All Articles Tagged "beauty standards"
As told to Veronica Wells
As a child I was always confused about the way different cultures interpreted physical features, especially on women. It’s not like it is now, with women of various ethnic backgrounds running out to plastic surgeons to get what many Black women are born with naturally. I remember watching “The Nanny” and there were disparaging jokes about a woman’s behind being too big.
In my community, the Black community, the bigger the booty, the better. As I got older, I would come to learn our beauty standards don’t always apply to the mainstream.
Fast forward 20 years. Now that I’m in my early thirties, I work for a small interior design firm. When I say small I mean, I’m one of 5 employees and three of them are part time. Needless to say, my boss and I spend a lot of time together. And as a result, we just happen to share bits and pieces of our lives with one another.
My boss is about 30 years older than me but we’re both women so there are some things that stay the same regardless of age. She told me she was thinking about dying her hair. And I told her I was working on losing a few pounds.
When I said a few I meant it. I’m a thick girl. Plenty of skin over my bones but I’m not fat. I’m just, as a few men have told me, solid. But there were a few areas I wanted to tighten and tone. I hit the gym, to work on strengthening my arms. And I practically walked around in squat position, determined to lift my booty.
As the weeks and months passed, I guess my boss got the impression that she was a part of my fitness journey. Simply because we had that initial conversation and she would see me change into my workout clothes at the end of the day. I didn’t mind. At first, I thought she would be a supporter. And at first, she was.
But as the changes in my body became more and more apparent, she became less and less able to hold her tongue.
One day, as I was on my way to the gym, having just changed into my work clothes, I got the sense that she was looking at me, staring really.
Thinking, she was going to compliment my progress, I turned to her and smiled.
I could see her thinking for a second before she opened her mouth.
“You know, Marcia, maybe you want to only focus on cardio now. You don’t want to put on too much muscle and end up looking like that tennis player…what’s her name?”
I thought to myself, “B*tch, you know her name.” I couldn’t say that though. I need the job but I’m also not one to let stuff slide either.
So once I’d composed myself, I said, “You mean Serena? I actually happen to think her body is beautiful. Actually, she’s been my fitspiration. You know, all body types aren’t the same and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
I punctuated my sentence by looking her up and down, deciding to keep my thoughts on her shape to myself. Judging by her pathetic attempt to rationalize her comments, I think she got the message.
As she was stumbling over her words, I held up my hand and shook my head, to signify that there was no need. Then I smiled politely and wished her a pleasant goodnight.
I can remember how pretty I felt the first time my mother tweezed my eyebrows. It hurt like hell but the way it just brightened up my whole face, was completely worth it. And I got used to the pain. Once my eyes stopped watering and I stopped blinking compulsively, I loved the way mascara elongated my lashes and made my face look more feminine. And Lord…when I started using blush, just a few years ago really, you couldn’t tell me nothing.
Every morning when I applied it, I’d recite a line from Bebe’s Kids: “Make ‘em look like targets.” I know I wasn’t following anyone’s guidelines, tips or tricks but I thought I looked good. And even though my mother, sister and a few other people told me I was doing too much with the blush, it didn’t matter. I loved my rosy cheeks.
It wasn’t until my boyfriend, after leaving several nicer, more subtle hints, told me that I reminded him of Pikachu, that I realized it was time to lighten up.
I almost never wear foundation so I thought I was doing my “nuts and berries” type of dude a favor. But he wasn’t here for the blush either.
He swears that I look better without makeup. And while it’s nice to know that he appreciates my natural beauty, it’s also a little irritating to put effort into your appearance only to hear that it’s not as well-received.
Just to be clear, this is not a complaint. There’s a certain comfort in knowing I can roll out of bed, wash my face and he’ll think I’m ready to go on a date. I just find it a bit strange. Particularly when most of the women men see in media and even on the street, are wearing some type of makeup.
If you ask your man to identify his celebrity crush, chances are he hasn’t seen her without makeup. (It’s women who are googling what such and such a celebrity looks like without makeup, not men.)
The thing is, the more I looked around, I realized maybe he wasn’t the only one.
Today, likely trying to prove his point, my boyfriend sent me snippets of a conversation between him and his friends where they went to so far as to say that women looked worse when they wore makeup. One said he became more and more irritated as he watched his girlfriend apply enhancements before they went out.
