The Astrology of Beauty and Shame: A Conversation with Veruschka Normandeau

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Veruschka Normandeau was a 1980s cover girl and Elite model whose figure graced the fashion spreads of magazines like Vogue, Elle, and Harper's Bazaar.  These days, Veruschka can be found working as an EFT practitioner, Yoga instructor, and photographer, and honoring the divine wherever she finds it.  Below is our discussion of whether she was ever able to “feel" the beauty that she represented in her career as a model.  I also talk a fair amount about the astrology of beauty, and together we consider whether beauty is something that should be relevant to a woman's self-esteem.  If you vibe with what you read here, you might enjoy my joint workshop with Veruschka, an online exploration and healing of our collective “beauty wound" using astrology and EFT.

The following interview was recorded in January of 2018 and edited for clarity, otherwise it is an accurate representation of our discussion.  Except where noted, all photographs are of Veruschka Normandeau.   

Introduction; the name "Veruschka"

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Thea: Veruschka, thank you so much for talking with me today.  I want to start out by saying how we met.  I had written something online that you really responded to, and you contacted me for a reading.  We met on social media so I didn’t have a clear idea of what you looked like, and when I opened your chart, so much information about beauty came through.  So I could tell beauty was a big theme in your life through your astrology chart, but I wasn’t hearing that in what you presented to me on the phone or over email.  But now that we’ve become friends I know that beauty has actually been a big part of your life, and that for many years you were a paid fashion model ... and I imagine still do a fair amount of modelling?

Veruschka: I did but not in the present.

Thea: Do you still like to pose for artistic images even if it’s not fashion?

Veruschka: Yes I do.  Even more so now as a self-exploration and a process for myself.

Thea:  Well now I want to introduce the question of the astrology of beauty, because I think in our culture currently we have this sense that maybe it’s all subjective – certainly in feminist consciousness-raising groups that I’ve been a part of, we’ve explored how confidence affects beauty, the idea that how you feel about yourself radiates out to others and that becomes the beauty. But today I’m interested in when beauty functions like an objective quality in someone’s life – how does that show up in the chart, how does that impact people?  I’m trying to pin down whether beauty is something that can be quantified in the chart. 

 Natal chart for Veruschka Normandeau

Natal chart for Veruschka Normandeau

In your chart how this showed up is the Taurus Midheaven, and Taurus of course is a sign that’s ruled by Venus and we associate Venus with beauty.  Venus is the planet that represents beauty in astrology, and not only do you have this Taurus Midheaven, you have Saturn in Taurus in the Tenth House.  Now whether that’s just my intuition, or other factors in the chart kind of reinforcing what I was being shown, I could see that so much of your work was going to have to do with the idea of beauty.  Even if you try to get away from beauty because Saturn is involved, you can’t get that far from it.  You have a Great Work to do when it comes to physical beauty, but that won’t be true of every Tenth-House Taurus person. That’s just how it showed up in your chart.  Were you named after the famous 1960s model Veruschka?

Veruschka:  I was actually.  And my parents were living in London at the time, the late 60s, and Vera von Lehndorff is her real name, Veruschka is her stage name. My great-grandmother is from Hungary/Romania and she was Bertrushka, and my grandmother is Anushka from Eastern Germany.  And my mother’s Julischka, and it’s just the endearment form of those names. So it was part of the Zeitgeist, I don’t think it was ever a question what my name would be if I was a girl.

 Vera von Lehndorff, aka 60s sensation Veruschka, namesake of Veruschka Normandeau

Vera von Lehndorff, aka 60s sensation Veruschka, namesake of Veruschka Normandeau

Thea: I think that’s really interesting.  I was in Egypt in 2007 on a tour with Normandi Ellis, a metaphysical writer, and she had us do an exercise around our names.  Like, who were we named for, etc., and it was such a powerful exercise, because even if the name seems random, like “I was named after a celebrity that was popular at the time,” then you break down your name and look at what each syllable sounds like.  You develop this whole other relationship to your name because your name is actually one of your metaphysical bodies in the ancient Egyptian tradition.  It has that much power, the sound of your name.  So it’s fascinating that even as you’re coming into this world there is this association between your name and the beauty of the 1960s model Veruschka. 

Beauty as "the Other"; Barbie

Thea: So when did you first become aware of people being beautiful, what’s your first memory around that, of thinking someone is really beautiful?

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Veruschka: I think it was with my Dad’s first girlfriend, and she was the daughter of Jayne Mansfield, and her name is actually Jayne as well.  So my mother’s really brunette, and every girlfriend my father’s had since has been brunette. So my earliest memories of beauty are of comparing myself to what I thought was adored, and always feeling like I’m not that.  So I guess it was the modelling of my father worshipping a brunette, who was my caregiver at that time, when I was four years old.

Thea:  Are you saying that because you’re naturally blond, you felt like “oh she’s a brunette” and that was beautiful instead?

