Joe Brand says 'she knows she's not pretty' but I bloody love her

I WAS deeply touched this week by the words of one of this country’s funniest female comics, Jo Brand. 

Talking about her appearance she says she’s “not what men go for”. She went on: “I know I’m not pretty. I’m not thin with flowing locks.”

In the past, I’ve heard her joke about how people assume she’s lesbian because she’s a larger woman with short hair. Despite her being married with two kids.

Her latest statement is a somewhat damning indictment of her personal appearance — but more of the way we constantly value people based on looks.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jo many times on the comedy circuit. I bloody love her. She’s super-smart, doesn’t take s**t from anyone, is savvy and empathetic and her dry wit is right up my street. 

How she looks has never stood in the way of how I view her, it’s always been about what comes out of her gob which has tickled my fancy and made me belly laugh. 

It’s the essence of her that I love. If she has a mic in her hand, I know I’ll be crying with laughter or gasping in sheer disbelief before too long.

But, of course, not everyone can see past looks and appearance to style and individuality. Especially in this image-obsessed, social-media landscape which we all try to navigate, where perfection and sleekness, impeccability and excellence rule.

Jo talks about how as a teenager she faced many knockbacks and was more often than not dismissed. Whatever you might think, I lived that, too.

 I was certainly no swan — with my horrendously protruding goofy teeth, bow legs and under-developed, clumsy, boyish, adolescent body. I was never cool, nor confident. 

I was never in with the in-crowd. So I made sure I would force self-deprecating comments into the opening moments of any encounters, before anyone else would point out my “inadequacies”. I made sure people knew I laughed at myself, before anyone else could. 

I sought solace in comedy. Funny was my currency because I never fitted in. It was my armour in a world which set more value on prettiness.

Jo says: “If you’re absolutely gorgeous, you don’t get any sense of how it is to be desperate.” 

I get that. Completely. I wonder how many people reflect on how their own and society’s perception of perfection induces feelings of deficiency in those who don’t fit the template of expectation. That life is trickier for those who don’t fit the mould.

Of course, that template of expect-ation has changed considerably over the past decades. Nowadays there is a look we all need to conform to — long hair, brilliant teeth, perfect boobs, long nails and very full lips. 

Jo has a good set of knockers and sumptuous lips. But she’s right, she doesn’t have the long hair and slender figure and, for that, she doubtless engenders negativity from those “glorious” creatures sitting aloft their cosmetically enhanced, superficial high horses. 

It’s disappointing, but a sign of how far our society has not travelled. 

Appearance has always played a part, although I suspect in prehistoric times women with broad hips and big thighs were probably more likely to be favoured for their abilities to survive and reproduce. 

Damaging effects

But nowadays we set the bar at skinny and unblemished. Then throw into the mix a world of social media and images doctored by filters galore, which is enough to make anyone depressed.

I feel it too. I’ve occasionally fallen foul of the filtered reality because I’ve felt inadequate — like as a kid then a teen when your awkwardness pushed you to the periphery, when you stood on the outside looking in on all the “beautiful” people. 

We have evolved in so many other brilliant ways, conversations, debates, acceptance of diversity and understanding of the damaging effects of excluding some members of our community.

Yet we strive for, and insist on, a trend of all being cardboard cutouts of what we feel is proper and correct.

Why are we incapable of attaching greater value to cleverness, virtue, accomplishment, fulfilment, kindness and — the very best thing in the world — being funny? 

I can’t help feeling that in some warped, modern way we’ve taken a step back by elevating the curators of perfection and downgrading anyone else who doesn’t measure up.

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but I also know that funny outlasts pretty any day of the week.

I want Lozza in my room

THRILLED to have Changing Rooms back on our screens for many reasons, but predominantly for the brilliant Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, whose eccentricity and brilliance knows no bounds – and for my girl-crush, Anna Richardson, who is articulate, funny and smart.

But despite all the smarming by some members of the public at the bonkers makeovers – including a wall of hair and a chain of clay sausages – I feel this is what we all need after the past 18 months we’ve had to endure. 

An injection of ridiculousness, brightness, colour clashes and home-made decorations is the perfect inoculation against an uncertain world and the grey skies much of 2021 has brought us.

I can’t get enough of it and have already put in an order for a big photo of LLB to stick on to the back of my bedroom door.

 I mean, who doesn’t want to wake up to that face every morning?

Oh, just me, then?


NEW Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern is a politician I admire unconditionally.

Not because she’s a woman, but because she governs with power, kindness, empathy and unassuming strength.

She has managed the pandemic in her country with the tightest lockdowns, great dignity and success – made all the easier by having a sparsely populated country, perhaps.

But now I read that due to ONE single case of Covid in Auckland, she’s shut down the whole country. On this, Ardern will be devastated to learn, I disagree with her. 

Continuing to strive for “zero Covid” is unattainable and unreasonable. Across the world we are doing all in our power to try to reduce the effects of this virus, but to kill it completely seems, even by my limited scientific understanding, impossible.

And I reflect on my poor sister in Australia, who has had to endure lockdown after lockdown for the past 18 months. Of course we’re trying to save lives, but it’s worth remembering there are other ways of dying than Covid. Mental health is a killer and the toll on many will be irreparable. 

We have made vaccines. We have a better understanding of how the virus spreads. 

Now it’s time we threw a good dose of common sense into the ring and make some decent attempts at restoring life to how it was.

'Dad guilt' Ash feels our pain

THANK you, Diversity dancer Ashley Banjo, for conceding publicly your feelings of “dad guilt” after having been forced apart from your children for some seven weeks during the pandemic while in a work bubble.

We talk, all too often, about women’s feelings of guilt when they go to work. 

It’s supposedly in our DNA. We live with it, are plagued by it, struggle to understand how we can best be in two places at once. 

I have never felt guilt, as such, when absent from my children due to work. Work is essential. I may not always have been keen to venture out so soon after shooting them out of my undercarriage but reason has dictated that to live, we must eat, and to eat I must work.

I have, however, never quite coped so well with feelings of guilt when away doing something for myself or, God forbid, enjoying myself. 

It has always had me torn, always felt illicit and unauthorised, because my role and reason for being has been to hold them and never leave them. 

Public discourse is nowadays directed at women finding “me time” – engaging in activities other than wiping up baby sick, breast-feeding or tending to the little blighters’ every whim.

I’m grateful that Ashley has brought a little perspective from the other side. I hope men do feel dad guilt. I want them to. 

I want them to experience that relentless burden that shadows a mum’s every move. 

I want it to sting them, whether they’re at work or having a pint down the Old Bull & Bush, because that is part of sharing the chores of having children. 

Guilt is a chore, a load and a strain and not one that should exclusively be carried by the female race.

I know fathers come in all shapes and sizes, with different levels of dedication – as do mothers. I know excellent fathers. 

But sometimes their conscience needs to be pricked, because it will make them better fathers. 

Starting the conversation about dad guilt and carrying on the thread is surely a start.

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