When Scottish spinster Susan Boyle auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent in 2008, judges expected very little from her. She turned up in a dowdy gold dress, pumps and with unkempt hair, and the audience sniggered at the unemployed woman’s very presence on the reality singing competition. But there was pin drop silence when she belted out Les Misérables I Dreamed A Dream. Everyone, including the judges, was in awe of her angelic voice.

Since then, Boyle has made six albums and graced the covers of magazines, including Harpers Bazaar. She has overhauled her image – no more untamed caterpillar eyebrows, greying curls and frumpy dresses.

Sadly, however, despite the glamorous metamorphosis, most people still remember her as the frumpy woman who made headlines on a reality TV show.

First impressions last, after all.

The tricky part is we don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

A handout image obtained on April 17, 2009 from ITV shows Scottish charity worker Susan Boyle appearing on Britains Got Talent (BGT) television show during the BGT auditions in Glasgow. Scottish singing sensation Susan Boyle, whose soaring voice has made her a global star thanks to YouTube, went through to the final on May 24, of the British television talent show that made her famous. A clip of the 48-year-old singing I Dreamed A Dream from musical Les Miserables in the Britains Got Talent auditions has been watched 60 million times on the video sharing website and her fans include actress Demi Moore. In the semi-finals, Boyle gave a live television performance of Memory from the musical Cats, wowing the audience and winning a public vote to go through to next Saturdays final. AFP PHOTO/ITV/HANDOUT NO SALES/RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE/GETTY OUT

Susan Boyle before attaining worldwide fame and a makeover. Photo: AFP

Appearance matters

While we may be taught not to judge a book by its cover, a Princeton University study has found that our brains conclude if a person is trustworthy or beautiful in one tenth of a second. Psychologist Alex Todorov discovered humans respond to faces so quickly that our reasoning minds may not have time to influence the reaction.

In his study, Todorov learnt that people made judgements about the attractiveness, likeability, trustworthiness and aggressiveness after looking at people’s faces for 100 milliseconds. Talk about being quick to judge!

Local fashion designer/image consultant Bon Zainal encourages individuals to cultivate the right look to suit any occasion because so much rides on that first impression.

“Whether we like it or not, clothes speak for us. Never underestimate the power of what we wear. Dressing is one of the few areas left in life that is still under our control. So why not dress with style?”

The award-winning designer said that confidence and a positive attitude go hand-in-hand to complete a person’s overall look. “Always smile and showcase a pleasant personality.”

Today’s young adult may be tech savvy and socially connected, but he also likes to be in control of his own style, and sometimes irreverent and outlandish is the order of the day.

Little does he know that looking one’s best is super important when out job-hunting.

Whether you’re a teacher, a beauty consultant or marketing executive, the ability to put your best foot (or in this case, face) forward really does count.

When it comes to hiring its beauty advisors, French skincare brand Clarins ensures potential employees display product knowledge, have a pleasant personality and clear complexion.

“A good smile and positive attitude are important when dealing with customers. Apart from an accurate understanding of customer’s needs, they need to have good interpersonal skills, too,” said training manager Winnie Lai.

When it comes to hiring employees to join its cabin crew, AirAsia and AirAsia X group head of cabin crew Suhaila Hassan said candidates must portray the right image and appearance as they are, after all, brand ambassadors for the airlines.

AirAsia and AirAsia cabin crew must portray the right image and appearance as they are brand ambassadors for the airlines. Photo: Air Asia

AirAsia and AirAsia cabin crew must portray the right image and appearance as they are brand ambassadors for the airlines. Photo: AirAsia

“They front the airline and make up a big part of a customer’s flying experience with AirAsia. What we definitely look for is a pleasing appearance, winning attitude, outgoing, fun and stunning personality. An inexhaustible smile coupled with energy to provide excellent service are also plus points for our cabin crew,” said Suhaila, adding that candidates must be fluent in both written and spoken English, and possess good communication skills.

Before cabin crew members begin their career in the skies, they must undergo a 45-day grooming programme at the AirAsia Academy in Sepang, Selangor.

“Those who come into the Academy are groomed to be ‘superstars’ – holding the highest standards of professionalism as a member of the cabin crew. How our cabin crew look is a big part of gaining our guests’ trust. They are trained to be well-groomed and organised.”

