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Real Woman, Real Beauty: Why Our Flaws Are Beautiful

Perfection is overrated. Meet six women -- including Top Chef's Padma Lakshmi -- who have learned to embrace (and flaunt!) the imperfections that make them gorgeous.

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Karen Pearson
Karen Pearson
Karen Pearson
wrinkles
Karen Pearson
Karen Pearson
Karen Pearson
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"I love my scar."

"I love my scar."
-- Padma Lakshmi, 37, award-winning cookbook author (her latest, Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet, debuts this month) and host of Bravo's Top Chef

When Lakshmi started modeling after college, perfection ruled the runways. "I felt like I wasn't even in the same universe as these women," she says. Why? Lakshmi was The One With The Scar. A serious car accident at the age of 14 broke her pelvis, shattered her arm, and permanently marred her right hand -- the one she used to punch through the windshield in an effort to free herself. Her arm now carries a 7-inch reminder of the ordeal. "While I was self-conscious about the scar when I was younger -- I'd stand just so, to hide it with my other arm -- I never thought, Poor me," she says. Much to her surprise, designers and photographers were drawn to her scar. She got booked because of it. And her fans, well, they think the scar is hot. "Guys seem to love it. It makes me seem fleshy and rugged and human to them," says Lakshmi. "And women respond to it too: It shows that not everything is perfect."

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"My gap is sexy!"

"My gap is sexy!"
-- Michelle Taylor, 32

"I have a 1.5-millimeter gap between my two front teeth. In high school, boy, did I get teased. I insisted my mom take me to the dentist to fix the problem, but the good old man refused. He said he might consider braces in a year or so. But thanks to gap-toothed Madonna, I decided to embrace my imperfection. Now, people on the street often stop me to compliment my smile."

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"My butt can stop traffic."

"My butt can stop traffic."
-- Dawn Denise, 31

"When I hit puberty, my butt developed more than the rest of me. Clothes didn't fit properly and people would comment on my rear, so I started to wear long coats to cover myself. Today, though, I realize that my butt has a gravitational force all its own: It stops guys in their tracks, who have nothing but admiring things to say about it. I've accepted that this is my shape. My butt is here to stay, and I'm not afraid to let the world see it!"

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"My wrinkles are my life."

"My wrinkles are my life."
-- Macon McDavid, 70

"I went into a black hole when my son died in 2003. I didn't even look in a mirror for about three years. Then my doctor told me that if I didn't start living my life, I'd die. That got my attention. I started really seeing myself again. I know a lot of my wrinkles are frown lines, but I also know that even more are from laughing. I have earned each wrinkle, and I'm happy to have every single one."

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"I've grown to relish my curves."

"I've grown to relish my curves!"
-- Lyndsey Kane, 25

"I used to be self-conscious about being heavier than my sister and my friends. I was always the one wearing a T-shirt over my bathing suit. But as I got older, I realized that regardless of my diet or exercise habits, this size-14 body wasn't going anywhere, so I stopped hating it. I learned that my body doesn't stop me from doing what I want or wearing what I want. I'm beautiful; I have curves that my skinny friends don't -- and can fill out a few tops that they can't, to boot! My curves give me confidence...get me more attention."

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"I have small boobs."

"I have small boobs."
-- Assia Winfield, 42

"I'm in good shape, but I've always been insecure about my AA breasts. People have actually said to me, 'Your body would be perfect if you only had breasts.' But you know, I'm lucky to have a healthy body. I even got a tattoo next to my right breast. It's like saying to the world, 'Hey, this is it!'"

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, October 2007.

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