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Monday, November 5, 2012

Vanity Fair

Mirror, mirror…on the wall. Who is the fairest of them all?

Well, who is the fairest? People Magazine recently published their 2012 Most Beautiful Women issue. And you wouldn’t be surprised to find out what women were in the running. These women are usually canonized in the media for their good looks and unblemished bodies. And even if they are not as beautiful as the plastic surgery, airbrush, and make up would portray… These women create America’s ‘standard of beauty’.

The media is to blame for our current conception of beauty.  Actually, we are responsible for our own perception of beauty. Haven’t you heard that beauty is in the eye of the beholder? With all human beings having their differences in size, shape, color and so forth, how did we develop what was considered beautiful overall? It could be possible that media has influenced our perception of beauty, but I think the media has been a scapegoat for quite some time. We have to remember that the media is similar to a corporation; supply and demand. Give the people what they want. And if the people want skinny, flat stomachs, long hair and blue eyes… they WILL give you just that. At the end of the day, they are trying to sell magazines… and we’re apparently buying them.

At some point you have to stop pointing the finger at the ‘media’ and admit to yourself that you also may find those typical features represented in magazines as beautiful. Looking at myself, for years I covered my natural hair with 14 inches on Indian Hair because I felt like it enhanced my look. I still think I look better with long, straight, dark hair although my natural hair is quite the opposite. But who’s to blame for this European complex? I would cover up my need for weave by saying ‘I like having different looks’ or ‘I don’t like doing my real hair’. When the truth was, I didn't know how to do my own hair, because I was always running from it. I didn't think my natural hair was beautiful. I was seeking maximum beauty potential and weave did that for me. Yeah, I’m cute with coily hair… but it was something about that long, straight, dark brown hair following in the wind that made me feel beautiful.

With plastic surgery becoming more acceptable, people are completely willing to change themselves to fit the standard of beauty. This is what I would consider a First World Problem; we see where our priorities lie as citizens in America. We don’t have to worry about our next meal, or shelter over our heads, so we worry about more arbitrary things… like ‘is my butt too big?’ For example, I know for sure, there isn’t a woman in America who hasn’t been concerned about her weight. Rightfully so! It’s important to be healthy. But these obsessions with beauty aren’t motivated by health, but rather meeting a standard. We are using someone else’s measuring stick to measure ourselves. 


If only we were more concerned with changing our insides, rather than what is visible on the outside. If it were the option of beauty vs heart, beauty would win every time. And at the end of the day, this alteration of self is done to please others. To be considered beautiful amongst your peers. It’s a good feeling to be desired. To have someone tell you that you are the most beautiful women in the room… but where is the heart in that? Beauty (not considering weight) is something given to you… you didn’t have to work hard to be beautiful… it just so happened that way… some were born with good looks and some had to purchase it. GOOD GENES or GOOD DOCS. But a good heart, that requires a bit more than inheritance. 

It could be possible that the next generation of young women will be dealing with insecurities as a learned behavior. I remember growing up and hearing older woman complain about their bodies and what they didn’t like. I felt like this was their way of acknowledging the elephant in the room, even when there was no elephant to be acknowledged. It’s a defense mechanism. There have been times where I would have a blemish on my face and believed that everyone I encountered that day was looking directly at my blemish. So, in order to acknowledge the ‘elephant’ in the room, I would mention the blemish on my face casually. Usually the person on the receiving end would respond with ‘I didn’t notice it… but now that you've said something, I can see it.’ They didn’t notice it until I brought it to their attention. Which reminds me of the saying ‘You are your biggest critic’. We over analyze our bodies and at times, we make up problems that do not really exist.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a psychiatric term for a person who exaggerates a problem with their body to the point of delusion. They might perceive a minor flaw as a hideous disfigurement, and become fixated on it. According to Hullet, a cosmetic procedure may expose an existing issue or possibly even trigger one. ‘They develop a new obsession’ he says. ‘They get the nose fixed, and then it’s the eyebrows. They fix the eyebrows, and then it’s the ears. The perceived abnormality keeps moving.

What we aren’t cognizant about is that from puberty to the age of 18, children are especially vulnerable to body image issues, says psychiatrist Hullet. If they don’t fully understand the reasons and observe a family member take the drastic step of an invasive surgery, they may learn a skewed lesson about the importance of appearance. A teenage girl who sees her mother undergo a breast augmentation, for example, may then view her own small breasts as deficient or unattractive, affecting her confidence or future behavior. Plastic surgery doesn’t change your genes, so it’s likely that your children will have the same (or a close resemblance) physical features that the parent may have considered ‘abnormal’. So, how does a parent tell their child that their nose is beautiful, after they had plastic surgery on their own nose?

Real Housewives of Miami's Marysol Patton and mom Elsa Patton

And plastic surgery isn’t a walk in the park… which is why I don’t understand why so many people opt to do it. When you go under the knife to alter your appearance, your body goes through trauma. Serious physical complications like any surgery, it is a major stresser to the body and needs to be taken seriously," says surgeon Wallace. "People think it's like going out to lunch." Many may not be prepared for a lengthy recuperation that entails fatigue, swelling and scarring, or are not thoughtful about the potential risks, like damaged nerves, infection or bleeding. There is also psychological trauma. Frequently have unrealistic expectations and become deeply disappointed if the result isn't "perfect," even if it is an improvement.

It’s understandable to be concerned about your appearance. You appearance tells people a story about you without using words. But the obsession of ones appearance is the line drawn, indicating an unhealthy perception of self. Struggling with my own insecurities, I decided to let it go. I have been living with my body for 26 years… it’s about damn time I start loving it since it isn’t going anywhere. I considered cosmetic surgery… but I knew that would be the definition of vanity. I truly believe that God didn’t give us this body on earth to be BEAUTIFUL (although it is a plus). This body is a vessel, temporarily loaned to us during our tenor on earth. Our focus should be on mankind, loving our neighbor and becoming the best person we can be. 

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

Recommended reading and source of quotes used in this article was taken from:


  1. Shelley, another great topic! This is huge in our society. Especially as black women in our society. Because we have been told for so long that you have to look a certain way. But I agree 100% we should embrace who we are and what we have to work with. Because looks can/will fade but the beauty that lies within is almost like your makeup...or your character build-up. Great post :)

  2. The funny thing is races try to emulate us but yet our features aren't necessarily recognized. As far as the media, the argument is always is life imitating are or the converse. I'm not necessarily sure, but with the ability to access media easier than a society collective, I think it can be more damaging; especially to the younger generations. They consume a large amount of media related outlets and is damaging to self esteem. Parents need to start parenting by monitoring their children and having real dialogue.

    I have had cosmetic surgery but mine wasn't something necessarily visible. I did it for me and no one else and it was something I battled for a long time. I don't regret it and would do it again. I'm not for inserting foreign material in your body or nose jobs but who am I to judge ? The good part in all of this is my heart is fixed on him even though at the time I wasn't at my current place in my walk with Christ. There are things I wish could be better, but I'll just work out and keep it moving to work on what I can control for my health.

    1. I was watchin the Disney channel with my niece and I was surprised to see that these actors and actresses portraying teenagers all had 16 inches of long hair, makeup, slim, and beautiful. My niece looks in the mirror and believes that she isn't pretty because she doesn't look like them. And its a shame because if her mother would have the interaction with her like she should, my niece wouldn't need the media to tell her what she should look like. I never knew you had surgery. There are always exceptions to the rules, and I believe that not all surgeries are bad.

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