They specifically mentioned the amount of makeup worn at weddings.
Yes, weddings. If they find themselves dating and marrying the average woman, they might be disappointed on their special days. I can’t think of a single woman who could or would go completely without makeup knowing all the pictures that will be taken that day and how she’ll have to look at them for the rest of her life.
I wish I could dismiss this type of thinking to my boyfriend and his like-minded friends but that’s just not the case.
Gospel artist Erica Campbell often talks about her husband Warryn, who is more of the “colorful-suit-wearing, producer/pastor extraordinaire” than the “nuts and berries” type, occasionally asking that she not wear any makeup when they go out. And she’s a public figure.
I asked my coworker/friends what their significant others think about makeup and they too have had moments where their men told them they preferred less eyeshadow, a not so bold lip or no foundation, especially if she was going to be laying all up on him.
In my life, it’s been my experience that most men don’t know the first thing about makeup. My sister had an ex boyfriend who told her he liked that she had that black line on her lower eyelid, completely oblivious to the fact that it was makeup.
If men really didn’t like makeup, it wouldn’t be featured in almost every ad campaign, movie, television show etc. I think what happens is, men probably don’t really notice makeup until it’s too much and then they have a problem with it blocking the natural beauty.
What I’ve told my boyfriend and anyone else who will listen (or pretend to listen) is that, most women are wearing makeup for themselves. We do what makes us feel pretty, not for the attention of other men, though that is a possible side effect. Truth be told, it’s not hard to get the attention of a man. Most of us can pull just a many dudes with a fresh face as we can when we’re beat for the gods.
But what Ive learned and what I keep learning is that living your life for the whims and inconsistencies of men is an exercise in futility. They all want something different and many of them will end up with the opposite of what they said they wanted. Hence the nuts and berries dude with the girl who loves her blush.
The solution? Compromise, if you must, for the ones you love but always live your life for you, otherwise you’re drive yourself crazy.
So ladies, tell me does your man say that he prefers you with little to know makeup? Do you find it endearing or a bit irritating?
A while ago, a Facebook friend was the first to warn me about engaging in articles, which directly or indirectly call for you to comment on the attractiveness of a woman.
You know the type of pieces I am talking about. The ones with headlines that read, “this woman thinks she was fired for being too hot” or “This woman thinks she can’t keep a man because she is too beautiful.”
Or even this archived article by the Daily Mail UK, which told us that a White woman with blonde hair and blue eyes named Florence Colgate is the most beautiful face in Britain, because of science.
More specifically, the paper reports:
“A woman’s face is said to be most attractive when the space between her pupils is just under half the width of her face from ear to ear. Florence scores a 44 per cent ratio. Experts also believe the relative distance between eyes and mouth should be just over a third of the measurement from hairline to chin. Florence’s ratio is 32.8 per cent.
Singer Shania Twain and actresses Liz Hurley and Jessica Alba are ranked among perfectly formed celebrities. Samantha Brick, who caused an international debate after proclaiming women hate her because she is beautiful, is not.”
According to the paper, the findings are based on the proportional beauty theory, which suggest that a woman is at her most beautiful when almost perfectly symmetrical.
“Carmen Lefèvre’s, from the University of St Andrews perception laboratory in the School of Psychology, said beauty is strongly linked to symmetry. ‘Florence has all the classic signs of beauty,’ she added. ‘She has large eyes, high cheekbones, full lips and a fair complexion. Symmetry appears to be a very important cue to attractiveness.”
So there take that, ugly wenches.
The article itself is from three years ago. However it is making the rounds again on social media for some undisclosed reason.
But even though it is ancient news now, these type of articles are a pretty common occurrence in our news cycle. And the debate always centers around the same question: is she really that pretty or nah?
Of course the “nah” here is pretty complex.
In addition to the long and brutal debate over the validity of the proportional beauty theory, which will likely center around pointing out all of the poor girl’s alleged flaws as proof that she ain’t all that, there will also be the debate pointing out the obvious racism of it all.
As the scientist reminds us, even if any of our brown faces scored a solid 33 percent ratio on this chart that measures the distance between the mouth and the chin, we of the melanin tribes will scientifically never be able to measure up to the definition of “classic beauty” because we lack a fair complexion.
