The Movement // Eff Your Beauty Standards

"It's not vanity to feel you have a right to be beautiful. Women are taught to feel we're not good enough, that we must live up to someone else's standards. But my aim is to cherish myself as I am."

-Elle Macpherson

I read an article the other day about a young woman wanting to be "black-girl blonde" and it struck a chord with me. I was that same woman for a long time. Now, y'all know I love to play around with my looks and recently went lighter for the first time in years but everything she said about 'feeling like she was born with the wrong hair' is what I thought for the longest.
For awhile now I have been fed up with the beauty standards in this country. It's ironic, me being a makeup artist and style blogger, taking issue with how Americans view beauty but it also makes sense if you think about it. I'm a black woman. In America. A makeup artist and a style blogger. I've spent my whole life trying to navigate my own issues of what is beautiful and if I measure up to those standards in some way. But who's standards are they? I mean where did they come from?

I distinctly remember the first time I realized I was black and that that was somehow different. My neighbor friend and I were walking back to my house from hers and we were talking about tanning or something and she said "You're can't tan". Ouch. It wasn't so much that she pointed out the difference in our skin color, a difference to which I was completely oblivious, it was the way she said it. Like I was less than. It stung. It took me a while to recover.

Going to a predominately white school there were never any boys who really liked girls like me and if they did it was akin to the holy grail. The fact that a white guy would even dare be interested in a black meant she had to be pretty.... but by who's standards? I remember always feeling like the ugly duckling whenever I liked a boy and he chose my fairer skinned counterpart. Therefore I never dated a single guy from my school.  It wasn't until college that I really started to feel pretty and even there I didn't think I was all that. Surrounded by people who looked like me and boys who were interested, I finally began to see the beauty all around me. And still, I tried to conform to societies norm. I read Cosmo and Glamour and even though they had all these beauty tips, none of them ever applied to me and if they did it was always as an after thought in two lines of the whole article "if you have dark or olive skin try using XYZ". Yet, I still tried the products! I lightened my hair, went to crazy lengths to protect my perm and 'fit in' and it never felt like it was enough.

Growing up there were never really women who looked like me who were fabulous and famous and brown. Eventually they did come along (Iman, Naomi, Tyra) and historically there were others I knew nothing about, but even they were showcased in the "standard" - long/ straight hair , impossibly thin, legs for days...conforming to a society's standards of what is considered to be beautiful.
The magazines weren't/aren't any better really. They sell us month after month on things we need to be beautiful and maintain our beauty but that's just kind of bullshit really.
We don't need 17 different eye creams + face treatments simply because Vogue magazine says they are amazeballs. If you want to talk about taking care of your skin and keeping it healthy that's one thing, but every month they tell you what you're doing is not enough to look as fly as the girls in the magazines.
Fortunately, now, we  know they're all airbrushed to the hilt but back in the late 90's how was a 19 year old girl supposed to know?

Being beautiful has nothing to do with how you look on the outside. It's all about how you carry yourself and your inner being. You can be gorgeous eye candy but dumber than a box of rocks so what purpose do you serve?
Fast forward 20 years and it's still the same thing....but there is a change on the horizon. I told y'all about Melinda awhile back and how I was compelled to stalk her Insta feed and FB see what she's all about, well she really and truly struck me because of her honesty and vulnerability. In a place where the majority of people are showing off in some form or another she and several other women are creating a movement of acceptance and love. For your body. For yourself. As you are. Flaws and all. #HonorYourCurves . #EffYourBeautyStandards . It's all so awesome.

I have a tween daughter who is growing into quite the stunning young lady. She has all the features that appeal to society, long hair (when it's straightened) and light skin. I never want her to think that's all she needs in life. With the natural hair movement on the rise and more and more women of color making their mark in the world it's hard to debate what beauty really is these days. And then comes the awesomeness that is #BlackGirlsRock and I can't wait to sit down and watch it with my girl. I want to show her what her future holds and share with her how it's so different than mine. I want her to know she is beautiful both inside and out and to not hold herself to anyone's standards but her own. My hope is that she sees me, doing my thing, rocking my style my way and is inspired to be her own person in all regards. I know that's a tall order but a mama can dream right?

Is it a bit contradictory for me to sit here and wax poetically about society's standards of beauty when I myself have been a slave to them? Sure in a way. But that's kind of my point. I see both sides of the coin  and am doing my best to break down the barriers and walls. Eff the beauty standards that are the 'norm'. Honor your curves and embrace the woman you see in the mirror each day. I know I am. Each and every time I take a selfie - I'm giving the finger to the insecure teen/twenty-something I used to be. And I am thrilled to be doing so.

How do you feel about the way beauty is portrayed in today's society? Do you have a hard time embracing your beauty each day?

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  1. Girl. You. Said. It.
    I think some of my experiences mirror yours. I never wanted to be black girl blonde tho lol :)
    It's really disturbing when I think too long about it, how tiny the window is of what's considered beautiful.
    It's sad and makes me worry for our girls. (I'm claiming a girl in my belly lol) It's up to us as moms/aunties/big sis/cousins/neighbors etc. to let the young'ns know that what you see on TV isn't the end all be all. Your round lips, wide nose, brown skin, kinky hair, beautiful too. And what matters most is that you're a beautiful person. Smart is beautiful, classy is beautiful, sporty is beautiful, clever is beautiful et.c etc etc.
    It's hard to compete with the images they will be bombarded with in the media from every whicha way.... but we've gotta try.

  2. Wow, It's like we grew up in the same neighborhood. I was always the only Black girl and my mom said when I was 3 I told her I was going to trade her in for a White mommy. I don't think I ever wanted to be White, I just didn't want my Blackness to be so different. I hope that makes sense.

    I try my best to make sure my nieces know they are beautiful, to know that being brown is a good thing. Not better than white, just that they are beautiful in their own skin. They have dolls that look like them and I try my best to be a good example and show them what a lady with brown skin looks and acts like.

    Thanks for sharing.


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