Just ask Boyé Lafayette De Mente that's his real name about the signals your face is sending. De Mente pioneered the art of face reading, an ancient practice that assigns your success and failure to the size of your forehead or the length of your earlobes. His several books on the subject (including the best-selling Face Reading for Fun and Profit) and lately his Web site, HowToPickSexyPartners.com, detail how and why your mug might be ruining your life.
New Times: So you read faces. Is that like reading tea leaves?
Boyé Lafayette De Mente: No. Reading tea leaves is far more arbitrary, and isn't based on physical principles, as face reading is. It's about the size and shape of the forehead, the eyes, the eyebrows. Men with curved eyebrows are closer to a feminine psyche; they interpret things in a more artistic way. The key is not about the individual whose face is being read but how others react to that face. It's ingrained in the human psyche, genetically programmed into us, before infancy we're born to react to the facial features of other people.
NT: Why do you do this?
De Mente: It's a lost Chinese folk art that, after a time, was primarily performed among Gypsies. I wanted to bring it to the western world. Face reading is very scientific and so obvious. Here's an example: Think about how people treat infants with big pretty eyes.
NT: Not right now. You write about people-sexing. What's that?
De Mente: About 60 percent of all face readings are related to sexuality. I was trying to reach a larger audience, so I came up with the term "people-sexing." It's a takeoff on the term "chicken-sexing."
NT: I'm sorry?
De Mente: When chicks are first born, you can't tell whether they're male or female by looking at them. The only way you can tell is by squeezing open their anus, sticking your finger in there, and feeling for a little bump.
NT: That's not part of face reading, is it?
De Mente: No. I just adopted the name.
NT: You believe there's a genetic link between the size and shape of the facial features and the sexuality of individuals. So you can just look at my eyebrows and tell whether I'm good in bed?
De Mente: In part. You have to read all the primary features. A lot of the potency of a person is in their eyes. Everyone comes with a built-in battery, and in some people it's very strong. Some people who have very bad faces, ungainly faces, can be okay because they have very powerful eyes. And look at very old people, in their 80s or 90s. They invariably have strong noses, chins. And big ears. These are signs linked to longevity.
NT: My ears determine how long I'm going to live?
De Mente: Also the amount of eyebrow hair, which is a strong indication of the life force and sexuality. Women who pluck their eyebrows are sending a negative message: that their life force is weak, that they're flighty, that they're not sexually potent. They'll have a hell of a time getting a date.
NT: What do you tell someone whose face tells you they'll always be a romantic failure?
De Mente: Well, doing face reading isn't a good way to win friends, I'll tell you that. I give advice based on what I see, like, "Accentuate your positive attributes," rather than just saying, "You have a weak chin; no one will ever go out with you."
NT: And when someone has a really ugly face? Like a woman with zits and a beard?
De Mente: She already knows she's not attractive. I'd speak to her in general terms about how really handsome people have greater advantages. But I never specifically say, "You're ugly, wow! You'll never make it by virtue of your face!" That isn't helpful.
NT: Do you find that ugly people more often behave badly?
De Mente: Probably 70 or 80 percent of all people who behave badly are unattractive. Their facial features are a representation of their built-in genetic character. Their face determined how they were treated by their parents, their peers, everyone as they were growing up. They became bitter, even though it wasn't deliberate that their parents were treating them differently because they had a funny looking nose or mouth.
NT: But nobody knows this stuff, at least consciously.
De Mente: It's vital to learn these things, then. Otherwise your face is sending too many negative signals, and your chances of making out are smaller. We have to overcome our face's negative signals to be successful. Barbra Streisand was acutely aware that she had an oversized nose when she was young, and it's what made her want to be a performer. She tried harder because she knew she wasn't going to be a success as a pretty girl.
NT: Speaking of noses, is it true what they say about the size of a man's nose?
De Mente: There are different kinds of big noses. If they're not grossly oversized, they suggest an aggressive manner. If your nose is just big, but not grossly so, if it's baggy or wide, it can suggest a balance in the size of other body parts, yes.
NT: You were on What's My Line? in the '70s.
De Mente: Yes, and Soupy Sales almost punched me out. Because I said his most distinguishing feature was his big mouth. But I was merely pointing out the reason for his success.
NT: In another book, you write about how women can use makeup to strengthen the sexual messages sent by their facial features. So, you just add some eyeliner and poof! you'll have more success? Isn't that cheating?
De Mente: I would call it improving on nature to get a better advantage. It doesn't change your programmed character, but it can change the way that people react to you, which is good enough. A woman who wears dark lipstick is making a sexual come-on. This affects her behavior and attitude, and therefore the way people respond to her. If a woman goes in for a job interview with her eyebrows plucked really thin, she's going to have less success, because her eyebrows send a negative message: that she's weak. I grew a chin beard to hide my weak chin, which isn't immoral.
NT: Yet your books aren't really self-help books, because we're all pretty much stuck with the face we're born with.
De Mente: Yes, but a person can improve their appearance by manipulating their face, and thus improve their chances in life. A well-balanced face is very important in the ways that people react to you. Nature requires balance. You, I would grow your chin beard a little bit longer, to improve the reaction of other people to you.
NT: Now you're reading my face!
De Mente: Your ears are good-sized, which suggests you'll live a long life. Your nose is off maybe two degrees.
NT: It's crooked.
De Mente: Well, don't worry about it. People are subconsciously disturbed by perfection. But I'd grow a little bit more chin beard.
NT: Yes, I know. So, one of your books is called Aphrodisiac Recipes for Ambitious Lovers.
De Mente: Every culture has these recipes, and I began collecting them years ago. Some are strange and very funny. The Bible contains many recipes that are aphrodisiacs. The people who wrote the Bible had no concept of what they were doing at the time.
NT: Maybe they were just horny. Hey, what about Michael Jackson's face?
De Mente: His biggest problem is that he got too much attention. If his face hadn't been publicized, he would have had a major advantage, because all he was doing was trying to change his facial features into what the mainstream likes best. His motivation was to become as white as possible. His problem was created by the media.
NT: That darn media! Speaking of which, I hear that you gave New Times its name.
De Mente: In the late '60s, my brother was acquainted with some young people from ASU who were interested in starting a newspaper here. He brought them to me because I'd been in the magazine business for years. I spoke with them for about four hours, and became well-acquainted with their goals. I suggested that they call the paper New Times, to reflect the changing culture. They were a group of young people who wanted to do something important.
NT: Like uncover the secret of face reading!
De Mente: Precisely.