So there, take that again you ugly wenches.
I am not going to sit here and attempt to dissect everything which is wrong with this theory and article. For every scientific study that argues beauty is a product of symmetry and fair complexions, there will be another study that tells us that beauty is more centered around confidence and how a person carries him or herself.
But what I want to point out that however way we choose to engage this particular article or the other ones just like it, the end results will be the same: to make us feel inferior and competitive.
You heard of thirst traps, well these articles are like insecurity traps. We will not only tear ourselves down for not measuring up in these traps, but we will tear the object of insecurity down for being so damn perfect and unattainable.
And most times it will be done for someone else’s agenda. And most times, that agenda centers around profit.
Because really what is the value in doing a story about a White woman being declared by science as the most beautiful woman in all of the land? Other than generating ad revenue from click-bait?
Is a Black business obligated to always cater and market to a Black clientele?
It’s an provocative question considering the current dustup over global cosmetic company Black Opal’s new marketing campaign.
Let’s just say that it is pretty…ahem…diverse.
As reported by Black Girl Long Hair:
Black Opal, a well-established cosmetic line, found themselves in hot water yesterday when they responded to a series of Facebook comments regarding ads which seemed to distance them from their overwhelmingly black customer base.
When Black Opal’s Twitter and Facebook followers saw the ads, they asked some valid questions. Most were black women who were under the impression that Black Opal was a brand geared toward black women or brown-skinned women in general.
You can read the exchange between Black Opal and its customers here. The company does assert emphatically that “our leadership has never issued a ‘non-inclusive’ statements” about its product offerings or sales objectives.
Also, on its Facebook page, the cosmetic company posted an archived New York Post profile from 1995 of the company with the caption:
Here’s a little history on Black Opal. Black Opal has never been sold or acquired since it was founded in 1994.
An opal is a precious gemstone that can take on many variations of colors. The black opal is the most rare and most valuable.
Skin of color, like the Opal, is varied, unique and precious. It comes in many diverse hues and tones and demands specific skin care products to address its special needs. Black Opal was born out of that need to treat the rare jewel that is skin of color.
Today we are are a brand for every shade of beauty and as our founder, Carol Mouyiaris stated in the 1995 article below “We are not exclusive.”
And the company also issued a statement to us about what exactly they represent:
Black Opal is a cosmetics brand for every shade of beauty. Black Opal was founded in 1994 by Carol Mouyiaris, a woman of Jamaican decent, and Dr. Cheryl Burgess, an African American board certified dermatologist, to address the skin concerns of women of color. Black Opal has never been sold or acquired, and we continue to support the original brand mission today, by bringing to market products that address the needs of all women of color. As the global environment continues to blend ethnically and culturally, Black Opal is working to ensure we are developing beauty solutions for the wide array of ethnicities, cultures and multihued skin represented in today’s women of color.
Although it claims that it was never exclusive to Black customers, the company does admit that it was founded to “address skin issues for African Americans,” which sounds exactly the same to me. But I’m not a lawyer…
Still, even without the acknowledgment, I think the cosmetic company will have a hard time explaining then why its marketing for the better part of its existence was aimed at Black people, particularly women?
Honestly, I really don’t see why it can’t just be forthright with the people and say, “look, we are trying to grow our market and stay competitive. So while we will continue making products for Black folks, we also, for the sake of survival, have to say All Skin Matters…”
Maybe I am being idealistic here, but I really don’t see folks not being able to understand that. I certainly think it would have been a much more respectful response worthy of a customer base, which has held the company down since its inception.
And in many ways this escape clause Black Opal is using with its consumers is very reminiscent of how we are often treated by mainstream businesses, particularly in the entertainment field, which builds bottom lines using Black dollars, only to dispose of us completely when more White and affluent audiences/customers begin to notice.
It also doesn’t help that this renewed commitment to all diversity follows a growing number of Black-owned businesses that have allegedly “sold out” to either White investors or White clientele. Like last month’s announcement that the makers of Shea Moisture and Nubian Heritage partnered with Bain Capital, making Bain minority stakeholders. In lots of ways, Black Opal’s newest ad campaign speaks to deeper fears and concerns we have as a community about the inability to build and sustain not only wealth, but a cultural identity (i.e. a beauty standard) in this country and beyond.
