John Fugelsang is an actor & comedian who’s appeared on everything from ‘CSI’ to MSNBC. He got George Harrison to give his final performance on VH1, and once got Mitt Romney’s advisor to call Mitt an ‘etch-a-sketch’ on CNN. He appears in the upcoming films ‘The Girl On The Train’, ‘Maggie Black’ and the award-winning ‘Coexist Comedy Tour.’
Last year, Kay instagrammed the classic JF quote about Jesus (pictured at the bottom). It exploded Fugelsang into Thandie’s consciousness, and she contacted him on Twitter. ThandieKay wanted the person who described Jesus as a: “…long haired, brown skinned, homeless, community organizing, anti-slut-shaming, Middle Eastern Jew”, to answer our Men’s Q and A. And we are so glad that he did. We hope you agree.
1. DO you remember the first time you found a girl or woman ‘beautiful’?
The first time I found a girl ‘pretty ‘ was on a playground in first grade. Her name was Noreen, and by age 6 could already look through a boy like a jaded 14 year old.
The first time I found a woman ‘sexy’ was a tie between Eartha Kitt & Yvonne Craig on ‘Batman.’
But the first time I found a woman ‘beautiful’ – as I’ve come to understand beauty – was my maternal grandmother.
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2. Can you describe why you found her ‘beautiful’?
I think children are often able to recognize the positive energy that comes from awareness & grace. My grandmother was one of those people you would describe as ‘lit from within.’ Very old, very southern, and a life of hardship & goodness had left her with a calm, powerful luminosity.
She had grown up during prohibition, the daughter of a Virginian bootlegger. At age 16 she saw her mother killed when the still in the kitchen exploded. She went on to endure poverty, abuse & the great depression but it never made her dark; she radiated a love, positivity and wisdom that marked her as a true beauty.
3. How important is physical beauty to you and why?
Outer beauty without inner beauty is really just ‘hotness.’ And hotness, for all its aesthetic merits, doesn’t have much of a shelf life.
We live in a culture that’s confused ‘hot’ with ‘beautiful.’ Physical beauty can be important, and it can be wonderful, but it’s only part of what makes someone attractive. If there’s no grace, intelligence, kindness or soul then physical beauty can get very old, very fast.
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4. What do you find beautiful about your mother?
I grew up with one of the greatest gifts a boy can have– a father who was desperately, hopelessly, madly in love with his wife.
My mom had entered the convent after high school; the nuns put her through nursing school and sent her to work in Brooklyn NY. My dad was a Franciscan brother, and despite his vows was instantly & secretly smitten with this southern girl in a nun’s habit. He carried a torch for ten years and finally proposed.
When a man breaks a promise to his God for a woman, you can bet he’s going to treat her right. His passion for her was physical, emotional, spiritual, romantic, rational and always present.
My mother’s capacity for love was always the foundation of her beauty; she was a nurse and very caring of people.
But I also knew she was pretty & understood the power that had over my father.
I saw the beauty in her love for me, but even as a child I understood why dad liked her so much.
5. What do you find beautiful about women now that you are an adult?
Intelligence, positivity, healthiness, sexual confidence, grace, kindness, elegance, awareness, and fearlessly calm eye contact. Women who’ve learned to enjoy living in their own skin tend to age in gorgeously spectacular ways.
6. Have women’s looks become more or less important in our society?
I honestly don’t think so. Women still have to deal with the same unrealistic expectations and socially-inflicted anxieties as previous generations, we’ve just got high speed internet to make us all neurotic faster.
The standards have shifted a bit, but beauty has always inspired, enriched, driven economies, influenced culture, punished wonderful people and rewarded terrible people.
Beauty matters. And when we talk about ‘beauty’ we’re not merely talking about ‘looks.’ Fortunately our gradually-evolving species has begun to recognize beauty as something more than just outward appearance.
7. If you had a daughter who did not possess what society perceives as beauty and felt insecure about this, what would you say to her?
First, I’d ask her if she cared. Many women don’t conform to society’s parameters of beauty and are quite happy anyway.
Then I’d make sure that she understood that whatever sets you apart when you’re young will likely be the thing that makes you beautiful when you’re older.
I’d make sure she knew that people are generally attracted to confidence – and that confidence is achieved by following her passions and talents; devoting herself to being excellent at the things that matter to her.
I’d raise her to know that her sense of self can’t depend on how others view her – especially men. Positivity, intelligence, confidence and kindness will generally attract the right people & scare the wrong ones away.
If she’s focusing on feelings of inadequacy then she’s probably going to attract a predator who’s looking for an insecure person. And we all know how that’s going to end.
Lastly I’d remind her that one day she will finally get the Hell out of high school and be able find the people who’d know she was beautiful.
8. If your daughter attracted unwarranted attention from men because she was perceived as beautiful, what would you say to her?
I’d remind her that testosterone rots the brain.
Then I’d make sure she understood the difference between beauty and allure. The double-edged sword of female attractiveness means a decades-long parade of potential suitors – some sincere, many absurd, more than a few toxic.
I’d remind her that many would be drawn to her solely for her external beauty; those people tend to also be the ones who quickly tire of it. But having one’s heart broken is a crucial building block of being an interesting person, so I’d tell her not to fear it.
And as far as the witless commentary routinely imposed on women across the sidewalks of the world? I’d raise my daughter to understand that there are very few men, but lots of boys, guys, homies, players & dudes. She’d understand that the idiots who shout at her on the street are the ones who will never know real love because they’ll never understand how to respect women.
I’d teach her to enjoy her beauty, but always remember: it belongs to her and nobody else.
9. Would you like to see a wider variety of women in the media (age, ethnicity physicality) or do you like it just the way it is?
I’d like the media to be more interesting in general, so this would be a great place to start. The fact that there are many more alternate kinds of beauty in real life than what we’re shown on TV is one of the reasons real life is better than TV.
Beauty has never been one-size fits all, but every generation has its own narrow standards. Fortunately every generation also has individuals who play a part in redefining beauty.
I’d love to see a wider array of women in the media. This goes for men, as well. The contemporary lookism culture is no longer limited to women – and it’s made many men wake up to the nonsense women deal have with all their lives.
10. Does the media represent women in a way that you see them? If not, how?
There are gorgeous and brilliant women of every size, complexion, background and age; our click-driven culture tends to present a narrow sliver of the female spectrum. I guess when the media’s got to show you over 3000 ads a day there’s little time to be creative.
And yet every day, people still manage to fall madly in love with women who don’t look like models – because real life gives us more options than the media. And most people realize that beauty isn’t limited to the images we’re fed.
This embrace of a broader range of beauty is a sign we’re growing up and getting better. And if the people lead, the media will follow.
*John is currently working on an epic documentary for PBS about The American Dream, filmed in over 40 cities in 17 states with over 200 interviews*
John supports Sean Penn’s J/P HRO in Haiti. He performed for the US troops on their humanitarian mission to Haiti, where Sean took him on a tour of the camp he’d help set up; housing 55,000 earthquake victims.