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Beauty Knows No Pain

Borrowing its title from the 1972 documentary by Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt and the famed slogan of the Kilgore Rangerettes, Beauty Knows No Pain addresses the performance and perception of femininity in contemporary American culture.

Texas photographer O. Rufus Lovett´s iconic black and white photographs of the Kilgore Rangerettes dance drill team reveal a long-standing tradition of competition, discipline and teamwork on the Kilgore College campus. Created in 1939 by the legendary Miss Gussie Nell Davis, the ‘Rettes was the first group of its kind in the world. It continues to be the most celebrated drill team in the nation, attracting hundreds of aspiring young women to the junior college for auditions Those selected pursue the achievement of youthful glamour, uniformity and synchronicity. Capturing the enthusiasm and energy of these young women in their timeless uniforms, Lovett depicts an iconic Texas subculture that has been the source of feminine inspiration and camaraderie for generations.

While Lovett’s images of the ‘Rettes reflect the longstanding localized rituals conducted in the small town of Kilgore, Leah DeVun’s studio portraits depict an incarnation of contemporary girl culture performed by millions of youths. Debuted by the Disney Channel in 2006, “Hannah Montana” is the alter ego performer of 16-year-old Mylie Cyrus. Broadcast daily in the US, UK and Canada, the program opens with the theme song “Best of Both Worlds”, where girls can watch Cyrus’s Cinderella-like transformation from “the girl next door” into an iconic teen pop sensation. The program is part of a multi-billion dollar industry which includes musical tours and a glittering array of props sold by Hasbro. Pictured are DeVun’s Houston-based girls between the ages of 4-11 years old dressed up as Montana, combined with the props they use to transform themselves.


This juxtaposition of tradition and pop culture depicts just a couple of incarnations of how American girls and women desire to embrace celebrity and femininity. While they conform their bodies, dress, and personalities to different versions of culturally endorsed gender standards, one can see upon closer examination their charming individuality.


27 February – 29 March, 2009


Houston Center for Photography

Artist / Photographer

Leah DeVun
O. Rufus Lovett


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