Katie Trotter: It's a beautiful thing

Discovering that real beauty isn't what we thought at first, but something even better.

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Beauty: probably the most poorly defined word in the English language, and certainly one that causes us to question the basic principles of taste. But what is it? A science based on symmetry? An innate attraction to cues learnt as a baby? Or simply a visual experience or form that in one way or another returns to nature?

Growing up we often confuse beauty with adoration or idolisation. My mother was definitely beautiful, yet somehow unobtainable. I needed something more reachable, and her name was Lisa. Lisa was 17 to my 12, all poodle perm and pink lace. She taught me the lyrics to Eternal Flame and how to back-comb my hair. She was my quintessential heroine - just about everything I wished the years I so painfully had to wait for would be kind enough to give me.

Of course it wasn't only her insuppressible beauty or her perfect bird's nest of black-as-your-boot curls that got to me. It was more her utter sense of freedom, and the way men looked at her when we walked home from school, and how perfectly unaware she was of those stolen glances - all of which I had yet to experience.

I also remember when my preconceived notions of beauty were first challenged. It was July of 1990, and the third Summer of Love edition of the British fashion magazine The Face hit the stands. On the cover was the soon-to-be-imperfect supermodel Kate Moss, barely 16, stripped bare apart from a few bits of vintage-looking finds from Portobello Market and leaping around a frigid beach all bowlegged, freckles and awkward gappy smile. It was nothing like I had ever seen before - miles away from the overindulgent "supermodel in exotic location" we were used to.

I didn't know what beauty was back then but I knew that was as close as I had seen it. Whatever it was it forced me to sit up in my seat. I also knew whatever it was I needed to follow it. Which I did.

You see, beauty lingers. It stays with us long after we first experience it, running hand in hand with romantic notion and melancholy.

To this day I can still feel the rush of dopamine that Lisa gave me. I often wonder where she is now or if she had any idea of the effect she had on me, but I'd probably only be disappointed. Because most of the time the most beautiful thing we can experience is the mystery.


This week's highs and lows

CARMEN DELL'OREFICE The woman seems to never age! If anything she looks better at 80 than 60.

SHEER TIGHTS Who needs rips and abnormally glossy legs when you can just use body make-up?

MODEL POTENTIAL The new iPhone app that has partnered with Select Models in London allows users to upload their details to send off to scouts.

TOO TIGHT CLOTHING Why is Kim Kardashian wearing this painfully small get-up? We fear the zip's going to pop.

HELENA BONHAM CARTER Our favourite kooky celeb is in Marc Jacobs's new ad campaign.