Veruschka: Yes, and the following girlfriend he had was also a brunette and she became my stepmother.  Around the same time I was introduced to Barbies.  It was the the original Barbie so they were very 1950s, when the whole Jayne Mansfield/Marilyn Monroe archetype was popular. So it’s interesting that this 1950s flavor beauty was shown to me, and I just adored my Barbies.

It’s interesting that when I started noticing beauty that I saw it as a comparison.  Later I just could not wait to get breasts. I thought it was so beautiful to be able to fill out your clothes like my Barbies did, that was my earliest connotation. I grew up with this longing, like I couldn’t wait to be a woman and be what Barbie and those women in my father’s life made me feel like.

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Thea: So part of what I wanted to introduce here is how beauty gets loaded with shame, or what is the relationship between beauty and shame?  And because I’m a past-life astrologer, I notice the planet Pluto on your South Node in the Second House in Virgo.  This is something I talked to you about in your natal reading. I think Virgo creates these unequal power relationships, and then Pluto is this planet that indicates a lot of shame. So I think you came in with this perspective: there's this shiny thing and then there’s me.  There’s the likeable person and then whoever I am, and that was just sort of how you were wired to see things.  And it does sound like negative comparison was your initial perception of beauty.

I also loved what you brought up about Barbie because it was totally the same way for me. I just thought Barbie was so amazing and wonderful and there was  no limit on the Barbies I owned.  My Mom was not a feminist so it was Barbie city!  I loved the big boobs and the big hair and all the outfits and everything.  Of course Barbie started out as a fetish doll, it was actually a doll for adults, like a sex-themed toy or something. And now it’s impacted all of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s as this icon.  Now Barbie has gotten more politically correct, I don’t think she’s quite as busty or flagrant anymore.

 Suzanne Somers on  Three's Company

Suzanne Somers on Three's Company

My other icon came through watching Three’s Company, funny enough.  I’d watch Suzanne Somers and she was blond and had big breasts.  So that to me was like, “oh everyone wants that.”  As you described, “What is everyone looking at?  What gets all the attention?” and it was her, and she had this kind of magical power over all the men in the show when she would start bouncing up and down in her tight top.  That was my first impression of beauty.

How sexual abuse impacts self-image

Thea: I know that you were sexually abused, and you have talked about that publicly before in variuos forums. So do you think that experience left an impression on you of “I’m beautiful”?  Or an impression of, “I’m ugly, and that’s why I’m getting treated in this awful way”?

Veruschka: That's a good question.  I would say the latter.  It was through the group of friends that my father had at the house all the time and so I was very engaged with them.  I wanted their attention but they were always poking fun at me and making fun of what I was wearing and my hair.  And I think that’s why I didn’t like my hair.  Because they always said, “Oh you have white hair.”  So their way of poking fun at me made me feel ugly because they obviously didn’t respect me.  And the abuse made it clear that they obviously didn’t respect me.

Thea: I was also sexually abused at a young age, and the message I absorbed, more like a fantasy that I told myself, was “I’m so attractive that men can’t control themselves.” And so I interpreted the abuse as “I must be really beautiful and that’s really dangerous,” or the idea that men can’t be trusted around beauty.  So it’s interesting that we had similar experiences but absorbed different messages about our own beauty.

Modelling beginnings; a life in front of the cameras

Thea: How did you get into modelling, how did that start for you?

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Veruschka: I was repeatedly approached on the street, like jogging around Santa Monica and people would literally stop me and say, “Hey can you can be in this commercial after school?” or “Could you just skip school?”  So that was happening a lot in Los Angeles.  Also the week I was leaving Germany (I was living in Germany until I was 16), I was asked to be in three different things in one day.  So in one week I was in three different commercials in Germany, it was just this moment in time when I suddenly received a lot of public attention and inquiry.  Whereas a year before we had tried to go to agencies and we couldn’t get interest for the life of us.  I was scouted by three different scouts and I basically had the pick of of the agencies and I ended up with Elite.  But I didn’t even have a car!  I was a live-in nanny in my senior year in high school in Malibu for three children, so I had to fulfill my 20 hours a week there besides being on the swim team and being in school and being part of the surfer-girl crowd.  Somehow I was just managing to get rides to interviews.

Elite would have established photographers come photograph their new faces just to test the camera equipment out.  So I garnered some really timeless pictures very early on which sort of made my career.  I didn’t have to do much, let’s just put it that way. They flew me to Italy when Elite opened a branch in Milan, and they said “We want our strong faces to be there for the opening.”  So they were always flying me on their dime because they had so much faith in me. There wasn’t much I had to do.  I didn’t feel like I was ambitious about it, it wasn’t my dream, it just sort of happened and so was the path of least resistance at the time.

Thea: So when you said you were looking for representation in Germany, how did that first come about?  Can you think back to that time of being 14 or 15 and when that clicked?  Was it something other people told you to do, or did you have that idea like, “Hey I could be in magazines like such and such person”?

