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The September issue of Mirabella carries the cover line "Who is the face of America?" next to the image of a blank-eyed young woman with flawless sun-tanned skin, perfect pink lips and damp brown hair that falls below her shoulders.

Traces of sand and droplets of moisture cling to her face and bare shoulder as if she'd just emerged from the sea, like Botticelli's Venus.She is just as much an ideal.

She's not a model or an actress or the girl next door, but a computerized collage of features of models of different ethnic backgrounds assembled by the photographer Hiro. The face has as much vitality and intelligence as a store mannequin. Is that how Mirabella sees the American woman?

"I wasn't trying to make her intelligent; I was just looking for the beauty in her," said Sam Shahid, Mirabella's artistic director, who collaborated with Hiro on developing the face.

"The September issue is about American beauty, and I told Hiro I really would like to find the new American beauty. We've always manufactured beauty, we in the industry, and we keep manufacturing the same beauty. But I didn't want a blonde with blue eyes. I wanted something darker, not French and not Italian, but a mix, something much more exotic. Like an alien."

"I think we're still searching for the new American beauty," he added. To Hiro, the face is a vision of the future. He used models of a variety of ethnic backgrounds but said he wasn't trying to achieve a mixture. "If I used 10 percent of this and 10 percent of that to represent all the peoples of America, it would become a monster in a way," he added. "A cover shot has to be beautiful, intriguing."

Alien, monster or the face of the future? The readers of Mirabella will have to decide.