Frequently Asked Questions: Fug Madness


1. What is Fug Madness? Is it a disease?
Fug Madness is our annual elimination-based tournament to determine which celebrity had the fugliest year. It’s a disease in the sense that we hope you catch the fever; yet not, in the sense that it will neither kill you, give you strange hives, nor cause any symptoms except possibly restless excitement and a little bit of fashion-induced nausea. Fug Madness is safe for pregnant women, but possibly not children.

2. How does it work?
It’s modeled on the NCAA college basketball tournament, and runs in conjunction with that schedule so that the finals and many of the “games” are on the same days. We pick 65 celebrities, two (or so) of whom do a pre-tournament face-off for the last official spot in the 64-person field. We slot them into four brackets of sixteen. Our brackets are named Cher, Charo, Bjork, and Madonna.

Every celebrity is ranked — a.k.a seeded — based on how tough or weak a contender we believe he or she is. Then, on the first day of play, the No. 1 seed goes up against the No. 16, the No. 2 meets the No. 15, and so on and so forth, with readers voting on which person deserves to win — or, “win,” as the case may be. Once all round one games are complete, we move onto round two, and a fresh slate of matchups, until only one celebrity is left standing.

3. Why Charo, Bjork, etc.? Nobody in the Charo bracket has anything to do with Charo. What gives?
The brackets aren’t thematic; we chose the names to honor great one-named celebrities who are majestically tragic dressers in a way that transcends space and time. They are classic masters of fug. Madonna has even been IN the contest before, but always in whatever bracket she’d randomly sorted into by the computer.

4.  How do they “play” each other? Do you make Lady Gaga put on gym shorts and bounce a ball around the floor?
Maybe someday. For now, we put up posts with some photos in them, and a poll where you pick the person you think deserves to advance.

5. Am I just voting based on the photos you use in each entry?
No! Let us repeat that: No! More exclamation marks needed: No!!!!!!

We just use whatever photos make for a funny piece to read. What we choose is representative, and often we unearth something we missed during the course of the year, so we provide it just to help your research. But the decision is based on the person’s entire body of fug from the past year — basically, from right after the previous year’s Oscars through the current year’s. In other words, if the Oscars were Feb. 24, then everything from Feb. 25 onward through the next Oscars is eligible.

6. But Celine Dion wore that backwards suit in 1999! Why isn’t she in this?
Because it’s not a lifetime-achievement competition; it’s JUST based on each new year’s worth of bad outfits. That’s what helps us decide the seedings. Every year, each batch of fug, for each person, is different.

7. How the hell DO you determine the seedings?
In the basketball tournament, schools from major conferences tend to get the higher seeds, and teams from what they call “mid-Majors” — no matter how good they are, with a couple exceptions — monopolize the lower seeds. You rarely see a Big East team seeded below tenth, for instance, and you almost never see a Quinnipiac  or a Siena nab a No. 2 seed.

So in Fug Madness, our first step is similar: We think of celebs in terms of tiers of famousness, and our first swipe at the seeding reflects that. But then we start moving the pieces around; for instance, Bai Ling may not be famous outside the confines of our site, but the sheer volume of her insane apparel probably outweighs the three wacko things Nicole Kidman wore. Conversely, Beyonce may have had an year in which she looked better than usual, but she’s SO famous that it’s hard to put her in the No. 12 seed alongside people who are on The Hills.

None of those rules are hard and fast, though. Ultimately, it’s a completely inexact science that involves a hefty amount of guesswork and listening to our guts. Fug Madness is, above all, a fun and fancy-free lark. So if we spend weeks and weeks shuffling things around, like the actual NCAA selection committee does, then maybe we’re taking it a tad too seriously. Any seeding errors will probably work themselves out through the voting, and at the very least lead to some interesting contests.

8. Lady Gaga shouldn’t be nominated! She’s a performer! And Phoebe Price is just a crazy famewhore!

We believe that fugly is fugly, regardless of the intent behind it. And it’s awfully hard to ignore consciously crazy decisions that are made in the name of getting attention — and in that sense, Gaga and Phoebe are no different. They may look insane for varying reasons — performances, performance art, paparazzi-baiting — but deep down they both also think they look good. And therein lies the fug.

So unless someone walks outside every day for a year wearing a sign that says, “Nominate me for Fug Madness,” and NOTHING ELSE, then we’re going to put all the most dramatic offenders into the competition no matter what. And then we put it in your hands.

9. And where is SWINTON?!?
Your favorite contender of the past might not make it into another year’s bracket, and here’s why: It’s an annual competition, so each year, a person gets a clean slate. So you may have hated that thing that SWINTON wore that one time, but it doesn’t count unless she wore it again during the eligibility period; similarly, if SWINTON didn’t go to as many events in a particular year, then there might be more deserving people.

10. Is winning a compliment, or is it a condemnation?
That debate rages on every year. We prefer not to tell people what Fug Madness should or should not mean to them (except that we believe it should be as important to their well-being as air, Diet Coke, and salt snacks). It is just, as we said, a tournament to determine who fugged it up the most in a given year. If to you that means it’s an honor, vote for the person whose fuggery you find the most delightfully insane or resplendent.  If you think that winning Fug Madness means the person should be locked in a closet for a year with Rachel Zoe and not emerge until lessons have been learned, then vote for the person who has terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad taste. Everyone’s definitions of all of those things will be different — and that’s why we love it. The world would be horribly dull if we all agreed all the time.

Also, frankly, we find it depends on which celebrities are squaring off against each other. The identities of the combatants often change people’s opinions day to day about this very issue.

11. Do you plan the matchups? I mean, a first-round game between Olsen twins? Pshaw.
Actually, we randomize: Once we have all four No. 1 seeds, all four No. 2 seeds, and straight on down to all four No. 16 seeds, we use an Internet randomizer to determine which people go into which bracket. Sometimes the randomizer comes through, by accident, with really funny clashes. We appreciate that. But we don’t manipulate it.

12. What if I disagree with people’s choices in the comments, and I REALLY need to so? 
That’s fine! As with our day-to-day posts, there’s no law people have to agree, either with us or with each other, and the comments on Fug Madness games are some of our very favorites. But again, as usual, keep things polite and on-topic; spirited is fine, but only if it’s the good kind of spirited. The drunk kind of spirited is okay also, but not mean-drunk spirited. You get the gist.

13. Cool!
We hoped you’d say that.

14. I was joking. This is dumb.
Aw. Boo. Well, try it anyway. You might be surprised.