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Versuschka: My Mom did.  I didn’t have that perception of myself at all. But she was actually a learned photographer, and our “fake uncle” had a photography studio, so my whole life is documented because of this.  I have a lot of photos from my whole life and it’s not like they’re very artistic, but photography was a constant in my life.  We were always taking pictures.  I didn’t have a concept that I was photogenic or that I wanted this, it was just something we did.  And I loved dressing up but didn’t feel I was photogenic until I was 16.

Beauty as self-consciousness, beauty as powerlessness

Thea: So how did it feel once you were getting the attention in California and you were signed with Elite?  Did you feel powerful within your beauty?

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Veruschka: No, I think I was partially happy-go-lucky, and partially like, “I didn’t do anything to deserve this.”  So really self-conscious.  And then my whole personality and inner life was ultimate self-consciousness and shame.  I bit my nails, I worried about having dark circles under my eyes, I was flat-chested and you know the one thing I wanted was to have breasts.  I was so upset that I  wasn’t filling out. So even when I was getting this attention and I was signed with Elite, I just felt devastated that I didn’t have boobs.  I would hand over my book stoically in all the interviews I went on.  I was the exact opposite of the Malibu California girl or the Colgate ad.  That was not me.  I was also self-conscious about my hips because they were bigger than what was in at the time, especially in Paris. They just wanted straight lines. Then Ellen von Unwerth, the German photographer, discovered me, and she was the one who made Claudia Schiffer big for the Guess campaign.  It was actually down to three blonds for the Guess campaign, Claudia and me and another model.  Ellen von Unwerth was kind of a pioneer at the time and she was secretly looking for curves.  So I think I caught her attention because I had a booty.

Thea: Wow.  In your story you don’t really have much sense of yourself as being beautiful. It sounds like you felt more neutral, like “OK Mom let’s try it” or whatever, like you’re just along for the ride.  I think it’s so interesting because with beauty, it’s almost like we have to be told by other people. So first Mom says it and then people are approaching you on the street, and then you’re in California and getting lots of job offers and Elite signs you, and then it becomes kind of “official.”  It’s so interesting that beauty has to be communicated or validated by others.  I don’t want to say we’re “not allowed,” but do we have any reason to look in the mirror and think of ourselves as beautiful?  Does that serve any purpose for our own inner worth?

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For me this relates so much to Venus issues in the chart.  People will say casually, “Venus is about beauty,” which is true, but Venus is also about how you get along with people.  Are you likeable?  Can you attract people?  I’ve struggled so much with  how you get to an objective idea of beauty, because you can’t really determine it for yourself.  You can look in the mirror and say “I’m beautiful,” but if no one else validates that or responds to you that way, are you beautiful?  How can we measure an objective quality of beauty other than by the numbers of people who respond to you that way?  Am I amking sense?

Veruschka: Oh absolutely.

Thea:  That’s why I think possessing beauty is such an inherently alienating experience because, as you’ve described, you got all this attention for being beautiful, but it just created self-consciousness. You didn’t try to create that effect, it was just what you happened to look like.  And then you start to question the authenticity of the beauty, like “I didn’t create it so I don’t know how to control it, how do I make it keep happening” – and ultimately it is sort of out of your hands.  I think so many women who are in the beauty business or make money from their beauty have this feeling of alienation from their own physicality, and also this anxiety and panic – will I still be beautiful tomorrow?  Because I don’t know how I did it today. How do I make it stay?  Or am I just a big imposter, and one day will someone come along and say, “Oh my god we were totally wrong”?  The condition of beauty depends on what someone else thinks about you.

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Veruschka: Oh absolutely yeah.  I never accepted compliments. I would always give the excuse and say, “Oh no I’m just photogenic,” like I just happened to be photogenic and I’m not actually that good-looking.  “Some people are really good-looking in person but they don’t photograph well, I just happen to photograph well.”  So I was always deflecting and defending and just making everything mathematics.  I was also aware that this was a time capsule and that it only had a certain lifespan while I was doing it.  I couldn’t completely enjoy it because everyone in my surroundings was living in Paris and Italy and they just wanted to talk about the work and their ambitions. And I wanted to have a private life, another life, and model on the side. Modelling was so boring to me because I felt like it was so empty, you know?  And I had wanted to go to NYU film school, that was the only interest I had had – had I not been detoured. And then I had to disassociate from the modelling scene and run away to India because I could not accept or integrate what was happening with my inner life, you know, or with my own inner desires.

Beauty vs. confidence; the maintenance of beauty

Thea:  When you look back on that time, do you wish you could have understood something then that you now understand – like a way to integrate it?

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Veruschka: Yeah but I don’t know if I could have gotten there then.  I was not aware of how much trauma I actually had.  I was dissociated.  So looking back I could say wow I wish I had better mentors or any mentor who would have groomed me to cultivate a career.  But I’m sure many women and girls experience it the way I did, you’re just thrown in the big sea.

