Pretty or Smart?

When I was growing up, it seemed that every woman in the world was divided into one of two categories: the Pretty Girls and the Smart Girls.

There were a few special people who transcended the boundary (Jackie Kennedy Onassis, for instance) but for the most part, you were either pretty or smart.

I was smart. Good grades, high test scores, lots of lofty achievements and awards. I could be and do anything I wanted. I could be President. I could be a Supreme Court Justice. For a small bit of time, I wanted to be both of those things. I also wanted to be a writer, a journalist, a teacher, a PR specialist, and an event planner. It was those last two things that really solidified the difference between pretty girls and smart girls. Pretty girls plan weddings and parties. Smart girls do great things and change the world. No, you don’t want to be a Senior Executive Assistant. You want to be the Executive.

I went to university where I got a couple majors in respectable academic fields. I didn’t rush a sorority (even though I secretly wanted to) because that was a Pretty Girl thing. Not a Smart Girl thing. I did my best and I worked hard to do all the things that I thought I should. (More on that another day).

In reality, there’s no such divide. A woman can be interested in fashion and parties and celebrity gossip while having vast knowledge of a myriad of subjects and serve as an expert in her field. Here, a few of my favourite pretty smart women.


  1. Elle Woods

From the moment I first saw Legally Blonde, Elle Woods has been a pop culture hero of mine. Introduced as a shallow blonde who cares more about fashion than finance; we get to watch Elle come into her own as a smart, capable attorney. Her seemingly useless knowledge helped win the case. Her personality (which some would call ditzy), won the trust of the client. Elle was valuable not despite her beauty and bright personality, but because of it. She proved that you can wear pink and glitter while still getting into Harvard. “What, like it’s hard?!”

  1. Andy Sachs

Andy is introduced to us in The Devil Wears Prada as the stereotypical smart girl. She’s focused and brilliant and has no time to waste with nonsense like fashion. The transformation that takes place over the course of the book/movie is not only about her makeover. While her sense of style improves by leaps and bounds; so too does her understanding of the complex nature of the fashion world. When her friends (who are the actual worst) start teasing her for getting too involved in that world, she points out that respected journalists share the pages of Runway with the artists who create editorial fashion. Even after realising that Runway wasn’t the place for her; Andy still maintains her style, decorum, and a more open mind; those “silly” things she picked up from Miranda.

  1. Olivia Pope

I don’t think anyone would ever accuse Liv of being anything less than brilliant. She’s a savvy political strategist who solves problems both big and small. Olivia Pope is also incredibly pretty and fashion conscious. Unlike the other ladies on this list, we don’t see Olivia go through a transformation (not in this sense). From her first moments she exists as a seamless blend of style and smarts. Sleek, chic, and always put together, Olivia proves that Princeton and Prada are not mutually exclusive.


Who are your favourite smart and pretty role models?





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