5 Famous People You Should Never Tell A Woman She Looks Like

Telling a woman she looks like a celebrity is basically a compliment in disguise--unless you tell her she looks like Rosie O'Donnel. Better to keep that kind of thing to yourself.

I was hanging out with my friend Jack a few nights ago, shooting the breeze, and we were talking about Woody Allen's muses: first (and best) was Diane Keaton, then there was Mia Farrow, now Scarlett Johannsen.

"Speaking of Scarlett, can you believe someone once told me I look like her?" I said. "It must've just been because I was wearing red lipstick and had my hair pulled back, like she wears it sometimes."

Of course, what I was really saying was: Hey, Jack, why don't you just indulge me here and say I DO look like Scarlett? Because then I'll feel hot!

Instead, he said, "No, not Scarlett. You look like Patti Smith!"

There was a loud thud when my chin hit the ground. As it rolled slowly across the floor towards him, Jack must've realized it was time for some damage control, so he hastily added, "Only you're a lot prettier than she is."

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Yeah, right! Too little, too late! While Patti Smith is inarguably one of the most important female rock stars of all time, as well as a total bad-ass (not to mention an artist I truly admire), she's not exactly one of the world's great beauties. In fact, some might even contend she's downright unattractive.

Doesn't Jack know the only rule of the "which-celeb-you-look-like" game? Whatever you say, it should come off as a wild compliment! Because when you say to a person, "hey, you look like that one star ..." what we hear is "you look like that one devastatingly attractive person ...." And because that's the expectation that is set up, it's all the more painful to hear an answer like Patti Smith. You might as well just say Homer Simpson.

And Patti Smith is not the only famous person I've been insulted to hear that I look like.

Many times I've been told I look like Janis Joplin, for instance. Yes, she's one of the best-known female singers of all time--and I do love her--and my personal style has certainly been influenced somewhat by her. But oi vey--that mug!

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Another time, I was told I reminded a dude of the painter Frida Kahlo. This was well before she was portrayed by Selma Hayek in that movie--when any mention of her name brought to mind, for me, her two most striking physical traits: her mono-brow and her moustache. Now, Frida is certainly not an ugly woman; far from it. But considering that what stands out most about her, looks-wise, is her facial hair--and considering I had a 'stache and a single thicket above my eyes when I was an adolescent, untrained in the modern ways of electrolysis--I wasn't exactly flattered.

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Some dope who writes for New York magazine, whom I met at a gallery opening not long ago, seemed to think he was paying me a big compliment when he said I looked like Lily Tomlin. Now, okay, she used to be pretty ... until she turned 300 earlier this year. I honestly wanted to cry. And to get a face lift.

But the absolute worst comparison I have EVER gotten? This one nut-job who was working at a health food store in Astoria, Queens told me I looked like ... Well, hold on a sec. I need to set this up a little--although even once I do, you're never going to believe this. But I started going gray very early, and by the time I was in my mid-twenties, I was already seriously salt-and-pepper. I went into the health food-store hoping someone there might have a suggestion about what I could start eating--or stop eating--to make my hair go back to its natural color.* When I told the wacko behind the counter--who resembled no one so much as Howard Stern, with his long black hair and pale skin, except that he was wearing some kind of Hari Krishna outfit--what I was looking for, he stared at me for a while. Then he told me I should eat raisins and poppy-seed paste (on crackers) to make my hair go dark again. I thanked him, and was about to go, but he was still looking at me, so I said, "What is it?" And he said, "I've been trying to figure out which movie star you look like." I was preparing myself to be demure and polite after he told me I was a dead ringer for Anna Paquin (whom I have been compared to a number of times before) ... but that's when he dropped the weapon of mass ego destruction.

"Richard Gere!" he said, slamming the counter in exuberance, so overjoyed was he to have come up with the name. "That's who you look like!"


I think that's the moment when I went completely gray.

I hope it was just the hair that made Howard think I looked like Richard.

At least I know it wasn't the Adam's Apple.

Have you guys been compared to famous people that you hope to Buddha you do not in any way resemble?



*If you want to read all about my hair journey--including why I held out so long against coloring it--check out the essay I wrote for Salon, which was edited by my now-pal (and blog reader!) Whitney.

PS: TO ALL OF WHO ARE HAVING TROUBLE COMMENTING: I asked the tech guy to look into it a few days ago, and bugged him about it again today. ... TO Edwinna--you have a new puppy! So cute! What kind? ... Wonderland: What is a dog beach? Is this in NYC? I think it's okay to go sans dog, but might be more fun to borrow your friend's. ... And LG: I'm totally planning to go to the local shelter soon to adopt a dog for a day! Will report back when I do. And I'll keep my fingers crossed that your canine companion helps you find a human one.