“He’d convinced himself that his wanting me was my fault. 

And I believed him. 

Look what I do to these poor boys, I thought. And yet also, Here is my value, my power.

This quote appears in Chapter 6 as Evelyn describes the first boy who took advantage of her sexually and how she learned to use his desire to her own benefit. It encapsulates the double-edged power of Evelyn’s beauty and sexual attractiveness: she doesn’t consent to the sexual acts with the store boy and blames herself for the fact that he forces himself on her repeatedly, but she also learns to make the most of his advances and to leverage his power over her into a power of her own. Though she struggles throughout her life to understand her value outside of her attractiveness to men and her physical beauty, she successfully uses her body to get what she needs. It begins with candy and other items from the store, but it grows into an entire career in which she eventually has autonomy over her life and her body.

“I was supposed to be both naive and erotic. It was as if I was too wholesome to understand the unwholesome thoughts you were having about me.  

It was bullshit, of course. But it was an easy act to put on.”

Evelyn says this in Chapter 6 as she describes the image that Hollywood created of her. Here, Evelyn encapsulates her understanding of the unspoken, impossible standards that Hollywood wants her to live up to. She leverages her sexual power not just to attract and manipulate men in her life but to perform publicly on the tightrope strung between being “too innocent” and “too sexual.” Any misstep in this balancing act threatens to sink her, turn public opinion against her, and stall her career before it begins. Evelyn recognizes that the trope she plays into is a farce built on both the suppression of her sexuality and the hyper-sexualization of her image. Though she does not have the power or standing to subvert this role yet, Evelyn has a savvy understanding of how she is seen, and she uses stereotypes to her own advantage. Furthermore, as Evelyn gains power, she’s able to exert more control over her career and creative choices in order to thwart these impossible binaries.

“The only currency I had was my sexuality, and I used it like money. I wasn’t well educated when I got to Hollywood, I wasn’t book-smart, I wasn’t powerful, I wasn’t a trained actress. What did I have to be good at other than being beautiful?”

This quote occurs in Chapter 38 where Evelyn explains to Monique why Celia, after winning her second Oscar, said Evelyn was just “a nice pair of tits” without an Oscar of her own. Celia’s cruelty illustrates the personal ramifications that Evelyn’s sexualized image has on their romantic relationship. In hindsight, Evelyn recognizes the ways in which she was forced to work with what she had (in this case, her sex appeal). She was limited by both her poor upbringing and society’s biases about who is allowed to have power. Celia’s perspective on Evelyn is ungenerous, and it’s with clear-eyed analysis that Evelyn both agrees with Celia’s insult and provides context for it. She understands that her body held all her potential in the past and that using her beauty was the only way she knew how to move herself out of powerlessness