Remember how the hottest girls in high school were all bitches? Well, Vanessa Abbott is a new kind of hot girl. The Arizona State University communications major was just voted the Hottest Woman in America by HotOrNot.com, an interactive Web site where curvy curves and pointy cheekbones rule, and where people voluntarily post photographs of themselves for all of America to judge. Twenty-one-year-old Abbott beat out tens of thousands of other American women, and she's using her new title to prove that hot girls can be nice, too. And helpful. And into things other than eye makeup. Over lunch at California Pizza Kitchen, Vanessa and I deconstructed "hot" and came up with a new definition -- one that involves helping underprivileged children and never losing your cool when people are asking you snotty questions.
New Times: Congratulations on being really, really hot!
Vanessa Abbott: Thank you! I know! Weird, huh?
NT: How did this happen to you?
Abbott: Me and a friend heard about the Web site, and we're like, "Why not?" Just for fun, we put our pictures up, and then it kind of slipped my mind. Sometimes I'd remember to go look to see if I was being rated, you know, "hot." And one day James from HotOrNot.com called me and said I was the hottest. Then it just went wild.
NT: Wild! Do you ever have to give up this title? If it's discovered that there's someone hotter than you, do you go back to just being sort of really great-looking?
Abbott: I don't know. I'm the first one, so it's hard to say. But it's an annual thing. HotOrNot kind of tallied up all the votes from the Web site from like the year 2000 on, and I guess I had the most votes.
NT: Wait. So you're like three really hot women in one! And how did your girlfriend who sent in her photos do?
Abbott: I don't really know. We never really compared our votes. I think she got like 8.8, but it was a long time ago.
NT: Was there a bitch fight?
Abbott: No. She's a good friend. She was just happy for me.
NT: How do we know you didn't cheat? You could have gotten all your friends to vote for you a hundred times each.
Abbott: The Web site has a way of keeping that from happening. James explained it to me, but I don't remember what he told me. The people who go through and just vote randomly get pushed off the site. You're not supposed to just sit there and judge who's hot over and over, I guess. But I assure you, I did not go on there and vote over and over again for myself. I have better things to do!
NT: Didn't you already know you were the hottest girl in the nation before you got the title?
Abbott: No. I would never rate myself; I see myself differently, and I would never tell anyone I'm beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
NT: I can't believe you just said that.
Abbott: I know! God. Well, you know? A lot of people could think that I'm not beautiful. Different cultures have different ideas of what's beautiful, or what's hot.
NT: What is hotness?
Abbott: You know, I don't really know. I know when I look through magazines and I see a girl who's beautiful or clean, I might think of "hot." A lot of it has to do with youth and what's "in." It's pop culture that says what's hot.
NT: So hot isn't just pretty, it's fashionable. Current. And never, ever old.
Abbott: Yeah! People judge how hot you are on many things. You have to be with the times and up on fashion, like that.
NT: Is hot important?
Abbott: It's important, but there are some other important things. I don't think it's the only thing to consider if you're judging a person. Whether you want to admit it or not, people care what other people look like. Hotness doesn't rule my life. I want to accomplish other things in my life besides a level of hotness.
NT: So there are things more important than being hot.
Abbott: Intelligence is good. People sometimes think I'm not intelligent. Since I got this title, people talk down to me, like I don't understand what they're saying. I sometimes work as a waitress, and I've had guys mock me while I'm trying to add up their check. You know, they'll say, "Hey, girlie, two plus two is four. Take your time!" People judge you. Or they think if I'm intelligent and attractive, I have more power over them, and they try to push me down because it's intimidating.
NT: You're a waitress. You could spit in their food.
Abbott: I never thought about that. But I could never do that. People don't realize that I take those comments to heart and go home and cry about it. They're just trying to look smarter, and it's real tacky.
NT: Were you an ugly child?
Abbott: My parents thought I was beautiful. But believe me, I had awkward moments.
NT: Beautiful people always say things like that. Awkward moments. What if you'd been a really ugly child 24 hours a day?
Abbott: Well, between the ages 10 and 15, I was growing into myself, and didn't consider myself beautiful. Beautiful people aren't beautiful all day long, every day. Sometimes things don't look good, like your hair is bad or you have a pimple or whatever.
NT: Do other women hate you?
Abbott: I get some bitter remarks now and then, and I get a lot of looks. I get some people rolling their eyes at me. But you know, here's the thing: Women are competitive in general, and I can't explain that to you, because I'm not like that. My attitude is, "The more beautiful you are, the happier I am for you." I always live by the rule, "Treat others the way you want to be treated." I can't believe how other women act. Jealousy is a horrible emotion.
NT: Who's the second hottest woman in the world, after you?
Abbott: Well, if it were up to me, I'd say Charlize Theron. She's really beautiful, just a classic beauty. There's a lot of beautiful women, millions of them. I'm sure there are a lot of beautiful women out there I don't even know about.
NT: There might be a couple. Now, how can you use "Hottest Woman in America" to your advantage?
Abbott: I've gotten a lot of publicity, which has given me the chance to show people that I'm not just a pretty face. And I've been able to use it to pursue my modeling career, which has been nice. Other than that, I enjoy showing people that I'm a good person, and I'd like to, well, I know this sounds cheesy, but I'd like to use all this attention to do good things.
NT: Cheesy? Why in the world would that sound cheesy?
Abbott: You know, it's the typical thing that people in my position say. Except they never follow through and do it. Women in beauty pageants say that, because it's what people want to hear and it makes them sound well-rounded, so you don't think they're just into looking good and eye makeup and stuff. But I mean it. I like making other people excited, and I want to do a lot of that.
NT: Will you pose for Playboy?
Abbott: Never. Ever! I'll never do anything nude. I mean, in public. It's against my morals, and I don't want the whole world to see me naked. People are desperate for their 15 minutes of fame, and they'll do anything to get it. Which is horrible!
NT: I'll bet you've gotten a lot of marriage proposals since you were named Hottest Woman.
Abbott: Joking ones, mostly from customers at work. I'm not ready to get married. I need to finish school and, you know, do things for myself. I'm going to get a job in public relations. And I want to help needy children, maybe as a tutor or something.
NT: A really hot tutor! You were the cover model for a USA Weekend magazine about the science of beauty. What's that?
Abbott: It's the science of things you can do to make yourself more beautiful. Not just eating right but sleeping right, nutrition, that sort of thing. So they talked to me about how I reduce stress, and how much I sleep, and all this stuff.
NT: And then they judged your responses, like in a beauty pageant! One of them said you needed to cut out all the crap you're eating and you'd be more beautiful. She wrote that junk food makes you ugly.
Abbott: Well, she wanted to see me eating more fruit. You know, like, don't sit down and eat a whole large pizza by yourself.
NT: Which you're doing right now.
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Abbott: Well, but it's not a large! This is a medium, and I might take some of it home.
Abbott: Well, he was talking about job interviews. We were talking about stressful situations, like if I was applying for a job and a girl was jealous or bitter toward me. I said I'd try to become her friend. He said that wasn't realistic, because sometimes people don't want to be your friend. They said I should just make it snappy and focus on good things and get through it, but don't try to make everyone like you. (Laughs.) So, how am I doing?