Thea: You know it’s interesting, I look back on my life and I was about six feet tall at 13 and pretty enough that I could have had a modelling career. But I just didn’t have any of those inner qualities.  When you look at the careers of the supermodels who make it, they always have a really supportive family and an amazing agent. And typically they have this kind of unshakeable self-confidence so it doesn’t phase them if they get rejected 100 times, it’s not going to impact their self-worth. So in your own experience, what qualities of your peers who made it, who made careers or had this kind of staying power and who didn’t go crazy or turn to drugs, what inner qualities did they have that allowed them to integrate this alienating experience of being told that you’re beautiful and getting all this approval for your beauty?  How do you think people handle that?

Veruschka: I think that I agree with you that they probably had stronger backgrounds, more support in their family, healthier self-perception, and you know they probably grew up going to dance classes or being part of a team.  They can work with the hairdresser and the makeup artist. I just felt stifled all of the time and was turning beet red anytime someone asked me a question, I was so socially awkward. So the women that I would judge because they were “other” and different than me, they were like the cheerleaders who thrived on attention, and I was the opposite, I was the brooding artist.

Thea: Do you think the focus on external appearance as opposed to inner value makes anyone crazy?  Is that just a recipe for disaster at some point in your life, even if it doesn’t happen at 20 maybe it comes at 45 when you’re like “oh my gosh people aren’t responding to me like that anymore”?

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Veruschka: Yeah I think the other part though is self-care.  So someone from a healthier background has no trouble doing the self-maintenance it takes to stay in the business.  They’ll hire an accountant and go to the gym regularly and do their skin-care routine.  And it’s not anywhere in my makeup to be able to do that self-care.  That doesn’t mean that they believe in themselves, that means that they have at least had the practice or training to know how to do self-maintenance. It doesn’t that mean that they feel worthy. I’m sure that every woman deals with internal self-doubt.

Thea:  On the one hand there’s the artifice of beauty, or as you say the maintenance of beauty.  In many ways beauty can be purely a construction, and because I grew up in Southern California I have seen everyone in person, every model, every celebrity.  Eighty percent of the time when I saw that person getting coffee at Borders, where I used to work and serve everyone under the sun in Southern California, they’re not all that impressive. They don’t have all their lighting and makeup.  So I’ve experienced that often times the mystique around a famous person is really the artifice or the construction. 

And then there are other people who have this quality that kind of transcends the artifice and I don’t know what to call that, like a natural beauty. And I guess why I’m so stuck on this idea is that I think it’s a real quality.  I know for myself that when I’m around someone who I think is really beautiful, that I will start acting in a different way. I get kind of breathless, like falling all over myself, or uncomfortable or painfully aware of how I’m not as beautiful, and I act different!  And I notice that and I think, why can’t I treat this person like a human?  Why am I acting like they are somehow better than me or are in a different category or need to be kept up on a pedestal or something?  

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You’re actually one of those people for me!  I find you so overwhelmingly beautiful, I’m like [fawning noises].  I feel like you just have this glow, and I had that same experience opening your chart, like “oh she has this big aura of beauty around her, she’s one of those people,” and I don’t think that’s just my perception.  You have that transcendant quality, that Goddess-type beauty.  And so I’m trying to get at from an astrological perspective how that might show up in the chart, and also from a feminist perspective how to best handle that quality. 

The burden of beauty

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Thea: To me it seems like beautiful women have all these extra burdens on them, because people can’t react to them normally.  Men will sexualize you, and women will become envious and go into insecurity and spite and all that.  It seems like when you’re walking around with this burden of beauty, you don’t get the luxury to be shy or insecure or socially awkward, like you have been in your life, right?  You don’t get to be that way because you have to make other women feel comfortable, because they’re so daunted and awed by your beauty.  If you’re not also super friendly and nice then you wind up getting alienated and it sounds like that’s been a lot of your experience too, not being warmly welcomed by other women.

Veruschka: Yeah for sure.  I haven’t really consciously experienced the competitive nature as much, at least not really up-close and personal because I feel like I’ve always attracted chumminess with other women, with my easygoing way. However the alienation has always been there. Mostly from growing up internationally and always being the person with the weird name from the other country. So for me it’s a really weird blend because I was trying to fit in and not be noticed for so many years. I just always felt like the odd one out. So I have more of a core identity with the not fitting in and being the “other.” 

 "Samantha" from  Bewitched!

"Samantha" from Bewitched!

Something that came up for me while you were talking is the stereotype of the dumb blonde.  I used to frown upon Chrissie from Three’s Company like “I will never be that!”  Maybe if I’m lucky one day I’ll be like Ginger from Gilligan’s Island but really I’m more like Samantha from Bewitched!  I’m more practical but with a magical secret identity.  I was so paranoid to open my mouth because I have this naturally high-pitched voice, and I always had the fear of being discredited the moment I opened my mouth.  So it’s kind of hard to say whether other women alienated me or not, it might be more 50/50.

