Beauty in America, mom am I beautiful?

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to watch the 1987 movie “Mannequin”. When I first watched the movie, I thought the concept was quite original but soon thereafter my opinion changed. The premise of the entire movie focused on a female mannequin (portrayed by Sex and the City actress Kim Cattrall) in a department store that magically comes to life, and falls in love with a struggling artist (played by Andrew McCarthy). The movie was the ultimate cliché of what men desire, and how the perfect woman is made from “plastic”.

The word “plastic” is a customary word used in our society that is commonly associated with the practice of plastic surgery. Women, and not let’s forget to mention men as well, have countless opportunities to seek a false sense of “perfection”.  Now, I’m willing to admit it would be ludicrous to suggest that plastic surgery has only become popular in the 20th century. In actuality the study of plastic surgery has been around since 2000 BC. However, the practice of cosmetic surgery was performed on individuals who had been challenged with a dramatic event that inevitably altered their appearance. If a warrior/soldier had lost his ear or nose, a cosmetic surgery would repair the damage.

( Now that’s drastic, just looks unnatural! ew..)

In the year 2010, most cases of plastic surgery stem from low self esteem which is being constantly influenced by external sources. As a woman living in America, I am faced with external sources on a daily basis that in the long run could diminish the perception of me.  Each time I sit down to watch television, I’m constantly being bombarded with images of skinny Caucasian women. Imagine if I lived in complete solitary since the day I was born, and the only sources I had to the outside world were a magazine and a television. I would be a wreck! I’d be perpetually obsessed with my image, and dissecting every element of my body. Why is my skin brown? My hair isn’t long and straight! I have hips, medium sized boobs, and my stomach isn’t flat, oh dear there must be something wrong with me! If I had to live like that, I would end up losing my mind, or developing emotions predicated around deep self hatred.

Luckily, when we step outside of our houses daily, our eyes are filled with reality and not fabricated images on how a woman should look. Real woman come in different shapes and sizes, one isn’t better than the other. Skinny women shouldn’t hate on fuller women, and on the other hand fuller women shouldn’t curse the ground skinny women walk on. There has to be a common ground, were we can appreciate every woman for her own identity. But how can you begin to respect someone that varies in shape from yourself, when the media portrays image of what is beautiful? Is a size 2 more luxurious and beautiful than a size 16? Beauty shouldn’t be placed on a scale or on a measuring tape, but on the person within and the love that radiates through their smile, their laugh, their hug, their handshake, and their character in general.

The divide and hatred amongst women needs to stop, but I understand it may seem impossible when the ideologies that being beautiful is accomplished when you achieve the images in the magazine and the images in the perfume commercials. It seems as though the statement, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” has been translated into the doctrine that beauty is in the eye of the media. If being a size 2 is being glorified, then take diet pills, work out twice a day, starve yourself, do whatever is necessary to achieve the golden prize!

I’m a strong believer in the basic principle; whatever you want in life, is possible with hard work. But, unless you know the struggle that someone faces it’s not just as simple as saying “just work out” or “why don’t you eat less?” For some women, no matter how hard they try to lose weight, the pounds just don’t budge as quickly. I know this from my own personal experiences, so please don’t assume I’m just some fitness guru or plus size woman complaining. In the year 2004, I was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. As a child, I had always been on the tall and thin side. When I began reaching puberty around 6th grade, I noticed that I started gaining weight. I played volleyball and stayed active, but the weight didn’t seem to budge. My mom made accommodations and just decided to buy up a size, she didn’t fuss or complain. She reassured me, and still till this day, that no matter what size I am at I will always be a beautiful woman. She would repeatedly tell me that “beauty comes in different sizes; it doesn’t mean one size is prettier or uglier.”

Throughout the next few years I began going to the doctor and they discovered cysts on my ovaries. I began eating healthier, even though I was never really a junk food kid. I have never been a huge fan of processed junk foods, only on occasion will I splurge. My high school years went by relatively quick, and I remained a solid size 14(which I still am). Losing weight has never been an issue of low self-esteem; rather I prefer to keep an active lifestyle.

Whether I lose weight or not, I love the woman I am. As a black woman in America, I know that my images of beauty shouldn’t be compared to the images on the pages of high fashion magazine. How can I even begin to compare myself to images in magazines that are known for their underrepresented women of color? When a Hollywood celebrity loses a massive amount of pounds in a limited number of weeks, should I strive for the same goal? As woman, its unrealistic to chase after the lifestyle trends of the “rich and famous”. Do you have thousands of dollars to spare on getting a tummy tuck or getting breast implants because it’s considered sexy?

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