What Makes You Beautiful?

Some answer that it’s their confidence; others say compassion. A few cite dazzling smiles or silvering hair, while others mention spunky personality or a willingness to serve others. Is beauty physical or spiritual, an inner spark that leads to an outer glow? Or is it simply some innate trait or quality that makes you, you?


“Beauty is embracing who you are, working with what you’ve got, accentuating the positive, down-playing the negative, in both physical attributes and in your spirit.”
­— Nancy Wood, pediatrician

NANCY WOOD (above left) Smiling is most definitely contagious, especially when Nancy Wood grins first. Her husband Staples says that it – and her dimples – are two of her best features. “A dimple is a birth defect actually, ” says the cheery Mobile pediatrician. “A muscle of the face is too short, so when you contract the muscle, there’s a pinch in it that creates a dimple.” It’s a striking trait that she inherited from her mother and hopes to pass down to her own babies one day.

Staples adds, “I’ve also always been impressed with her true compassion and love for all children.”

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JIM JOHNSTON (above right) For the past 40 years, Jim Johnston has been sporting his ’stache. Indeed there is beauty in staunchness. “I just let it grow like weeds, ” the attorney says of his signature look. But, coiffing the handlebar takes finesse from a pro, so he has long entrusted his whisker grooming to barber Johnny Sullivan.


SYMONE FRENCH Symone “Spoon” French, above left, says her sense of style and self-expression is one of her best attributes. The college student and Midtown Mellow Mushroom waitress defines her look as “a melting pot. I can go real prep or real grunge. It depends on the day.” Right now, she’s all about her new ’do, a red-tinted afro.

“I’m a firm believer in what you see is what you get. Naturally, I don’t believe in covering it all up. I know that’s sometimes a hard thing to do.”
— Debbie Richards, sales associate, model,
mother and grandmother

DEBBIE RICHARDS, above right,  says that while gray tresses aren’t for everyone, she wanted to embrace her locks. Showing other women how to enhance  what’s on the inside is one of the things Richards enjoys most about working at the local boutique Dragonfly. “I love when a woman comes in thinking she can’t wear a certain kind of jeans or a certain top, but she changes her mind. It’s about making her feel good about herself.”


JUDY MARSTON (above left) “I noticed everybody was dying their hair, but it didn’t make them look much younger, ” Judy Marston says. The business speaker and photographer opted to love her gray a few years ago because it was something different. After spending a month visiting a friend in Colorado, she debuted her silver look.

DR. HANNAH HART, above right, decided to go gray because it was just easier. “I didn’t like constantly dying it, ” she says. She has too many other ways to spend her time. The educator and former Coast Guard petty officer says the process started when one of her students pointed out her first gray hair. “He pulled it out, and I told him that was the beginning.” The Delta Sigma Theta alumni association president has been working with Mobile County schools in some capacity for more than 30 years. “When children learn, you can almost see a light turn on in them. Oh, wow, that’s what teaching is all about!”


“Confidence makes a person beautiful. When someone is confident in who they are, their actions reflect it. A confident person is not afraid to make mistakes,  but learns and grows by doing so, making a stronger and more beautiful person.”
— Celie Tobias, mother of Desi, 12; Michael, 10; Jack & Macy, 5

CELIE TOBIAS, above left, is beloved for her wit and her Cindy Crawford-esque beauty mark. Her husband, Desi, says of his wife of 17 years, “To me the greatest thing about Celie is how devoted she is to serving her family and other people. That is what is most important to her. But she also has a sharp sense of humor and a common sense view of life that is refreshing.”

JOHN TANNER,  above right, has a keen appreciation for beauty. As an Alabama Coastal Foundation marine biologist, he regularly explores sights like nesting ospreys in Orange Beach and whale sharks at Alabama Point Pass. His seaside occupation and lifestyle have also inspired his hairstyle. “Just from working on the beach, surfing and being in the sun, my long, curly hair started getting knots. I was spending too much time keeping it out of knots, so I thought, ‘Why not dread it?’”