Still, the cosmetic company’s new focus also highlights the tough position in which many Black businesses find themselves. What I mean is that in addition to competing for sales within an already niche market, Black Opal also have to compete with major international cosmetic conglomerates who nowadays are now more willing to actually market to customers outside of the European beauty standard.
So, in spite of our desire to want the products and services we created to always remain For Us, By Us, the reality is that the structure to keep our businesses within the community is just not in place.
And who is to say, that if it were possible, Black businesses should only cater to a Black clientele? As Sundial’s founder and CEO Richelieu Dennis previously told MadameNoire in response to some of its customers’ fears that it was selling out:
“Black companies, like every other company, have to grow and broaden its customer base. If Black businesses don’t do this this, they die on the vine.”
I don’t know about anyone else, but I do believe that it is possible to be a Black-owned business that does not exclusively market or target Black people. And although I’m not co-signing how Black Opal went about explaining this to its customer base, I do believe that it does make sense, from a survival standpoint, to broaden their reach.
After all, who better than to represent the standards of beauty for people of color within the cosmetic realm than a company that was originally founded with the formulaic needs of Black women in mind?
Now, what we should be concerned about is whether or not any of these Black-owned businesses are not only taking Black dollars but helping to generate them, by hiring Black people.
The natural hair topic has long run its course. But, nevertheless, I’m going to ask this question: Should a woman be forced to straighten her natural hair to appease her bosses?
The inspiration for this question comes by way of Angela Green, weeknight anchor for WNCT in Greenville, N.C., who recently posed the same question in a video post on her Facebook page. For those with Facebook, you can watch it here.
For those without an account, here is my best early-morning transcription of Greene’s statements:
The topic is natural hair in the workplace. Very sensitive to a lot of people. I’m natural. As many of you may or may not know, I’m biracial. My mother is from Thailand and my father is Black. See my hair? Straight. Y’all comment about it all the time. But if I were to go natural, my hair would be curly. But for right now, we’re not going to do curly hair because my bosses like it that way, so that is what we are going to go with.
Okay, let me pause this transcription to point out how Green declares herself both natural and not natural at the same time. While it sounds like an oxymoron, it is also an important detail to note in the context of the question posed below. She continues:
Green: Let me let you meet Madison. Madison is a…what year are you?
Madison: I’m a sophomore. 19.
Green: 19 years old. This is the style right now for everybody, rocking natural hair every day. Well, she is about to do a production for work. She is in TV and broadcasting and the topic of her hair came up. She was told that it was what?
Madison: Too big and I needed to straighten it. Straighten it out. It would be distracting.
Green: Distracting, well that is a very interesting word. But in the world of TV we see it all. It just depends in what market, what audience you’re looking for right now. And really, your bosses and what they allow you to do. My advice is straighten for the sake of the school project. Depending on what market you get in, when you’re older, that is something that you have to deal with. But in the workplace, just for this one, my suggestion was to just straighten it out just to please everybody. But everybody won’t roll with that answer. What would your suggestion be to Madison and other young professionals rocking their natural hair?
Well, I am glad she asked.
Again, what is interesting is how Green defines “natural hair.” In this context, she uses it to describe her own hair, which is naturally curly, but has been pressed straight. Granted, she may define natural as being free from chemicals, which is a commonly held belief among Black women. But it also clear that she sees natural hair as more of a style than an actual state. This is evident when she points to Madison’s head of natural curls and says, “This is the style right now for everybody, rocking natural hair every day.”
In essence, her question is less about if Madison should be natural, but rather, how she should be natural.
And her question does have some relevancy. Be it wash and go or Freddie Brooks on fleek, big and bountiful curls do appear to be the most sought-after hairstyle choice among natural women. Even as some folks’ hair doesn’t naturally curl that way and even though there are more natural hair styling choices out there, including a press and curl.
And while Madison’s hair does naturally hold that curl pattern, there are more reserved ways she could maintain her natural, which does not comprise hair principles, health, style choice or job standing. For instance, a nice bun or classic updo.
