The world’s most beautiful people

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This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at

Dutch photographer Michel Szulc Krysanowski put an ad in ten newspapers, in ten countries, asking people who considered themselves to be “the most beautiful in the world” to contact him. Exactly what “beautiful” meant was left unexplained. The results surprised even him.
Szulc Krzyzanowski's project took him five long years. He began in São Paulo, drawn there by the beautiful letters he received from people there. "Many of them lived in deep poverty in the favelas but felt the most beautiful in the world nonetheless."
In India too, Szulc Krzyzanowski ventured into the slums. A homeless woman from Mumbai said she was the most beautiful because she always looked for a glimmer of hope. "And when somebody else does not have anything to eat, I give them some food of mine," she told the photographer.

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I am me
Likewise in other countries visited by Szulc Kryzanowski. Some 80 percent of participants say it's not physical aspects that make them the most beautiful. An 11-year-old from Mexico said, "Many people are more handsome than I am, but they are they and I am me, and that is why I am the most beautiful in the world."
In China the photographer found some very self-assured people in front of his camera. He said, "Compared to other countries Chinese youths are very confident. Apparently the one-child policy ensured that they always got enough attention, and they are in equilibrium with themselves, their parents and society."
Money worries
Szulc Krzyzanowski also visited France, Spain, Iran, Poland, Namibia and the United States. The Netherlands was not selected, because "I needed people in each country to help me find candidates. I couldn't manage to find anyone in the Netherlands. People I approached were afraid that it would cost them too much time, or were worried about expenses. Yet in the countries where I did find help, people  displayed great enthusiasm and a desire to co-operate. In such circumstances it's always easy to solve any practical problems."
The project has a Dutch predecessor, though. In the 1980s Szulc Krzyzanowski made a project entitled "The fairest of the Netherlands", but, says the photographer, "that was about eccentric people. It had less depth than the current project."
Positive choices
After this quest of many years, financed by himself, the photographer's outlook has changed profoundly. "I kept seeing people making positive choices, who made a positive choice for love to be part of their lives, and most of all, who radiated beauty. Even if their circumstances were difficult, like in the slums of São Paolo or in India, they simply made the choice to be happy. That has completely changed my own attitude."
It's Szulc Krzyzanowski's intention to offer the first edition of his book free via the internet. Thus far his books were only to be found in US and European bookshops. He is hoping that the free distribution of his optimistic message will reach all four corners of the world. Szulc Krzyzanowski is counting on some international solidarity, saying "If people who can afford to spend a little more bought the luxury edition, it would help finance the free copies."
This story was taken from the latest edition of The State We're In - Building a Better You.
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