Thea: So I’ll just do kind of a commercial here for Evolutionary Astrology, because as you know you are a triple Leo and the stereotype with that is so over-the-top, it’s so big. The stereotype is “oh you’re so self-involved and in love with yourself and nobody can be bigger than you and you’re always going to be the biggest person in the room and the diva.”  But knowing you, you’re so humble, you’re so convinced that you’re less than, and I think that is so much about the karmic background in Virgo.  There’s this huge stamp of Virgo energy from the past-life, and that can show up as humiliation.  There’s a sense of “I’m not good enough,” and there’s also that Pluto conjunction to the South Node which is connected to the shadow.  Like “I”m dark, I’m not the thing, I’m the rejected other.” 

Beauty as felt experience

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Thea: I guess I’m wondering, have you had that experience of being the golden, sun-kissed, beautiful one who is blessed by the gods?  Have you ever gotten to really embody that triple Leo signature in your chart?

Veruschka: I would have to dig for minutes on end to find something. The only kind of flash I have in this moment is that intersection when I was graduating high school and departing my live-in nanny situation because the agency is asking me to come to Italy.  My agency is treating me like I’m the sunshine girl because I just finished doing the Ray-Ban campaign.  I just did British Vogue, American Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar. I had all these things under my belt so it felt like “wow I’ve been put into the catapult and now I’m going to swing around the world.”  So there was this moment where they were giving me the props, I had the proof, because of the caliber of work I had just completed.  And so I had faith, in that moment I felt like I was flying – and that lasted about five minutes.

Thea: Wow, so you really haven’t felt at one with both outer beauty and inner beauty since then? Have there been any other highlights?

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Veruschka: You know, usually when I’m swimming with dolphins.  I feel like they are seeing me, I’m living the life, and I’m not paying a dime for this!  So it’s more my connection with nature that creates that experience.  At the top of the mountain at Glacier Lake in Hawaii in the snow ... I feel like I am being celebrated by existence.  Those are my moments.

Thea: So amazing, as soon as you said that I got this image of the Queen of Cups!  I think there’s usually a dolphin in that image, at least there is in one of the decks that I have.  So, folks, Venus in Cancer in the Twelfth House, that’s what that looks like: swimming with the dolphins, the oneness and beauty of nature. 

Beauty as shame

Thea: Have you ever felt ashamed of your beauty?  Did you ever feel like you were too showy or too much?  That’s been a huge issue for me.  I’m so terrified of beauty, because I was sexually harassed and abused up until age 18 when I decided to get really fat.  And that was intended to make everyone get the fuck away from me, because I’m tired of people reacting to me in this untrollable way.  So I had this fantasy that it was my beauty that made people so dangerous.  Now I can kind of put it on when I want with the way I dress and do my make-up and hair, but I still find it kind of a nuisance, and I like to have a lot of control over it.  And I find that when I do dress up and do my beauty to the max, I feel ashamed walking around.  Like there’s something anti-feminist about it or it’s attention seeking. Does any of that come up for you?

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Veruschka:  Not so much, only under circumstances where I’m dressed up and other people aren’t.  And then it’s more like this defensive thing, like “I didn’t do anything to look like this.”  It’s not like I’m going to the gym every day or bleaching my hair, I’m not investing anything to make myself look like this. So in that sense I feel defensive about it.

Thea: The irony of your life experience is so interesting, because of the way that moderm media portrays things; like there is just a sea of average women out there and they all wish that they could look like you.  They all wish that they could be tall and curvy and blond, that beauty standard that was really popular in the second half of the 20th century and seems to be shifting now. But it seems like the people who actually fit that beauty standard are the most unhappy.  They might feel some shame for looking different than everyone else, because in fact to be really tall, and large-breasted, and glamorous, and white, and blond, is pretty unusual.  Most people don’t have bodies that can be that thin and also that tall and curvy. So it’s interesting that we have the sense that a beautiful woman should be the happiest person in the world because she has “what every woman wants.”  And it sounds like instead you felt alienated by it, like “Well I didn’t do anything. Why should I feel different than other people?”

Veruschka:  I’ve found that more recently, I’ve had shame around being a person of privilege in this world, and that’s more about just being white, whether I’m photogenic or not.  I am naturally blond and fair-skinned, and I feel like I don’t get to have the luxury to be unhappy about how I look. That creates shame when I really am unhappy about the way that I look.

Thea: We’re actually on the same page!  Because I think that’s exactly what the burden of beauty is: you have something that other people don’t have, so somehow your pain isn’t as important. You’re not allowed to have insecurities or struggles or social awkwardness in the eyes of other women.