Suhaila added that having a smile in the service industry is important as it reflects hospitality, one of the fundamentals of customer service.

“We always encourage our cabin crew to smile, make eye contact and pay close attention to guests. That helps build relationships between our guests and AirAsia. We are proud that our cabin crew’s passion in serving our guests has been recognised by the World Travel Awards – we earned the title of Asia’s Leading Cabin Crew in 2015.”

Virgin founder Richard Branson agrees that a smile helps give the extra edge in business, and has spoken on numerous occasion about the competitive advantage a smile lends to anyone.

Branson has said: “When an entrepreneur creates a culture of openness at a new company, it can make a big difference to employees’ and customers’ enthusiasm.”

LinkedIn's senior director of corporate communication (Asia Pacific) Roger Pua.

LinkedIn’s senior director of corporate communication (Asia Pacific) Roger Pua.

Business networking platform LinkedIn’s senior director of corporate communication (Asia Pacific) Roger Pua added that photographs can optimise the impression you give to others.

“A picture says a thousand words, including an image in your profile! It’s a visual boost and can increase your chances of being viewed on LinkedIn by 14 times. A profile picture is one of the most critical elements of a person’s LinkedIn profile,” explained Pua.

Remember to be selective about which photo you use, he advises. It should look professional and appropriate for the type of work a person does. Rather than listing your job title, think about something that may make you stand out more easily.

“Instead of ‘Marketing Manager’, consider this: ‘Focused on driving lead generation and results through the business of marketing and branding’. Besides providing an informative and succinct summary of your experience (this can bolster your profile views by up to 10 times), include examples of your expertise and achievements,” he advised.

There is research suggesting that if you are good looking, you tend to get ahead faster and rake in bigger bucks. Economist and author of Beauty Pays: Attractive People Are Simply More Successful Daniel Hamermesh states attractive people earn an average of three or four percent more than people with below-average looks.

In a Wall Street Journal article, he explained: “Better-looking workers bring in more for the employers, just as a more intelligent worker will. Paying them more is still a form of discrimination, but their attractiveness also tends to raise productivity.”

Although the court is the last place you want to be judged for your looks, a 2010 Cornell University study, When Emotionality Trumps Reason, found that unattractive defendants tend to get hit with longer, harsher sentences – on average 22 months longer in prison!

The perfect smile

Given the importance of looks, it’s not surprising that some individuals are obsessed with the fabled fountain of youth. People turn to all sorts of things in their effort to look the best they can – from dermal fillers to neurotoxic proteins, and even dental facelifts.

In fact, more and more people are looking for that perfect set of teeth, jawline and smile.

Consultant orthodontics, implantologist and laser dentistry Datuk Dr How Kim Chuan showing a set of teeth with three different cuts by using a digital dental technology at the Imperial Dental Specialist Centre.

Consultant orthodontics, implantologist and laser dentistry Datuk Dr How Kim Chuan showing a set of teeth with three different cuts by using a digital dental technology at the Imperial Dental Specialist Centre.

According to consultant in orthodontics, implantologist and laser dentistry Datuk Dr How Kim Chuan, 49, aesthetic dentistry has been gaining popularity among people who want to improve their appearance.

“Smile makeovers” have become much sought after.

A smile makeover is an overview of your smile aesthetics. To obtain the perfect smile, one (or more) cosmetic dental procedures is required to achieve the desired look.

“Patients can opt for a combination of different procedures to change how they look and feel,” said Dr How, former president of the Malaysian Dental Association, counsellor for FDI World Dental Federation and International College of Dentists (ICD) section XX Asia president.

Dr How explains that technological developments in dentistry have enabled people to enhance their appearance and boost their self-esteem. Dentistry has gone beyond procedures such as promoting oral health, fixing dentures and braces. These days, patients can choose from a wide array of procedures to change the structure of their teeth.

Aesthetic dentistry includes dental crowning (a tooth-shaped cover is placed over a badly-damaged tooth), dental bridging (using crowns, in units of two or more) and veneers (composite or porcelain laminates that are adhesively bonded to the surface of a tooth to rectify chips and cracks). And if heavy-duty metal braces don’t strike your fancy, these days you have the luxury of opting for clear aligners instead.

