I was too sexy - so they sacked me

Who says looks aren't important? If you're beautiful, you'll have your pick of jobs - but being `too attractive' can get you fired, as Marina Baker discovered
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The Independent Culture
Good-looking people have an easier time finding work, according to a new survey. Researchers at Glasgow's Strathclyde University surveyed 100 local businesses and concluded that bosses of trendy bars, restaurants and fashion boutiques prefer to employ attractive staff. "Ugly" folk lose out even if they possess superior skills and qualifications.

The more aesthetically challenged might gripe at the unfairness of it all. But the fact is, looks matter. I should know. I got fired from a job recently for being "too attractive". That's what my boss said. And he was probably right.

Until September I had a regular column in Punch magazine called "The Punch Milkmaid." The idea was that I dressed up as a milkmaid, donning a white coat and tilting my cap like leggy lovelies used to do on Benny Hill's show. Armed with a pint of milk, I would knock at the door of a celebrity first thing in the morning, and ask them something provocative. They were supposed to shout at me, thus providing some entertaining copy. It never quite worked out like that.

Only two people ever slammed the door in my face: the writer, Julie Burchill, and the playwright, Alan Bennett. Burchill, I believe, is not a morning person, so that's fair enough. But Bennett appeared to find my cleavage a little daunting. His eyes widened in horror as I stood there offering him "a pint of my finest". "Oh no! No no no!" he said. "I'm going to close the door now. Very slowly and very nicely."

Other than that, all manner of celebs tended to throw their doors wide open, give me coffee and let me pat the heads of their dogs and children. My last interview was with Arthur Smith, the comedian. It was 7am. He was on his way to bed when I called round. "I'd invite you to join me," he said. "But I don't think my girlfriend would like it."

This was too much for Punch's editor, James Steen, who handed me my P45. "You have to put it into context," said Steen when I called him at the weekend to discuss the vagaries of employing drop dead gorgeous personnel. "Your predecessor was an ugly brute of a male hack who upset people wherever he went. But no one can help liking you, Marina. They want to co-operate. Anyone who finds a gorgeous girl standing on their doorstep with her cleavage exposed when they've just crawled out of bed is bound to be receptive," he explained.

This is precisely why bosses in Glasgow - and everywhere else - employ pretty people. The chef can resemble a cross between Ann Widdecombe and Patrick Moore so long as his sauces taste good and he doesn't over cook the vegetables. But front of house staff liaise with the public. Customers are far less likely to complain at being seated near the toilet if they're shown to the table by a dead ringer for Brad Pitt or Melinda Messenger.

Why are so many waiters gay? Because gay men tend to look after themselves, to take a bit of pride in their appearance. Why are so many burger bar staff painfully sick-looking youngsters with bad acne? Because the wages are crap and no one else wants the job. Their employers don't have the choice open to Glasgow's trendy service sector.

Employers know what customers want. We much prefer a Kate Moss type to say: "Suits you madam. How would you like to pay?" Could you really calmly look a Jo Brand lookalike straight in the eye, and say: "Actually I'd better try it in a size eight."

After a hard day's retail therapy, we like to unwind with a glass of Chardonnay poured by the scrummiest bit of eye candy with a cute butt and a winning smile. Don't we? Yes of course we do. When paying over the odds for a service - whether it's a pounds 5 pizza or a pounds 500 dress - it is far easier to part with money when you feel special, as if you're buying into the beautiful people.

There's another more obvious allure. It is safe to assume that when Julie Goodyear, aka Bet Lynch, went to work at the Rover's Return, she wasn't employed for the size of her earrings. Barmaids who look like barmaids - it's such a cliche it has become a generic term - go down well with the punters.

In court, an attractive defendant is more likely to find sympathy with jurors. Beautiful people can sell us anything, from clothes to magazines and novels - publishers fall over themselves to sign up attractive authors. Spelling can be checked, grammar corrected. But an ugly writer? Oh dear, what are we going to do about the jacket photograph?

I asked James Steen at Punch if, despite him feeling the need to relieve me of my duties, he thought looks were important. "Of course they are, Marina darling. I wouldn't have given you for the job in the first place if you weren't so damned attractive, now would I?"