CELESTE & BRYANT MEREDITH (above left) When asked what is the most beautiful thing about her husband Bryant, Celeste Meredith smiles and says, “His patience. He puts up with me.”

“I thought she was going to say my hair, ” he laughs.

For Bryant, it was Celeste’s vocabulary that first attracted him. “She’s articulate. She used a couple of impressive words in conversation. I was an English major so …”

The Merediths, who are both nurses, share a passion for helping those less fortunate and have served on short-term medical mission trips. Soon, they hope to travel to Cambodia through the Rural Medical Development fund. “It sends people like us, who would like to go to a remote place where there’s no medical aid, to train the locals to recognize and treat basic illnesses.” Bryant says.

JJ MOODY (above right) “When I first met JJ Moody, I was blown away at the fact that she was so dainty and feminine, and she has the most amazingly detailed full-leg tattoo that I have ever seen, ” says Courtney Matthews, owner of Lunatix & Co. Moody, who works in development for the Gulf Coast Exploreum, says the Buddhist-themed design is, in a way, her own beautiful art collection. But the masterpiece that brings out her greatest joy is her 8-year-old daughter. “Sage really is the light of my life. She has a really sweet heart and is so affectionate.”


“True beauty is from the inside, and it tends to radiate outward. That’s the beauty that doesn’t fade.”
— Rosshiki Leatherwood, personal trainer

ROSSHIKI LEATHERWOOD, above left, is the poster child for a healthy physique. The former Frankfurt Galaxy fitness man and Army member has been a personal trainer for 22 years and has completed eight marathons. Leatherwood says that taking care of your body plays a big part in someone’s confidence, and it shows. Client Wilder Roberts says, “Rosshiki has a magnetic personality and a positive energy. He encourages you because he truly believes in you.”

WHITNEY BARNETT First-grade teacher Whitney Barnett, above right, has always been known for her bold, friendly smile and her quirky freckles. “I’ve had them ever since I was a little girl, ” Barnett says. “People used to say, ‘You look like Punky Brewster.’” All physical traits aside, the bubbly Robert E. Lee Elementary educator exudes a genuine love for encouraging young minds. “The most beautiful thing about being a teacher is influencing children to develop a love for learning and life.”

From the Mouths of Children

MB asked St. Ignatius kindergarteners and first graders at Robert E. Lee Primary in Satsuma: What Makes YOU Beautiful?

What makes me beautiful is my smile. — Frances Katz, 6

I help people. It makes me beautiful. — Bry Baggett, 6

I am beautiful because I have beautiful red hair. — Lexi Bolton, 5

What makes me beautiful is that I’m nice and that God’s in my heart. — James Hollon, 6

I look beautiful if I have a pink, red and purple puffy dress on. — Laurel Steiner, 6

My brown hair is beautiful. My heart is beautiful. I like my ears. They help me hear. My ears turn red sometimes. This makes me beautiful. — Randal Barfoot, 7

I am beautiful because I smell good. — Charlie Zakutney, 6

I am beautiful because I have good legs. — Chance Martin, 6

I think I am beautiful because I can sing good. I can draw good and pretty. I am creative because I have brown eyes. I love being pretty. — Chloe Dykes, 7

What makes me beautiful? My blonde hair makes me beautiful because it has sparkles in it with a little love. — Ariel Edwards, 6

I am beautiful because I have nice hair. My nice hair is yellow. I am beautiful because I am smart too. I am smart because of my teacher. — Caden Tanner, 7 

I am beautiful because I have brown eyes. — McNeill Robinson, 6

This is what makes me beautiful. My sparkly dress and my hairbow. But what really makes me beautiful is my compassion. — Shelby Smith, 6

I think my glasses make me beautiful. My green eyes and my eyelashes make me beautiful. I like my smile. I like how I laugh. I like me. — Vaida Baggett, 6

text by Mallory Boykin • photos by Matthew Coughlin

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