The Coded Messages Behind Someone Saying You Look Like A Celebrity

Illustration for article titled The Coded Messages Behind Someone Saying You Look Like A Celebrity

People Comparing You To Celebrities: a modern phenomenon.

In the past month, I have been compared variously to Sarah Jessica Parker, Drew Barrymore, "the chick from Harry Potter," Angelina Jolie, and Janis Joplin. Do I resemble any of these people? Well, we're all female. But even so, it's weird: what is it that compels people in our society to compare us to more famous people? Dating questionnaires ask us to list celebrity lookalikes, even though most of us bear no particular resemblance to any famous person and if we do, so what? I have put a lot of thought into this, and usually these fall into the following general categories:

The Compliment:
Usually, people mean these comparisons as a compliment. "You look like someone beautiful," they're saying - even if it's complete bollocks and so ludicrous that you can hardly feel flattered. But at the same time, no one's going to be offended by comparisons to Angelina, Grace Kelly or Halle Berry. Just skeptical.


The Undermine:
These are always ambiguous. "You look like Janis Joplin" didn't exactly make my day. "Sarah Jessica Parker" could mean so many different things, depending on who's saying it. "You look like Lisa Loeb- but thinner," falls into this category. Or Chelsea Clinton: now...or as a teenager? And you have to wonder, when there's any ambiguity, why the hell someone would say this?

The Pick-Up:
Distinct from the compliment in that its designs are clearly romantic. Such comparisons often contain the words "has anyone ever told you..." or "you must get this all the time..." and will be followed by a comparison to someone you do not resemble.


The Genuine:
There are, of course, people who look like other people. Don't worry: they know. They've heard it before. They are not, in fact, the celebrity in question and unless they make their livings as lookalikes or have invested a lot of money in freaky plastic surgery, probably don't need to hear it again.

The Completely Inaccurate:
Sometimes someone tries to pull a genuine, but they're just wrong. And yet, they remain convinced of resemblances which they fancy uncanny. (Cue: my grandparents comparing me to Drew Barrymore.) This certainty will hold up in the face of Google searches and abundant evidence to the contrary, and might be called a kind of madness.

The Random:
Sometimes a comparison is so odd, and specific, and without obvious value judgment, that you know it comes from a genuine place of wonder and excitement. Sometimes someone just really looks like Moira Shearer, or Lane from Mad Men, or the bassist from a minor band - and this knowledge must be shared, because...well, I don't know why. It just does.

The Drive-By:
The drive-by is a comparison from which nothing is expected to come. Why do strangers feel the need to say it? Unclear. They usually involve a superficial trait - red hair, glasses, braids, curls - and really have nothing to do with your actual appearance. Sometimes it'll just be a name: "Madonna!" or "Jude Law!" with no context. People just feel the need to reach out. Via celebrities. That you don't look like.

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Remember the profile-picture-as-celebrity-lookalike week on Facebook? It felt like everyone was complimenting themselves. And frankly, I didn't see a lot of real lookalikes.