Beauty icons

Thea: Well now let’s talk about some women who have figured in really interesting and symbolic ways in your life. So I see in your photo-essays and collage work, that Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield appear a lot.  So aside from the fact that your father was dating Jayne Mansfield’s daughter, what attracts you to these figures?

 Jayne Mansfield

Jayne Mansfield

Veruschka: I guess over time those figures have materialized to me as an archetype of the lonely orphan, the feminine that wants to be loved and seen and celebrated.  They tried to epitomize the beauty standard and an idea of what men want and all that.  They represented an investment in themselves of style and beauty, and they put that out so unabashedly.  So I think for me they shine that triple Leo energy, but I personally feel planets away from their beauty. 

It took me a long time to realize it, but they are my sisters, I totally know their pain.  By chance I ended up being a nanny in Marilyn Monroe’s house, and I found out while sitting on the bed in the room that she passed away in.  I mean, it was really wild.  I had this whole visceral experience, walking through the house and the yard and walking by the flowers and the pool, like this was her private life.  And just putting myself in those shoes, I got a sense of the real person and her humanity. 

 Marilyn Monroe at home

Marilyn Monroe at home

Thea: You have said so much there. First of all, you keep coming back to this idea of inside versus outside, and that is the experience of beauty.  Someone can have a huge response to our outside, but our inside could be totally different, we could be depressed and traumatized and all that. So I see that you relate to that.  Your experience of having been an Elite model and being flown all over the world and appearing in magazines, makes that inner experience of insecurity that much more dramatic.  I also don’t think there are any accidents. I think the fact that Jayne Mansfield’s daughter was a caretaker for you and that you wind up being in Marilyn Monroe’s house and getting that visceral experience of her – well of course those women are going to be important archetypes for you.  And they do seem really relatable.

The astrology of beauty: Venus and the Moon

Thea: As far as I know there are no astrology books that make detailed studies of beauty.  Venus on the Ascendent, Venus on the Midheaven, Venus conjunct the Sun, certain placements like that are going to be suggestive of a pronounced beauty, and I’ve certainly seen all those in the charts of actresses and models that I’ve done.  But I went through and charted some beautiful women that I thought might come up in conversation for us.

One thing I noticed really surprised me, and I’m trying to piece it together, I really don’t have it all worked out – but both Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe have Aquarius Moons, and initially that seemed like kind of an unimportant coincidence.  But then just in my random list of people here that I thought we might talk about, I did Uma Thurman’s chart and she also has an Aquarius Moon, and I did Kathleen Turner’s chart and she also has an Aquarius Moon.  And this is starting to seem like a weird coincidence, so then I started thinking about people who have appeared really beautiful to me in person.  I was backstage at an Interpol concert years ago and Helena Christensen was dating the lead singer. And so she was back there, and that was like “knock you over” experience to me, like this woman looks like she’s from another planet, a planet of goddesses.  So I looked up her chart and she has South Node in Libra conjunct Jupiter-Uranus.  Okay so there’s that Aquarian signature with the Uranus, and the Libra South Node means Venus is elevated in her chart, and she has Venus in Aquarius.

 Uma Thurman posed as Botticelli's Venus

Uma Thurman posed as Botticelli's Venus

So that really set me off on this tangent of exploring Aquarius and how it tends toward dissociation, often times very removed from the body.  Of all the signs, Aquarius feels the least comfort with the body, and it’s also extremely independent.  I started wondering if maybe part of what is so magnetizing about the beauty that all these women carry has to do that with the fact that they own it in a certain way, and they don’t feel that split that most of us feel.  The Moon is like our soft, intimate, private self, and then how other people perceive of us is something different.  So I think most of us feel this split around beauty, like “hey you’re reacting to my physique but I’ve got a whole personality here, buddy, that you’re not seeing.”  So maybe with Aquarius Moon there’s something more united about – I don’t know, I can’t find the words, do you have any ideas?

Veruschka: What comes through for me is a “muse” energy, that they didn’t have to work only through their body. So like how Uma became Quentin’s muse and how she contributed to the characters and the evolution of those movies.  Would you say Aquarius has to do with a muse energy?

 Helena Christensen

Helena Christensen

Thea: You know I’m willing to entertain it because I’m kind of stumped. I would say in your chart what came through so clearly was the Taurus energy. So that tells me this is an actual physical quality that you have, it’s objective, other people can see it, it’s material, it’s Taurus, it’s of the body.  But that’s how I’m used to seeing beauty in the chart, and I’ve also noticed that Venus in Capricorn has a very strong correlation with women who get paid for their beauty, whether they’re dancers or models or whatever.  Because Capricorn’s a sign of business and that sort of makes sense to me, they can dissociate enough from their own beauty to treat it like an industry, and that’s where they excel at self-care.  Capricorn: “I’ve got this product and I need to keep it in good shape and take it out to the marketplace.”  So there can be this emotional distance from the stuff most us load into beauty. Capricorn could create that repression of the sentimental qualities.  But Aquarius is kind of stumping me.

