watch

New Girl’s Cece - The Limits of the “Pretty Girl”

New Girl’s Cece (Hannah Simone) has been defined by her beauty since her early teens. Being the “pretty girl” has informed and defined all her experiences, her sense of identity, and her professional life. And while it’s given her confidence—and some obvious perks—no one ever lets Cece forget that she’s attractive, and this isn’t always an advantage. Here’s our Take on how being seen as the “pretty girl” holds Cece back, and why refusing to be boxed in allows you to show the world how much you can offer.

TRANSCRIPT

Coach: “What are you, a model or somethin’?”

Cece: “Yeah.” - New Girl 1x01

Cece Parekh: The Limitations of Beauty

Cece Parekh is the ‘pretty girl’ of New Girl’s friend group. As early as the pilot, that label even earns her best friend Jess a much-needed place to live. Clearly, Jess and Cece are both beautiful women, but Cece has been defined by her beauty since her early teens. Physical appearance informs her experiences, sense of identity, and professional life. Sure, being treated as the “pretty girl” has its perks, and it’s given Cece the confidence to realize numerous strengths in her personality — she’s assertive, adventurous, and experienced in the ‘grown-up’ parts of life that make Jess feel awkward. But no one lets Cece forget that she’s attractive — and this is not always an advantage.

Here’s our take on how being seen as ‘the pretty girl’ holds Cece back, and why refusing to be ‘boxed in’ allows you to show the world how much you can offer.

Romance for the Pretty Girl - Shouldn’t It Be Easy?

Finding the perfect person is hard — we usually think that being more attractive would make it easier. An endless parade of suitors may not be a good thing, though — choice paralysis is a psychological phenomenon we experience when presented with too many options. It’s documented in the modern dating world, too; dating apps show us just how difficult it can be to sift through countless potential matches. But the paradox of choice is only the tip of the iceberg for the ‘pretty girl’ in love; the psychological impact of playing this social role can really make a mess of her love life. Research suggests that the uber attractive are prone to more breakups and less satisfaction in long-term relationships

Early in the show, Cece’s relationships are casual flings. Hookups and short-term connections with exciting people are a staple of her glamorous model lifestyle. There’s a certain allure to that kind of wild existence; her hookup history includes some of the most desirable men and women — but somehow, she never seems to pick the type who might like her for her.

Cece: “You know, you don’t deserve to be treated like that. You just got to tell her no. Otherwise, all she’ll do is see you as a pretty face and a hot body.” - New Girl 1x09

Falling in with disrespectful partners is a symptom of a larger problem for Cece: she’s valued so highly for her looks that she’s sometimes only valued for her looks. She then internalizes the mindset that her beauty is all she brings to the table in relationships. And that explains why her love life devolves into a vicious cycle. The more she thinks beauty is all she can offer, the more inclined she is to date people who don’t care about the rest of her.

Recognizing this pattern, Cece attempts to correct it when she starts looking for a real relationship — and she ends up overcorrecting instead. When she gets hurt, she moves to a ‘nice guy’: one who doesn’t really understand her. When she realizes she needs to get serious about starting a family, she agrees to the arranged marriage she’s never really been interested in. Overcorrections are a way of putting a bandaid over a much bigger wound; she’s trying to have successful relationships without addressing the deeper issues involved in her identity and perception as the Pretty Girl.

We can see many of Cece’s identity issues at play in her major romance in the show, with Schmidt. Initially, she has no interest in him at all, and they only get together when their constant proximity lets Schmidt wear her down. Cece has a tendency to let things happen to her — opportunities present themselves to the beautiful, and as a consequence, people like Cece can have a harder time carving out their own path without a push.

Even when Cece does start to find Schmidt attractive, it’s for the same wrong reasons that she got involved with jerks in the past. Exploring her attraction habits, we can see that she’s drawn to a masculine aggression. This, too, stems from her identity as a beautiful woman — a role traditionally paired with the ‘macho man.’ To get the advantages of the ‘pretty girl’ label, Cece has to buy into the societal expectations that come with it — being pretty won’t get her as far if she doesn’t act the part. And a commitment to maintaining her role causes her to initially hide her attraction to Schmidt. It doesn’t matter that she genuinely likes being with him — her self-concept makes it difficult to accept an unconventional love interest into her life.

As things between them become more real, Cece and Schmidt’s opposing forms of insecurity create conflict. Where Cece thought of herself as beautiful during her adolescence, Schmidt struggled with fitting in and body image. The difference becomes apparent when Schmidt wants to show her off to appease his uncool past self — and Cece has some issues with that from her own experiences. The rocky path that gets them together for good takes four whole seasons; to be happy, Schmidt and Cece need to get past the emotional immaturities of their respective identities. When they move beyond how the world sees them, they have a chance to understand the truth: the labels other people apply to them can’t control how they see each other.

Schmidt: “You like me for my personality?”

Cece: “I was surprised, too.” - New Girl, 1x22

The Tightrope of Friendships and Beauty

Even someone as pretty as Cece can’t live forever on the validation of beauty alone, and one of the key ways she starts to build a three-dimensional self-image is through her friendships.

At the beginning of the show, most of Cece’s supposed friends are the models she works with, who may share her work experiences, but not her interests. She’s also in a constant state of competition with these women for the same spots in their industry, making it hard to build trust — especially since women are already conditioned to see each other as threats to their status and romantic prospects.

Cece finds more happiness by nurturing friendships outside of this atmosphere of contention, with friends who are different than her but who have inner lives that intrigue her — like her friend Sadie who (as a gynecologist and a lesbian) is separate from any perceived ‘threats’ to Cece’s professional security and male attention. Most centrally, Cece and Jess — with their very different professions and personalities — generally sidestep the impulse to compete or compare, focusing on uplifting each other instead.