Plus, it is not like European women in media aren’t asked to tame their tresses – and other “distractions” too. I don’t ever recall seeing a White anchorwoman with big, bountiful curls. Sadly, Green’s advice is the cold, hard truth of what it is like to work in television news, where the image of the person reporting the news counts just as much as the news itself.
Still, I find it quite disheartening that we are encouraging young women to accept the status quo, particularly as it pertains to beauty ideals and standards, instead of pushing them to break down those barriers. While it is true that image has always counted, it does not mean that we have to continue to breed new generations of women who continue to make image a priority just because that’s how it has always been.
Somebody has to be brave enough to say no. Somebody has to have the courage to walk into human resources and say, “Listen here you cogs of White supremacy, I’ll do a bun, but I am not straightening my hair. People will get used to to it. Anything else is discrimination.”
That’s how things change.
What I find most odd about this entire question about the appropriateness of Black/biracial women and natural hair – no matter how you define it – is how in one breath, society is encouraging us to accept White women, specifically with cornrows and faux-ethnic hair, while still telling women of color that their natural hair is too distracting.
But that’s how I feel about it. What are your thoughts? Is natural hair just a style or an actual state? Should Madison straighten her hair to appease her bosses and advance her career (i.e. earn a paycheck) or should she stick to her hair principles?
It’s no secret — or surprise — that by and large the entertainment and fashion industries aren’t checking for fuller figures, and even when they are it’s rare that those plus-size bodies are round and brown. That reality has hardly been a deterrent for curvy fatshionistas who proudly flaunt their colored curves on social media and popular websites, and this past Saturday that community came together in New York City to celebrate that curvy confidence at the first annual CurvyCon.
theCurvyCon, brainchild of bloggers Chastity Garner and CeCe Olisa, was created to celebrate plus-size fashion, beauty, lifestyle and wellness with a day-long event featuring speakers from Kierra Sheard and Amber Riley to Gabi Gregg, Nadia Aboulhosn, and more tackling subjects like confidence, dating at any size, and plus-size health and fitness.
On site for the festivities, we couldn’t help but notice the influx of Black and Brown beauties, spanning ethnicities from African American and Caribbean to Latina and Middle Eastern, so we chatted with a few notable attendees about the state of full-figured minority acceptance and whether we’re still at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to European beauty standards or progress is actually being made.
Style Blogger Gabbi Gregg of Gabifresh.com said she completely understands the frustration of mainstream brands and media not focusing on or featuring women of color, especially Black women. “It’s hard,” she told us on the red carpet.”There’s the colorism issue and the racism issue so it kind of trickles down into every aspect of the industry. Unfortunately, we’re included in that so we’re fighting an uphill battle, having to fight the fashion industry, both because of our size and color. But that’s not to say there’s not progress because I do see more and more people being featured and included.”
One such woman being included is Chanté Burkett of Everythingcurvyandchic.com who was recently featured in a very special “Target Loves Every Body” campaign, aimed at proving swimsuits can flatter body types of all kinds, including those that are full figured. “For someone like me to be featured on that level was amazing,” Burkett told us at the CurvyCon. “To showcase an obviously brown person in a campaign that big just goes to show we need more of us in that light. It’s always a struggle and it’s hard, but we keep on fighting. Eventually we’ll take over.”
CurvyCon is certainly a great start, particularly because the idea behind the conference isn’t exactly novel – at least among minority women. As conference co-creator Chastity Garner of GarnerStyle told us, “As women of color, it’s almost natural that we started something like this. We’ve always embraced our bodies; we’re just bringing along more people for the ride.”
Conference co-creator CeCe Olisa of Plussizeprincess.com echoed that sentiment, saying “The ethnic communities kind of gravitate towards a little more curvier figures and we’re kind of leading the way and embracing that. Now we’re just letting everyone else in on our secret.”
Hopefully Hollywood and the fashion industries don’t sleep on that well-known fact for too much longer. But if they do, oh well. There’s always next year’s CurvyCon.
If you’re a hairy woman, like myself, you know that shaving is often frequent and requires a lot of effort. Between your legs, bikini/mons area, your armpits and even some of your upper lips, hair removal is a chore.
