in the world.  Rather, use them as your ammunition to destroy the stereotypes.

author's bio: 
Kayla Pournazarian is a senior at Milken Community Schools in Los Angeles.