“What Makes You Different (Makes You Beautiful)”

“What Makes You Different (Makes You Beautiful)”

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story Behind the Song

Howie Dorough
“What Makes You Different (Makes You Beautiful)”

Written by Howie Dorough, Andreas Carlsson, and Steve Diamond
Recorded by Backstreet Boys

I was living in Florida at the time, between relationships, and ran into a girl I’d known from church when I was growing up. I used to see her at Sunday mass all the time. I had a semi-crush on her when I was about 12 and we did a musical together, Fame. She was a dancer and I had one of the leads. I was too young for her. We went to confirmation classes together and then she went off to a Catholic high school. She always had jock boyfriends, which was also intimidating.

Over the years, we would see each other on holidays at church. She had a brother who was a little younger than I and one time when I saw him, he told me that she might be getting married, but he didn’t think she was in love with the guy. He also told me that she had a secret crush on me. So, I intentionally tried to bump into her.

I went to the school where she taught. This was at the peak of our (Backstreet Boys) fame, so the kids were very excited when I showed up. She and I had a couple of dates after that.

She was not like the other girls I had been dating. Most of them were international, from Germany, Canada and other places. Most of them were along for the ride or to travel with us on the road, but didn’t have much substance. I was finally getting over that. I realized that it was more about finding someone with a good heart rather than another trophy girl. She was even more than I thought she would be when I was younger. The words to the song came very naturally when I thought about her.

What makes you different

Makes you beautiful

What’s there inside you

Shines through to me.

In your eyes I see

All the love I’ll ever need.

What makes you different makes you beautiful to me.

She went from being a cheerleader in school, who could have had anyone or anything she wanted, to choosing to give back and help kids. She had a good head on her shoulders and was trying to make more of life than just a big party. I was at a point in my life when I wanted beauty that wasn’t just skin deep.

You don’t run with the crowd

You go your own way

You don’t play after dark

You light up my day

Got your own kind of style

That set you apart

Baby that’s why you capture my heart.

I was writing with Steve Diamond, a Nashville songwriter, a lot at the time. He had a great melody and this girl was definitely the inspiration for the lyrics. When I brought the song to the group, they all liked it. Brian (Littrell) suggested that we offer it to the Special Olympics, but nothing ever came of that. However, in 2008 or so, I was on tour in Canada, and I was in my bedroom at the hotel watching Jay Leno on television, and reading, and I heard this song playing on television. It was being used for a commercial for an organization creating awareness for autism. The scene was a high school prom and the previous year’s prom queen was announcing the new queen. A girl with autism comes up to the stage to applause, to be crowned the new homecoming queen and the song comes on. It was a special moment for me.

“What Makes You Different (Makes You Beautiful)”

You don’t run with the crowd

You go your own way,

You don’t play after dark

You light up my day,

Got your own kind of style

That set you apart.

Baby, that’s why you capture my heart.

I know sometimes you feel

Like you don’t fit in

And this world doesn’t know

What you have within.

When I look at you

I see something rare.

A rose can grow anywhere

And there’s no one I know that can compare.

What makes you different

Makes you beautiful,

What’s there inside you

Shines through to me.

In your eyes I see

All the love I’ll ever need.

What makes you different makes you beautiful to me.

You’ve got something so real,

You touch me so deep

The material things

Don’t matter to me.

So come as you are

You’ve got nothing to prove,

You won me with all that you do

And I want to take this chance to say to you

What makes you different

Makes you beautiful.

What’s there inside you

Shines through to me.

In your eyes I see

All the love I’ll ever need.

What makes you different makes you beautiful to me.

You don’t know how you’ve touched my life.

Oh, there’s so many ways I just can’t describe.

You taught me what love is supposed to be,

It’s all the little things that make you beautiful to me.

What makes you different

Makes you beautiful

What’s there inside you

Shines through to me.

In your eyes I see

All the love I’ll ever need.

What makes you different makes you beautiful to me.

Written by Howie Dorough, Andreas Carlsson, and Steve Diamond. ©2000 Zomba Enterprises / Universal Music — Z Tunes LLC, Real Diamonds Music, Grantsville Publishing, Ltd.

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