But the game might be changing ladies. All on social media websites, most prominently Tumblr, there are #NoShave and #NoShaveNoShade hashtags which seek to promote and encourage women to forgo shaving the hair that grows naturally on our bodies. There are tons of young women who are refusing to wax, shave or laser of the hair, particularly under their arms, in celebration of what adult female bodies really look like.
And unlike the #Movember movement, where men stop shaving their beards to raise awareness about prostate cancer, this is more of a lifestyle change.
One Tumblr user, Uselessblogga wrote:
I decided a little while back that I was going to stop shaving.
This is the first time I wear a tank out and about and EVERYONE will see zomg!!
The only reason I ever did it was because it was taught. Shaving in general has never come natural to me, I always forget and I end up feeling self conscious when we randomly decide to go swim or something.
So why should I do something, that I don’t even like doing, only to please complete strangers or to feel “normal”
Nah man, fuck that.
I like this. This is normal.
Another user remembered how, in the fourth grade, hearing one of classmates call another “monkey legs” scared her into shaving.
I’m sure many of us have a similar story. But shaving hasn’t always been a mandatory thing. And I’m not talking about in Europe. In middle and high school, I played volleyball and we had to wear shorts well into the fall for our games. One day, after practice, I was loudly lamenting about needing to shave my legs soon. That’s when one of our volleyball mothers proudly showed me her legs, which, as I was noticing for the first time, were very hairy. She said, “Back in the day hairy legs used to be considered sexy.” I looked at her in disbelief but my mother, who is naturally virtually hairless, offered a reputable cosign.
In middle school, I wasn’t trying to hear that. But now that the summer is here and my legs are seeing the light of day again, I’m reminded of how tedious and annoying shaving every 3-5 days can be.
I like the smooth, clean look and feel but I’m also lazy and am not particularly fond of the nicks I often give myself when I’m rushing to shave just so I can wear some leg-revealing outfit.
And while I could possibly be swayed when it comes to letting my leg hair grow in the summer like it does in the winter, I’m definitely not so sure about the armpit part. We all know that hair holds odor and if you sweat a lot, or at all, as most of us do in the summer, you might find yourself a little musty. And that’s no bueno. But the ladies participating in this new trend are not only letting their armpit hair flourish, they’re dying it and sharing it on social media.
In the words of Outkast, “Whatever floats your boat or finds your lost remote…”
What do you think about this no shave trend ladies? Is it something you could see yourself doing? Is it something you’ve been doing for years? Or will you leave this one to the ladies on Tumblr?
When you have siblings, it’s almost a need to try to find ways to differentiate yourself from your kin. I have two older sisters, and one younger, and I was always compared to them. On top of that, people always made me feel less, because in a family of lighter toned sisters, I was the only dark one and the shortest. So, I was thrown into the “cousin” category for strangers and acquaintances whenever they saw us together (“Why is your cousin always with y’all?”).
But, I love my sisters, and I love my dark skin, so it was more so a small annoyance than a life changing complex. However, I still wanted to one-up them on something! That day came when we went shoe shopping when I was in about fifth or sixth grade.
Eastlands were the shoes to get that time, and while we all got pretty much the same shoe, but with different tones to them, I was happy when I realized that my feet were bigger than everyone’s (including my mother’s).
The next day at school I puffed my chest out and proudly proclaimed my 7.5 sized foot.
After that, I don’t think I really thought about my feet that much. They were there, they helped me to move, march (I was in marching band in high school), and I always had really cute shoes.
It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college, when I was at my job at the Main Stacks library that I thought about them again. I was getting an order of books when a woman who was in the elevator with me started yelling while pointing at my feet. I was scared that there was some type of bug or rodent around my feet, so I started screaming as well, while trying to climb on top of the assistance bar.
After asking asking/yelling: “What?! What’s wrong?!” She finally answered.
“It’s your feet! They’re so huge!”
By that time my feet were a healthy 9.5, and it caught me off guard because that day I was wearing a cute pair of knock off Pumas (the Bakers’ kind) that were actually a size 8. So to think that if I took the shoe off, and for my feet to unfold like a rewound version of the Wicked Witch of the East’s feet under Dorthy’s house, how would she react then?
I thought I could mentally recover, but after we got back to the main floor, she brought one of her friends to the checkout counter and asked me to show her friend the size of my feet.