I’m wondering if Aquarius doesn’t take the body that seriously to begin with. They’ve got all these other things going on, personally, intellectually, they’ve got career goals and –

Veruschka:  So they’re not exclusively radiating vanity.

Thea:  Yeah. Also, all these women have Venus in different places. Let’s see, Helena Christensen has Venus in Aquarius like I said, and then Kathleen Turner has it in Leo.  Marilyn has Venus in Aries conjunct Chiron, interestingly enough, and she has a Taurus Midheaven just like you. And then Jayne has Venus in Aries conjunct the Sun.  Both those women had a strong sexual component to their beauty, and that’s the Aries signature.  Then with Uma, she’s got Venus in Gemini but it’s conjunct Mars, and what she’s become most famous for is being in these incredibly violent movies by Tarantino, where she’s getting beat up or having a needle jammed into her heart, all very Mars type things. So Venus sign wasn’t as clear in indicating beauty but perhaps the Moon was.

Beauty's impact on mental health; beauty as false value

Thea: So do you think beautiful women like Marilyn and Jayne are destined to be unhappy?  Are all beautiful women sad and tragic, do those go together somehow? 

Veruschka: Let’s hope not!  If you make it into the spotlight I would assume it goes together because there’s always an underbelly to it.  If you’re human and you’re here on Earth it’s probably not easy. And if you’re being paid for you’re beauty that’s not easy because it fades.  But then you also have gorgeous women who don’t go down that route, but maybe that’s because they’re not in touch with their beauty.

Thea: Yeah, that was the question I was starting to pose earlier: Is it possible to be psychologically healthy in the beauty industry, or is paying people for their beauty completely fucked up and can only cause psychological damage?  If you’re beautiful enough to be getting a lot of attention for it or getting paid for it, then of course Pluto comes in, of course this darker psychological material comes in.  So it does seem that beauty and shame are really deeply linked, or beauty and shadow material. When jotting down the interview questions, I started to wonder if that linkage is more about how Western culture in general is really disconnected from the heart and from interpersonal relationships.

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Veruschka:  Absolutely.  Overall in the Western world we are not praised or celebrated for inner qualities.  And you know I think the reason I’ve been a little stumped by your questions is because I’m realizing I have no friends from that business.  I don’t know any models anymore because I never made a connection with any of those people, because we didn’t share the same interests.  The people I photograph now, I see them as so beautiful and they would never classify as a model.  But I don’t see them through those eyes.   

Thea: You’ve explained it really well.  That makes perfect sense.  I was always really angry at myself for not making any money at modelling!  “You could have made money doing this, you could have gotten a good start in life.”  And then finally I came to terms with the fact that even if I had had more family support, I’m so relational, and so the idea that people would pay me for what I look like still feels weird and bad. I don’t know if that will ever go away.  When I was in my twenties I modelled for people for fun because they were friends and it was dressing up and it felt like a more connected experience.  But at 12 and 13 I was taking modelling classes and trying to go down that route but it just felt bad, it felt so awful for me.  My entré into being a woman was about my physical appearance and it felt awful. 

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You and I both grew up in Southern California, and the culture here is so much about the film industry and advertising and so everything is image.  So I certainly have a skewed perspective, but in my community, no one prized elders.  Older women didn’t have any power or authority from having lived long lives or being experienced mothers or grandmothers or teachers. There was no attention paid to that, no place given to a woman with amazing intellectual or emotional qualities. Everything was just so much about appearances and so I think it makes sense that we are all so hung up on beauty.  There’s really only one desirable quality, the way that the media portrays it.  So we give way too much importance to beauty and it’s not balanced by giving importance to other faculties.

If things were more balanced, then maybe it would be possible to be beautiful and not feel like you have too much power.

Beauty as a superpower

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Thea: Do you get intimidated by beautiful women?

Veruschka: Yes definitely.  Again it always breaks down as they’re “the other” and I’m “not as good as” or I could never be that.  It’s a feeling like there is a gap and I can’t come close to them and that I’m just not cool enough or beautiful enough.

Thea:  I think it’s so sad that we feel this way as women.  I really do.  My heart is really big, and as a counselor I get all kinds of people in my office and all kinds of people in pain and in trouble, and I don’t really lose my center.  I’ve heard horrific stories and I can hang in there with a horrific story and stay connected to my power, like “okay I can have compassion for this person even though I’m overwhelmed and I’m scared.”  But when I get around someone who’s really beautiful, that probably throws me off more than any other experience, in that I feel like I’m not good enough to be talking to this person or I’m like this crusty old troll and they must be grossed out by me. I mean it’s not that bad, but that’s kind of like an echo of everything I felt more strongly when I was younger.

Veruschka: So you feel like that beauty is like a superpower.

Thea: Yes! Yes. And I think it’s so ironic that most beautiful women don’t even feel powerful, they actually feel disempowered by it, because they don’t control it.

