ask patricia, beauty, Beauty Is, black beauty, black history, colourism, danielle drama, dark skinned, Lupita Nyong'o, Patricia Benjamin, Rachael Williams, shadeism, skin bleaching, slavery, tar baby, Toyin Agbetu
WHAT IS BEAUTY?
Greetings again! Danielle here!
I hope you have all had a wonderful week since we were last here.
So to kick off the post. The reason I wanted to speak about the subject of beauty, particularly how its perceived is because it seems to just be absolutely everywhere! When I open up a magazine, billboards, television videos, films etc. The same sorts of images continue to bombard me. Long straight blond hair, pinched cherub cheeks, sleek noses, waif like figures, just your typical Barbie if you like – completely unattainable right?
The ideas of what beauty should look like are continually fed to us through what we are consuming so its no wonder most women are always trying to be the next Beyonce or look like one of the Kardashians. Now I have nothing against either.
Thinking back to a very early part of my life (possibly aged 10) I remember asking my parents ‘why am I black and why cant I be white?’ -what nonsense! I can’t even remember what response I got back. What has stuck with me is why the thought even entered my mind – was I not good enough? Just because I’m of a darker skin? Were the girls my ages prettier because they were white? I don’t know the two seemed to be synonymous to me.
Growing up I remember begging my Mother to let me relax my hair, to no avail! All the girls at school had theirs relaxed and tangle free I thought I should be able to have the same privilege too! Mum would say
‘No Danielle its not good for your hair, it will cause more damage and you will be doing it forever’.
Despite the warnings I still wanted it. I was in my teens when I wanted this perm and I battled with the idea for a long time until I just decided it was pretty much high time I began wearing a weave. This way I could have my cake and eat it too. Yes! I can hang on to my natural curls but on the surface show off long straight hair! Win-win.
Once the weaves started then came the false nails then the false eye lashes and all the rest!
But why am I doing all this and for whom? I thought- I don’t actually NEED to wear a weave. I don’t NEED to wear false eye lashes.
I had been conditioned for years to think that if I’m going to be considered beautiful I need all the stuff that i just don’t have naturally!
Personally I have no issue with weaves or false nails and lashes. I have a problem with being coerced to thinking that’s going to be the only way I can be on an equal footing with my peers when it comes to being attractive.
I see so many beautiful black women and other women of colour shunning their own beauty in favour of somebody elses-why? Covering up their own natural characteristics to represent another. Why?
Be who you are! I stopped wearing a weave years ago. There are benefits to them of course but if you feel there is no other option for you than to wear a weave/wig to feel acceptable/comfortable/beautiful or it is just better than your own hair – there lies a problem.
The realization that there is nothing wrong with wearing my own hair and nothing wrong with my skin and nothing wrong with my own nails and nothing wrong with my body shape is freeing.
Ironically most of the time and money most of us black women are spending to look like some pin up poster girl sometimes has the opposite desired effect. We women want to look good for ourselves but also to the opposite sex. Ive been told most men prefer the ‘Au Naturel’ version of ourselves anyway.
Behind the lashes and extensions etc if we stripped it all away, what’s there? Is it who you really are and who you should celebrate being?
All women are beautiful. We can never be the same so why are we all still chasing the fantasy dream we are being sold that the face of beauty is only one type of person?
I can’t be Kylie nor can I be Miley!
Took a while to accept but I am Danielle.
That’s all I can do to be MY very best. Afro kinks and all the rest. When will you Accept that beautiful is looking right back at you?
I could go on forever but you guys have lives too so I’ll leave it there for now. Let us know your thoughts please 🙂 Ciao!
Danielle Drama @DLDrama
Well, when Danielle Drama brought this up as a topic for the Ask Patricia Show, I thought “yes what a great topic!” And as we engaged with everyone on social media it seemed a lot of you thought so too. We received a tremendous response via emails, twitter and Facebook. Thank you all.
I did my best to read them out on the show but had too many to fit in. Go to my page Ask Patricia on Facebook and you can read them there yourself.
It looks as though most of you thought beauty came from within. That it wasn’t wholly dependent on physicality. Of course it would be wrong to say appearance didn’t play a big part. But a bad attitude would ruin the nicest looks!
Also, black beauty in particular was under discussion on the Show as film maker Toyin Agbetu, director of the film, Beauty Is, joined me. He explained that until women of a darker shade stopped bleaching their skin and black women stopped feeling the need to wear Brazilian hair attached to their heads to be considered socially acceptable or attractive, there was a problem.
The other day People Magazine voted for Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o as the world’s Most Beautiful Person. Nyong’o is a darker shade of black. So does this mean that black is now beautiful in its own right without adornment or artifice?