At that moment I felt incredibly insecure. How could something that I felt so proud about a few years ago, bring so much shame in a single elevator ride? But it did. I began mentally dissecting what was wrong with my feet. Was it the fact that I’m really short, so my feet stick out like boats in front of me? Was it the style of shoes I chose? Were the shoes too audacious, and brought too much attention to them?
I’d never obsessed about my feet more than I did in those days. They were big, they were Flintstone-ish, but at the end of the day they were mine, and that’s what I had to come to terms with.
How could I hate something that literally brought me to where I am now? That helped me run, jump double dutch, dance, and walk to where ever I wanted to go? How could I dissect something that was so stable, was my literal foundation, and allowed me to maneuver my path in life?
I couldn’t. My long feet helped make me who I am, not just physically, but mentally. They were the first inclination to me that I could stand out from my sisters, and that I could find something of my own to be proud of.
They were a source of multiple adventures, strength, and had an uncanny appearance to baked potatoes when I was pregnant. I love these big suckers!
So to you, dear readers, in a time where we obsess over our appearances, and focus on innocuous flaws, I encourage you to love yourself how you are. If you do decide to change your perceived flaw, do it under the name of improvement, not the guise of misplaced vanity. Also, don’t allow someone else to usher shame into something that you were so proud of before. You never know if your “flaw” could be the one thing that could put you a foot above the rest.
Kendra Koger likes to tap dance her size 9.5 feet over to her twitter @kkoger.
Why is everyone in super defensive mode over the leaked L’oreal pictures of Beyoncé’s pre-photoshopped and untouched face?
I mean I understand the superstar entertainer and her stans are still licking wounds after she stole…er, I mean, borrowed that gospel song from Ledisi for the Grammys and got dragged for sounding like Barry White on it. But really are those pictures such a big deal that they require this much offense?
I mean, it’s not like the pictures are really unflattering. If anything Beyonce without all the filters and good lighting, is still pretty and actually looks perfectly normal. In fact, she probably looks more normal than the images of herself that she passes off as natural.
But let her stans tell it, the internet has shamed Beyoncé. I’m not calling out any folks directly (this time) because there are just too many of you all to quote. However you can pretty much search “Beyoncé leaked pictures” and find a plethora of angry think pieces and tweets from stans, shaming and wishing death upon anyone caught passing the photos around. Hell some stans even called the FBI over the leaked photos.
I get the angst to an extent. All photos are deceptive. Even the ones we take on our personal cameras. We may not have fancy-schmancy editing program; but we do tend to stand in the good light, pose on our good sides, and wear our good makeup and outfits to make us look more “flawless” than what we actually are normally. If some folks are like me, we’ll might even take a dozen or so pictures of ourselves until we find that one “natural” selfie that will do us justice aesthetically. In a sense we are all guilty of not keeping it photogenically 100. So why should we expect anything different from celebrities, particularly ones whose careers are based around keeping up appearances?
But that’s kind of the point. The unnecessary need to keep up appearances and the overall importance we put on beauty, even over other more useful attributes (like brains and skill) seems counter productive. Like the folks who are dismissively asking “why does it matter” and saying things like “everyone has a bad picture” only seems to confirm that there is something legitimately wrong with the pictures even though there isn’t.
Likewise folks, particularly those who write and care about eradicating social ills and empowering impressionable minds, know why untouched photos of celebrities matter. In a world where folks, particularly young people, are not only comparing themselves to these altered images, but doing all sorts of surgery and suffering through all sort of body dysmorphic disorders, the continuation of projecting false images of ourselves is genuinely hurting people. And we can all talk about “loving ourselves” and how proper self-esteem starts with the parents, but some folks weren’t nurtured that way. And some were, but still have trouble seeing themselves through a wall of images and beauty ideals, which have been reinforced by society and counteract everything they grew up believing. Therefore in the interest of healing all of society, we should call more attention to when folks are not being their authentic selves.
Like Beyoncé once said, “pretty hurts.” And the assault on our individual psyche is real. And the insecurity that those assaults create is how the powers that be go about getting all of us to be good consumers to products and services which we really don’t need, including L’oreal makeup. I mean, I can understand if we were talking about removing a blemish or two, but the advertisers literally resized her face so that it was thinner and altered her neck, so we wouldn’t see the normal folds we all have while operating our body like a human being. I mean, who is looking at and judging that child’s neck like that?