Spiritual beauty

Thea: How have you experienced your beauty within the many spiritual groups that you've been a part of?  Did you feel beautiful in those communities?  Do you feel in those spaces that there is still the problem that we think beautiful people are better than others?

Veruschka:   One group I was in for over a decade, and I felt like everyone in the group was so beautiful because everyone was so on their path.  We followed Eastern philosophy teachings and we honored that energy that’s in all of us, the energy that is our soul and the soul connection.  To me that erased the concept of differences or beauty vs. not beauty. We wanted to connect in the same field where our differences go away. So that was what I was thirsting for, that was my personal lens.  I put on weight and dropped out of the modelling scene so I could just really commit my life to the soul path, because I was not –  I could not embody myself being a model.  Because I did not experience that on the inside.  It was easier for me to just like not play this game of the Western world.

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Thea: In that initial experience you had, getting beyond beauty towards something really authentic, which was that heart connection and that soul connection – when you started talking about that, I just felt so complete.  I felt like, “Oh this is what you’ve been searching for.”  It sounds like the whole concept of beauty has been more or less toxic for you in your life, and when you did feel really good it was because you weren’t experiencing other people as bodies or appearances.  They were in the light of their path and that’s what was so beautiful.  I’m looking at your Twelfth-House Venus in Cancer, which is about intimacy and connection and also mysticism. When you were talking, everything felt so clear, and beauty really seemed like the illusion that it is. It’s just this surface illusion and we’re all so hung up on it.

Why you don't need to "feel beautiful" to have self-esteem

Thea: Here’s a funny question – have you ever wished you weren’t born beautiful?

Veruschka: Yeah, I mean many times I’ve looked at people and thought, “wow they have such a unique look, they’re so lucky.”  I’ll think, “Wow, they’re so accessible and that’s much more desired,” you know to be 5’2” and cute.  Everyone wants the cute, petite girl, right?  Yeah I’ve definitely had envy like that. 

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Thea: I was reading an Uma Thurman interview where she was saying “oh if you look like me, no one asks you out.”

Because I’d suffered from eating disorders and my Mom had anorexia and bulimia when I was growing up, I started researching eating disorders when I was in graduate school.  And one of the studies I came across said that women who were not beautiful, who weren’t considered beautiful by their community, actually had much higher self-esteem.  So that factoid was maybe the beginning of this whole inner exploration into how weird that is, in that we have this idea that all women want to be beautiful, every woman is worried about being more beautiful. But then it turns out that if you’re not beautiful, you’re happier.  So why is that?  It seems to have so much to do with this experience that we’ve been talking about, in that when you’re beautiful, everyone else is going to tell you that. And so you’re used to getting all this validation and approval from others so that you start to depend on that, that’s how you measure yourself.  Whereas if you don’t grow up hearing that, no one’s telling you you’re pretty and that you did something great just by standing there, you start to develop other qualities.  You become a great friend or great at sports or you work hard in school or you pursue a hobby because you get satisfaction by doing something.  That was just a revelation for me.

Veruschka:  It’s so true.  I remember the first spark I had when I was on a modelling assignment in Hamburg.  An old friend of mine was visiting and I just had had all these crazy clothes sewn for myself in India, like really gaudy Prince outfits.  I asked my Mom if I could borrow her camera and then we went to a phone booth at night, you know like a real phone booth.  I did this whole photo shoot with her in the phone booth just using the available light, and I was just transported after I received the results.  I felt like, “I did this.”  And this whole world and artist identity opened up. So when I went back to Paris I started shooting all the models I lived with, and the rush that I got from pulling what I was seeing out into the world as image, that gave me a feeling of glory.  I think that we get such a different gratification and feel much more accomplished when it’s something we actually created.

Thea: That sounds like your Leo Moon for sure, that intuitive response to beauty and glamour and color and staging.  What would you say your relationship to your beauty is like at this stage in your life?

Veruschka: Now I feel like I’m wearing my inside on the outside more than ever before which feels really empowering, to be more comfortable in my own skin. But at the same time I’m still practicing ... I still don’t feel like I’ve whole-heartedly embodied “my look” because I don’t know what that means.

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Thea: What if you are actually completely enlightened and perfect in that thinking of yourself as “beautiful” would mean thinking of yourself as better than other people, and how would that in any way be satisfying to your heart?  Maybe what the culture tells us about beauty is total garbage and that’s why we can’t integrate it.  This is what I always got hung up on: “Why can’t I feel it?  Why can’t I feel what other people see?  Why can’t I take that in?”  But it might just be completely useless information to know that more people find me attractive on average than someone else. That doesn’t do anything for our inner lives.  So you actually sound really healthy to me.  

Veruschka: Beautiful!

If you enjoyed what we discussed here, please check out our workshop to beat the Venus retrograde and beauty blues, beginning on October 9th.