Model Rachael Williams who was the first ever Miss Black Britain, also on the Show, told me in no uncertain terms that this was not the case.
So perhaps black beauty needs to be declared by those who depict it. Not by those who sell magazines.
Perhaps black people need to own their own beauty.
I feel choice must always be upheld. If a woman decides to wear extensions for a particular style or to wear makeup that shouldn’t be made more of than necessary. A girl is allowed to experiment with her looks, style and use her personal creativity. Where the problem occurs is when she tries to look completely different from her natural self because she hates her looks. Because she hates what the mirror reflects back to her. Nyong’o says she used to pray every day for lighter skin. Mothers are still bleaching their daughters’ skin. All wrong.
I got a brilliant email from a young lady in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and had no chance to read it on the Show. It’s quite long but well worth the read as I think it makes great points.
“I’m glad to take on this question as a challenge! I hope my response will be enlightening to many women that have skin that has been enriched with pigment. No matter what ethnicity they are. Love the skin you’re in, there is no other place for you to go!
Firstly, whenever I hear the term ‘dark-skinned’, it makes me think of something negative. I oftentimes refer to myself and other women as richly pigmented. Saying this encourages positive thoughts about one’s skin color.
I am very happy to see beautiful chocolate women like Lupita Nyong’o grace the covers of Euro-Centric influenced magazine covers and are appraised for their beauty. I do not see it as a society milestone as much as Euro-Centric influenced magazines finally have decided that fair skin is not the only skin that can be considered beautiful. Lupita Nyong’o follows in the footsteps of other richly pigmented models and actresses like Grace Jones, Iman, Beverly Johnson, Angela Bassett and the list goes on.
As women we have been tricked in to believing that the European standard of beauty is the only way to be known as being beautiful. Even Caucasian women are opting for augmenting themselves to have fuller figures, lips, kinkier textured hair, etc.
Growing up, I remember my grandmother warning me to never crawl around on my hands and knees, do not play outside in the hottest part of the day because all of these things would make me ‘darker’. If I were darker, I would be called a ‘tar baby’. Excuse me, but, where in the hell did this come from? It’s a teaching that has been passed down through the generations from the old to the young because they too became victims to what European influenced beauty standards were showing on television and other media outlets.
I grew up in a family of varying shades from deep dark chocolate to vanilla. I remember the women in my family using a face cream named Nadinola. As an adult, I found out that the active ingredient in this cream is hydroquinone. Long term use of hydroquinone could lead to dry, cracking skin and other allergic reactions. Now, I live in the Middle East. I see so many different brands of fade creams. All of these beauty creams contain carcinogenic ingredients that can lead to cancer. My questions are: is it worth dying for to be considered beautiful by others that may not find beauty in themselves? What would happen if we truly loved the skin that we were in?
I am more mature in my thinking about beauty. I used to think that lighter skin would make me prettier and more acceptable in society. Maybe I would have more opportunities professionally as well as with romantic suitors. Those were my thoughts. I am the type of person that believes in reinventing me from the inside out. I used to have stigmas about my richly pigmented skin. I watched at many documentaries on YouTube about how women of all ethnicities felt about their ‘dark skin’. Many of them were painful to watch as I too felt that I was not loveable, attractive or people would say: oh, she’s a nice person and kind of cute for a dark-skinned girl. I learned that ‘shadeism’ is a form or oppression similar to racism. I also looked towards my religion to guide me. I wanted to know how I could heal my sick heart from my negative thinking that was keeping me from fully accepting myself.
“What I have found in my religious teachings is that altering my body in any way to enhance my beauty as I see it is denying God’s favors upon me. It is me saying that He made a mistake in making me in His image. I looked at the lives of my friends. Some are richly pigmented as me. They are very successful. Some of them have spouses that are rich in color. I decided to heal my soul by cultivating the wonderful attributes I possess and rid myself of ignorant teachings and thoughts that did not serve me as the woman I am today. I decided to choose how I wanted others to see and remember me. When people see me, they see all of me. Not only my outward appearance. A 1,000-watt smile can take a person far in this life too!
If there are any young girls or women listening, I hope you are encouraged not to fall prey to others deciding what you should look like walking out of your house. Have the confidence to make your own decisions and choices. Always remember, fruits ripen from the inside out. If a person has a rotten core, it doesn’t matter how much they put in to your outward appearance. Their lives are not in harmony because they are living a lie hoping others will not catch on. Be whole, be bold and love yourself.” Sennie Rose, Saudi Arabia
So, everyone will you now decide for yourself what is beautiful?
Feel free to share your thoughts here with us. See you next time.
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