Vanessa Craft on the sur­pris­ing les­son she learned from a Hol­ly­wood beauty.

ELLE (Canada) - - Beauty -

When I was 26, I do­nated blood at a lo­cal clinic and then re­turned to work, where I fainted, face first, onto a mar­ble floor. Two of my in­cisors snapped off, and my two front teeth were pushed so far back that they were caught be­hind the mid­dle bot­tom ones. I broke my nose and tore my frenu­lum (the bit of tis­sue that con­nects your up­per lip to your gums). I had a hair­line frac­ture across the top of my jaw and de­vel­oped two black eyes and a nasty fat lip. Fix­ing the dam­age in­volved a pair of pli­ers in the hos­pi­tal emer­gency room and four root canals, and it was aw­ful. I had the ba­sic, nec­es­sary (and af­ford­able) work done: A den­tist glued the tooth my col­leagues had found by the el­e­va­tors to the re­main­ing stub in my mouth and then used the com­pos­ite resin used for fill­ings to build up the other bro­ken ones.

Af­ter that, I felt in­se­cure about my smile. I had planned on get­ting the cos­metic side of things sorted shortly af­ter the ac­ci­dent, but there was al­ways an ex­cuse: no time, not enough money, couldn’t find the right den­tist. Truth is, I was afraid. The cracks in my teeth both­ered me, but the thought of hear­ing a drill near my head made me nau­seous. I also strug­gled with how vul­ner­a­ble I felt. As a temp, I wasn’t paid for sick days, so I had to re­turn to work even though I was still miss­ing teeth. I was in con­stant pain, and I didn’t like be­ing the sub­ject of pity from my kind and car­ing friends. I looked a mess un­til I healed; I hated that too.

Here’s a life event to re­ally push you out of your decade-plus anti-den­tal com­fort zone: get­ting mar­ried. The porce­lain piper had fi­nally come call­ing. “This is the time to do it. You’re go­ing to have a

cam­era in your face con­stantly,” said one friend. “You should do ev­ery­thing you can to feel con­fi­dent on the day,” added another, re­mind­ing me that I’d be hap­pier once I put “clo­sure” on this. I was used to my janky smile by now, but I agreed. “New teeth, new me,” I told my­self when I booked (and then sheep­ishly can­celled) nu­mer­ous con­sul­ta­tions. Even­tu­ally I sub­mit­ted to the cos­metic process: A mould was made of my mouth so the den­tal lab could be­gin to make a set of crowns.

About a month be­fore the wed­ding, I went to see The Im­i­ta­tion Game, star­ring Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch. As the story of the MI6 math whiz un­folded on the big screen, I was dis­tracted by his co-star, Keira Knight­ley. Yes, her elfin face is ex­quis­ite, es­pe­cially at 30 feet wide, but it was this suc­cess­ful Hol­ly­wood ac­tress’ jagged, un­even teeth that caught my at­ten­tion. I mar­velled in the dark­ness at the dis­cov­ery that a phys­i­cal flaw had never made a dif­fer­ence to Knight­ley’s level of tal­ent, her ac­claim or the per­cep­tion of her star qual­ity. She be­came in­stantly fas­ci­nat­ing to me: a woman who re­jected the fu­tile pur­suit of an ideal stan­dard of beauty. I never thought that a “Celebri­ties, they’re just like us!” mo­ment would set me free, but a weight had been lifted. When I got home, I Googled and dis­cov­ered some­thing she said to the NY Daily News last year: “I’ve never minded peo­ple’s im­per­fec­tions—I’ve never had a prob­lem with my own. I don’t have a per­fect face or a per­fect body or per­fect teeth—I’ve got what I’ve got and it’s all fine. It adds char­ac­ter.” I can­celled that fi­nal ap­point­ment at the den­tist. I didn’t need to go get fixed. I fi­nally got it: Beauty lives in the cracks, and I have plenty.

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