Growing up as a young black girl in the 70’s, what television and magazines defined as beautiful was quite different from what I saw in the mirror.
Instead of reflecting the breathtaking, brown, curvaceous images of women around me—my mother, aunts, grandmother and cousins—television’s picture of beauty looked a lot like my thin, blonde Barbie doll.
The first Black Miss America would not be selected until years later in the mid 1980’s. Although this country has become much more appreciative of broader concepts of beauty, most magazine covers still don’t present models who look like the majority of women.
Oddly enough, Western aesthetic ideals have changed quite a bit over time.
In the Renaissance period, having a heavier frame was considered a good thing. Full-figured women were objects of beauty imitated in famous works of art. It was not until the Victorian age that the thin waist became a valuable commodity.
Although the hourglass figure made a comeback with Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield in the mid- 20th century, with the 60’s came Twiggy and thin has been in ever since.
Here are five noteworthy examples of beauty from around the world that challenge our traditional perceptions of the Western aesthetic (although some of the methods to achieve this beauty are controversial):
1. In Mauritania (picture shown above) weight is considered a blessing. Big butts, thick arms and large legs in a woman symbolize a husband’s wealth.
As a girl comes of age, she may be force fed to quickly gain large amounts of weight as part of a beatification process (which is a pretty inhumane way to put on weight).
2. The Mursi tribe of Ethiopia values large lips, in some cases stretching them with plates. Other groups in various parts of the world, such as certain Amazonian tribes in Brazil, similarly value this trait.
3. Members of the Kayan tribe bordering Burma and Thailand, judge a woman’s beauty by the length of her neck.
Women elongate their necks with brass rings starting at a very young age, often wearing several pounds of brass necklaces at any one time for this purpose.
4. While bikini clad female models may be what comes to mind when we think of a beauty pageant, men of the Wodaabe tribe of Niger compete in such competitions judged by women.
A tall, athletic build, nice teeth and good dancing skills are just a few of the characteristics that may help a man win. From these festivities, women may select their future mates.
5. Although we often go to great lengths to obtain clear perfect skin in the United States, the Maori of New Zealand use tattoos on their lips and chins as a means of beatification.
Women with the bluest lips are considered particularly stunning.
Next time you look in the mirror no matter what your ethnicity, race, size or age—remember, you are beautiful.
Embrace your magnificence!
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Editorial Assistant: Kim Haas/:Editor: Bryonie Wise