This week was supposed to be about the three articles I had spent all weekend outlining and researching that needed writing and final touches but with my laptop charger gone and new stories constantly disrupting my train of thoughts. Most of them turned out to be intense feelings of empathy that were fleeting at best. It was a week that weighed heavily on my emotions and gave me new perspective on beauty.
This article is not about whether or not black women are beautiful. It’s not an argument. They are beautiful, so I don’t think it’s a topic to be visited or rehashed. It’s about my perception on beauty and individuality.
I especially like one of the definitions given by Merriam-Webster dictionary. It describes beauty as the qualities in a person or a thing that give pleasure to the senses or the mind. I once attempted an article on beauty that didn’t work out because I wanted several opinions and everyone I asked had similar ideas that seemed untrue and pretentious.
I am a fan of Wattpad and sometimes I try to find authors that inspire something in me and today after reading ‘the curves ahead’ by blondanddangerous. I found myself fascinated by Evianna Moore’s journey to self-love and becoming beautiful. I’m much more conservative than she and we have different paths but the story altogether was inspiring. I was absolutely devastated when Heather died but it took more than everything she had learnt to get over her biggest crises. To lose her best friend and all the guilt, hurt and self-loathing that came with it. In the end it made her a better person.
This piece was inspirited by Evianna’s journey to understand that beauty is not skin deep. It’s beyond appreciating models and cursing others with good genes. But appreciating their effort to become the women they are, through hard work and gruesome diets. It about letting go of stereotypical judgement and seeing uniquely to their situations and how it affects the way they are and how they see themselves.
The concept of beauty is generational. I understood that after reading more than a dozen articles about beauty from the 1500s till now. It changes with politics, societal values and trends set by important historical figures (be aware that importance varies through centuries). From 1500s to the Victorian era, high society ladies and queen’s like Queen Elizabeth, Victoria and Mary of Scots were trend setters, from the 1900s, actresses and musicians like Marilyn Munroe, Jenifer Aniston, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, the Beatles etc became role models and their appearance and gait determined what was defined as beauty.
Although beauty changes with time, some principles remain. That is that beauty was always defined by rules, spoken or unspoken that set impossible standards that caused people to forgo wealth and health in the search of beauty.
Case 1: André Félibien (1600s)
He described beauty based on Venus who he considered an idyllic image of beauty. He depicted his convictions with twenty points that described the perfect woman in detail. Details such as the form and size of the eyebrow, ear and even chin were included.
Case 2: Georgian era Gentlemen (17…)
Setting Queen Louise of Prussia as the standard of beauty 30 points were raised to describe beauty which included over the top things like breast of alabaster and neck of ivory (what does this even mean!!!!)
Case 3: Victorian era
Before the Victorian era, pale skin (in my opinion rather sickly looking), rouge cheeks and blond hair were what defined beauty and women were encouraged (more like required) to achieve it. Things like lead based paints and powder and arsenic were used to achieve the sought after pale complexion which resulted in poisoning.
Although pale complexion was still favourable, the Victorian era beauty as determined by Queen Victoria focused on the importance of modesty and natural beauty and use of little or no makeup. Beauty was however defined by doe eyes, shaped brows and pale skin which the high class ladies tried to achieve by using belladonna as eye drops, soot as mascara, whale wax and arsenic despite the dangerous side-effects to the body. Make-up was done subtly and in a way to look natural.
Through the 1900s the concept of beauty changed rapidly with industrialization and war outbreaks and almost every decade, beauty trends became more dynamic.
Topknots with ringlets for women, short hair with moustache for men (1930s and 1940s). Use of heavy eyeliners, mascaras and intensely coloured lips for women and musical icon Elvis Presley as model of beauty for men (1950s). Afro hair in 1960s, punk movement (which included piercings, tattoos and spiked hair) in 1970s.
Tanning wasn’t even considered beautiful until the 1920s
My point is the concept of conventional beauty is dynamic and will change over the next decade. So do we adjust to it, bend to its will just to seem beautiful to society irrespective of what harm it will cause to our bodies or our unique identity.
Instead we take back our identity fully aware that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. I am of the category that believes that whatever you consider to be true about yourself will give off a certain aura to those around you. It is simply how the world works. What you believe is what you project and what you project is what others see.
See yourself as beautiful and let your outfit and overall look reflect your individuality. Go from being fat to being curvy and confident, from being thin to slender and elegant. But above all, stay healthy.
Women aspire to same beauty attributes as in 16th century by Samuel Henry ( The Telegraph, Paris; 2013)
History of beauty, history of hair (ukhairdresser.com)
Beauty through history ( Sharon Rommjan; 1987)
Weird Victorian beauty standards we thankfully don’t deal with today (Lisa lo Paro)
On beauty, bathing and being a Victorian era woman (Xojane make-up; Jan 2015)
Ideas of female beauty in 1700’s and 1800’s (Geri Walton; Aug 2014)
The Curves Ahead by Kate J. Squires (available on Wattpad)