Thanks to 3D imaging technology, orthodontists today are able to plan tooth movements and create a treatment timeline. Patients can see a virtual representation of how their teeth will move with each stage of treatment. According to Dr How, there’s also dental 3D imaging technology which helps surgeons understand the anatomy of the patient’s mouth before embarking on a dental implant, or any type of surgery. “Thanks to technological advancements, a procedure – which usually takes 90 minutes – can be completed within 15 minutes,” he said.

Twenty-eight-year-old S. Joshua had suffered from a Class III skeletal deformity (lower long jaw and retruded upper jaw) since he was a teenager. This created numerous problems including unclear speech, as well as breathing and chewing difficulties.

In 2014, he underwent orthognathic surgery (the art and science of combining orthodontics and maxillofacial surgery to correct skeletal, dental and soft tissue deformity of the jaw and associated structures) to end his misery.

“Opting to do jaw surgery wasn’t an easy decision. I could have lived life without doing it, but doctors diagnosed my condition as very severe.

“Thanks to surgery, I have a better facial profile, there has been improvement in my speech and of course, I am able to chew better.”

To Dr How, one’s smile is so important, as it enables a person to appear more approachable and friendly.

“A smile characterises a person. Patients are happier and more confident after treatment as their appearance is enhanced.”

We have all heard that smiles are contagious and there are various studies to back up the claim. Not only does it help change your mood, it also alters the mood of those around you.

A 2004 Penn State University study Service With A Smile found that authentic smiles (not fake smiles, folks) shared by employees in the service industry influenced their impressions on customers in a genuine way. Employees who smiled were deemed more likable, friendly and competent.

So why not take advantage of your smile to create happiness? Start off by showing off your pearly whites. And don’t forget to look your best while you are at it.

Tinseltown stars turn to cosmetic dentistry to enhance their looks.

If you think that Hollywood celebrities are blessed with flawless teeth, think again. While some A-listers maybe born with a lovely set of pearly white teeth, we can assure you this is not always the case. Ever wondered how Morgan Freeman got his perfect smile or how Miley Cyrus never fails to mesmerise with her megawatt grin?

The Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.

The Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.

From whitening to bonding and straightening, veneers and crowns, Tinseltown stars have always turned to aesthetic dentistry to look like a million bucks.

Take the handsome box-office superstar Tom Cruise, for example. To obtain the gorgeous white smile (his left incisor used to cross the middle of his face and was labelled “monotooth”), he underwent several dental procedures. In 2002, the actor, who shot to fame for his role in 1986 action drama Top Gun, improved his smile by donning invisible braces with ceramic brackets. Apparently, no mission was impossible for him.

When award-winning Faye Dunaway turned 61, she decided to further polish her image by putting on braces. “Tom Cruise has them now so I’m in the right style,” she reportedly said in an article posted on elle.com.

Hollywood actor Tom Cruise started wearing ceramic braces at age 39 to correct the alignment of his teeth.

Hollywood actor Tom Cruise started wearing ceramic braces at age 39 to correct the alignment of his teeth.

Dentalcare website worldental.org reports that some Hollywood stars have paid as much as US$50,000 to perfect their smiles. Implants and veneers can cost anywhere from US$5,000 to as much as US$40,000 depending on the number of teeth repaired and the dentist’s fee of course. Teeth whitening and other procedures are much less expensive but not any less important.

Zac Efron, named one of People magazine’s “100 Most Beautiful People in 2007”, related how he was always the shortest kid in school and was teased for the “huge gap” in his teeth. To set it right, the actor reportedly used invisible braces to pull those teeth together and give him a more grown-up smile. News has it that the heartthrob of High School Musical fame forked out US$10,000 to have his gap removed and his pearly whites made even whiter.

Supermodel Christie Brinkley was forced to have two dental implants after a helicopter crash in 1994.

“I am grateful for the dental implant technology that feels and looks so natural,” she said during an interview with Dear Doctor magazine. Brinkley admits that her best beauty secret is her smile. She said: “It’s instantly uplifting. Both for the face and the spirit! A smile actually releases chemicals into our brain that makes us feel immediately happier! So go out and smile!”