Quiet as it’s kept, it’s likely the pressure from many of her stans themselves, which forces Beyoncé to want to be perfect all the time. I honestly believe that some of them are scared to see Bey without the lights and glam as it will ruin the shallow illusion of immortality. Yet most times, it’s her critics who don’t have a problem because we have no problem seeing her as what she truly is: a human being just like the rest of us.
With so many women declaring that exposing their bodies and casual sex are acts of liberation, a battle cry of sorts for women who want to push back against the tyranny against the female body, I wonder what message we truly want to send to young women and girls? Somehow, in today’s culture, exposing ourselves physically has become synonymous with taking the control back of our bodies, redefining “sexy” and what agency entails. I can’t help but scratch my head in confusion. If feminism and womanism are about the fair treatment of women and recapturing the ability to be and define ourselves for ourselves, how has expressing control of our images and our bodies become so one-dimensional? Why isn’t the pointed choice to cover one’s body seen as equally empowering?
I modeled many years ago in college. I felt ugly and awkward back then, but I fought past all of that to don skimpy clothes and stand in front of a camera in a desperate attempt to feel beautiful. When I posted those photos to my social media accounts (back then it was Myspace and BlackPlanet), the attention I received from the opposite sex was intoxicating. It validated me. It made me feel anything but ugly or awkward.
I didn’t stick with modeling for long, so when I finally had an opportunity to pick the hobby back up this year, I was jazzed, but for brand new reasons. I could finally carve out time to work with an especially creative friend and come up with fun and creative concepts, angles, backgrounds and more, in order to create great photographs and great artwork. The difference between modeling for me then and now is that I shoot without baring much (if any) skin. It was a subconscious decision as I have become increasingly aware of the fact that I can feel attractive, s*xy and good about myself on my own terms. I’m not comfortable baring too much skin. I have never been. Instead of trying to fight that, I embraced it. The decision to dress to my own liking and not bare it all struck me as valuable in a brand new way.
My younger cousins, some of my students, and my mentees have seen the photographs. In a world that is pretty much completely driven by sex and money, simply seeing a photograph of a woman they know who is fully dressed but is still “attractive” has given them a new view of what it means to be s*xy and how they want to define it for themselves. Some of my students who’ve only ever thought of themselves as attractive when they were baring as much skin as possible are now rethinking and asking themselves what they like about who they are and how do they really want to dress? That was a revelation for me.
It’s not healthy to equate a woman’s control of her body with nudity and sexual suggestiveness, especially not for girls and young women who are still exploring themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. What narrow trajectory does that line of thinking offer them? Instead, I would argue that the power is in having the option. The power, the control, and the appeal is in the ability to say, “This is what everyone else thinks and feels, but this over here is what I think, feel and believe and THIS is how I choose to define myself.” Whatever the decision chosen is, it is well-informed and it is your own. It’s easy to go along with popular trends because a favorite actress or singer has suddenly made this or that “cool.” We’re not taught to question the groupthink of pop culture. We’re taught to give in to societal demands and fall in line with ideology that does not serve our higher selves.
Are nudity and sex horrible things? Absolutely not, but they certainly aren’t the end-all, be-all of all things s*xy and attractive. And they certainly aren’t what girls and young women should be seeing exclusively as womanhood. Knowing that we have the right to step into our own beauty in whatever way we choose is where our power lies as women and as human beings. Fearing that we somehow score within the lowest beauty percentile if we choose not to expose our bodies is just as damaging as trying to force virtue through never discussing the body and sex. Our power, as 21st century women, is not in succumbing to sexist stereotypes and reclaiming them as our “liberation.” Our power is in realizing our intelligence to think outside of anyone’s boxes and choosing the option that best elevates us individually, and those who will come after us.
La Truly is a writer, higher education professional, and young women’s empowerment enthusiast. She mixes her interest in social and cultural issues with her life experiences to encourage thought, discussion and positive change among young Women of Color. Follow her on Twitter: @ashleylatruly and check out her site: www.ashleyjh.com.