Welsh I am.

Williams N.

With developments in genetics, researchers are increasingly able to address historical issues surrounding human migration and provenance by studying present populations. Nigel Williams reports on one of the latest studies looking at a crucial period of British history.


Tuesday, 18 February, 2003, 14:36 GMT

Welsh beauty is in the genes

By Nick Dermody
BBC News Online

The secrets of Welsh beauty have been revealed as a magazine survey names Kylie Minogue - whose mother is from Wales - and Catherine Zeta Jones as some of the sexiest women in showbusiness.

Kylie tops the list in the poll by glossy gossip magazine Heat while heavily pregnant Zeta Jones, nominated for an Oscar As long as you get passed the first barrier of being sexually attractive, you get everything else

Professor Paul Brain

for her song and dance performance in the big screen musical, Chicago, is put at No. 10.

Only two other British women are named in the survey - Victoria Beckham (5) and Liz Hurley (8).

The results are set to give a boost to thousands of women in Wales whose dark-haired good looks can often go unappreciated at home and abroad.

Heat magazine's deputy features editor, Jo Carnegie, said the survey showed that Wales was finally taking its place in Britain as an exporter of showbusiness talent, style and beauty.

She said: "Wales has been seen as a bit of a backward country - England has always put out the most stars followed by Scotland with people like Sean Connery and Ewan MacGregor.

"The survey shows that Welsh people have as much going for them as the rest of the stars in Hollywood.

"Both Catherine and Kylie are still sticking close to their roots - Catherine has given her son a Welsh name and Kylie often goes back to see her relatives.

"Catherine is a case of a natural Celtic beauty.

"She stands out in Hollywood as the one with the curves and the jet black hair - that comes from her Welsh blood - when a lot of women can look a bit bland."

The idea of classic Welsh features that are passed down through the generations is one supported by Swansea-based academic, Professor Paul Brain.

The evolutionary zoologist has done a number of studies on the link between biology and psychology and believes the Welsh gene pool has elements which can help women with a Welsh heritage in the beauty stakes.

With Welsh women, the contrast in their looks - between the Celtic dark hair and the white of their skins - is an attractive combination

"In Welsh women, I suspect that it is something to do with their overall shape - the symmetry of their facial features is very regular.

"They tend to have long lustrous dark hair and are pretty fine boned."

The success of Kylie, 34, and Zeta Jones, 33, has come as no surprise to author Cardiff-based Terry Breverton who two years ago published a book on the 100 top Welsh women.

He said Kylie and Zeta Jones come from a long line of beauties whose Welsh heritage is underplayed.

The British fashion icon, Mary Quant, creator of the Biba image in the 1960s, is perhaps the most recognisably beauty-orientated Welsh woman.

But other lookers include the actress Sian Phillips, once married to actor Peter O'Toole, and the veteran pop singer Petula Clarke.

Even Hollywood actress Bette Davies was considered to have a striking look when she first hit the big screen.

"With Welsh women, the contrast in their looks - between the Celtic dark hair and the white of their skins - is an attractive combination.

Mr Breverton said pictures of historical Welsh beauties, such as Nell Gwyn, the mistress of Charles II, showed they had full lips.

Zeta Jones has put down much of her initial popularity in Hollywood to the way her mouth curves up at the end, making her look as if she is naturally smiling.

He said: "Kylie has very full lips and Mary Quant has very full lips - this full lips thing keeps coming through."

Stiffyn Parry, actor and founder of the London-based social network Sws - Social Welsh and Sexy - said Welsh people have always been beautiful but no one had taken any notice.

Like Kylie, Welsh women tend to be shorter

He told News Online: "We have always had a steady stream of beautiful people making an impression around the world.

"But it's only really through the careers of the likes of Kylie and Catherine Zeta Jones that people have started to sit up and take notice.

"Zeta Jones is typically Welsh looking and has dark skin which is not unusual in the south west region of Wales.

"Those who said the Cool Cymru era had passed are very wrong."

Professor Brain suggested it was no accident that image-obsessed industries like Hollywood put such importance on the looks and attractiveness of their stars.

"He said people who are considered sexually attractive are often endowed with other socially positive qualities such being thought of as exciting, interesting and responsive.


"As long as you get past the first barrier, of being sexually attractive, you get everything else."

But, the professor warns, no matter how much dark Celtic good looks women in Wales may be able to call upon at the dressing table, the final judgement has to be left, as the proverb tells us, to the beholder.

"It really depends on who's asking the questions," he said.