Washington DC's army of aides and lobbyists spent all year campaigning for Kris Kitto to deem them the most attractive people in a notoriously beauty-challenged town. But when 75 contenders showed up at the final photo shoot for The Hill's 50 Most Beautiful People list, he practically had to peel them off the marble floor of the Cannon House office building's stately rotunda.
For all of their status-consciousness, these people are not red carpet ready, not yet trained to turn their good sides to the camera, lips reflexively pursed. They must be coaxed into a heartthrob's mien.
"I focus on getting people to relax, because their nerves will translate directly into the photos," Kitto, The Hill's features editor, said a few weeks ago as hopefuls started arriving for the shoot. "I like that turquoise bracelet," he told one man, a striking education lobbyist. "I like the blue! I love your dress!" he told a young press secretary. Kitto was a font of compliments, a dogged putter-at-ease, his flattery formulaic but not insincere.
"I know I'm not, like, super-natural when it comes to pictures," explained a young Republican woman who was struggling to find a natural pose. She was leaning against a marble banister, her hands clasped awkwardly in front of her. "If we’re talking in the hallway, what are you doing with your hands?" asked the photographer, Benjamin Myers. "Do you put them on your hips at all? Do you cross your arms?" He resorted to modeling the pose himself. "You could do an arm up like this," he suggested.
With no hair, makeup, or wardrobe help, it was up to the contenders to look as hot as they could manage, but not so hot that they might regret it. Though they were seasoned in legislative brinksmanship, this was an entirely new kind of calculation, which only increased their unease.
"As a woman, I do think about if people see this and whether will there be judgment," said Amy Cheng of Senator Chuck Grassley’s office, who ended up at number one on the list. "'Is she serious about her job? Is she here to serve her country or herself?"
According to longstanding precedent, about 40 of the spots are held for aides, assistants, and lobbyists. The remainder go to the few legitimately attractive members of Congress — including freshmen Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Cedric Richmond (D-LA).
In the hotness proxy election, the GOP spanked Democrats by a lopsided 26-16 margin (the remainder described themselves as nonpartisan or independent). The self-described un-super-natural woman did not make the final cut.