Close female friendships like Jess’ and Cece’s can be a serious health benefit. Dr. Alisa Ruby Bash says, “women “...“need to maintain those connections. It increases serotonin and oxytocin, the bonding hormone.” The emotional support Cece gets from Jess keeps the messier parts of her life from spiraling.

We’ve all heard that attractive women have difficulty making female friends — and jealousy can have a negative impact on friendships. Jess has long had to deal with feeling overlooked for Cece and can sometimes be resentful or critical of Cece’s modeling career. Since Cece already worries that people only see her as the ‘pretty girl’, being reminded that her best friend judges her career choice stings. But all real friendships inevitably include conflict — and what makes these two such an aspirational duo anyway is addressing their differences and forgiving each other.

Jess: “I can’t believe I’ve known you 20 years. And you’re still my favorite person to talk to.”

Cece: “And you’re my favorite person to talk to.” - New Girl, 4x10

Despite some of the more unflattering stereotypes about pretty girls, as a friend Cece is defined by her loyalty. Her fierceness in friendship stems from a certain edge in her personality that can be intimidating at first. But with her loved ones, that edge turns protective, and her affection is most apparent when she’s defending her friends.

Cece: “Jess is by far the best person that I know, so if you guys let anything happen to her, I’m gonna come here and crazy murder you.” - New Girl, 1x01

Over the course of the show, Cece also increasingly develops platonic friendships with men — an enterprise that, as the “Pretty Girl,” she’s previously found difficult. In Cece’s experience, men are too focused on her looks to see her as ‘friend material’. But as New Girl progresses, her friendship with Jess and romantic history with Schmidt frame her differently for the other loft-mates. And although it still takes the group time to move beyond her hotness, Nick’s, Winston’s and Coach’s obligation to think of her platonically lets Cece build some of her first and closest opposite-sex friendships. Because she’s not available to them, they’re forced to see more — subtly helping Cece to do the same for herself. She’s learned there’s more to her than appearance, so she’s confident enough to demand that others take her seriously as a friend.

Over time, Cece mostly outgrows her competitive semi-friendships with fellow models who don’t have a vested interest in her improving herself and thus don’t push her to be better the way Jess and the rest of the loft-mates do. Her higher self-esteem causes her to prioritize friends who do actively want the best for her — which in turn, fuels her self-esteem even more.

Working While Beautiful - Modeling and More

For better and for worse, beauty affects your professional prospects, with unique ‘opportunities’ — and blatant prejudices. Studies indicate that attractive people have an advantage when it comes to hiring practices, salaries, perceived competence, and general likability. This positive bias can be explained by “the halo effect” — perceived positives create an expectation of more good qualities, and thus we subconsciously assume that attractive people are smarter, kinder, or more qualified than everyone else.

Schmidt: “Beautiful women… you guys can say just about anything, can’t you?” - New Girl, 1x22

Cece doesn’t get these advantages in her chosen career, though. In the modeling world, beauty is the currency; being exceptionally attractive is simply required. Being a model takes the ‘pretty girl’ label to the next level. Cece’s had to be hyper-aware of how she’s perceived since being scouted in high school. And according to a study on need satisfaction in the fashion industry, models “suffered lower well-being and greater personality maladjustment than non-models.” Despite all the positive feedback models and attractive people in general receive, being pushed to pay constant attention to their appearance can easily lead to an obsession with their flaws.

Suppressing wants, following orders, and viewing oneself as an empty vessel for someone else’s vision are occupational hazards of modeling. And we can see that this loss of autonomy has fed many of Cece’s most damaging issues: despite her naturally assertive personality, she suffers from low self-esteem, insecurity, and passivity.

Among all the problems in her industry, Cece’s biggest is that she isn’t passionate about what she’s doing. As she starts to age out of her prime modeling years, she realizes that taking whatever comes along won’t get her where she wants to go.

Eventually, we discover that her forceful personality and industry knowledge make her the perfect candidate to manage models. In typical Cece fashion, it takes someone pointing out this talent for her to realize it — but she runs with that observation to overcome her limitations and transform into the passionate working woman she never knew she could be. Aware of her own power, she finally gets comfortable taking up the space she deserves.

Cece: “And, uh, listen closely, Marco, Donovan’s subsection H is a deal-breaker, so rip it out of the agreement and burn it. Or we’re walking.” - New Girl, 6x06

Undoubtedly, ‘pretty’ comes with privileges, both social and economic — but being defined by any one trait is limiting, as it obscures the complexities of one’s personality. Cece’s young adult years are spent undoing the damage of having internalized an image that was projected onto her. Author Margaret Atwood explains this feeling of an internal audience as the result of misogyny: “Even pretending you aren’t catering to male fantasies is a male fantasy… You are a woman with a man inside watching a woman. You are your own voyeur.”

Being trapped in the ‘pretty girl’ box limits Cece more than she realizes, but a world of deeper connection opens up when she learns to see herself as multi-dimensional. She teaches us that we can overcome what’s limiting us, as soon as we’re honest with ourselves about the problem. Notably, her gradual transformation doesn’t require a physical makeover or ceasing to take pride in her appearance; she finds a way to keep a look that feels like her amid the crazy demands of her life as a businesswoman, mother, and wife. It’s not the beauty itself, but the pigeonholing that holds her back — and all she needs to break herself out is to trust her killer instincts.

Cece: “So help me help you be the everyone that you can be!” - New Girl, 6x12