Beauty is a mystery,” D.H. Lawrence once wrote. “You can neither eat it nor make flannel out of it.” You can, however, make a stunning special issue out of it. Last year’s debut of The 50 Most Beautiful People in the World was so well received that we were eager to do it again—and so were the photographers who lobbied picture editor Maddy Miller for the chance to participate. The photo sessions were fraught with surprises. Dana Fineman, who snapped circus flyer Vladimir Kehkaial, had to contend with “a bad case of goose bumps, which I always get when I’m dealing with pure inner beauty.” Jonathan Exley was stunned when Isabella Rossellini showed up at his studio “alone—no entourage, no makeup, no wardrobe—just a girl in a polka-dot dress with hair in her face.” After the photographers wrapped, others dug in, including Howard G. Chua-Eoan, who wrote 48 of the 50 mini-essays on the Fifty. “There’s an ideal these people illustrate,” he says. “It’s close to what the mystics used to call grace—a certain power, a knowing. Beautiful people are energized by this self-knowledge. It’s a dangerous thing, of course. The rest of us fall for it every time.” We think you will, too.