Some Like It Hot

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, 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 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.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela