One of my favorite quotes comes from Canadian author Danielle LaPorte who once asked, “Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?” It’s a chilling reality that so many of the choices we make for ourselves are based on other people’s opinions, and that extends to the way in which we view ourselves, including our appearance. Someone had to introduce the idea that there was something wrong with us for us to decide there was something to fix, and often that suggestion comes from a very subtle thing called representation.
There’s a reason nearly girl on Instagram — at least the ones with the largest followings — looks the same these days. Somewhere along the way, one body type, one complexion, one type of hair extension, came to be the norm in music videos and on reality shows and girls who weren’t born with those physical traits decided they would pay somebody who could make them look like they were — at least to some extent. The trend of butt implants, lip injections, liposuction, and lace fronts can be seen everywhere from social media to social outings, as a world which has become increasingly diverse in terms of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation continues to succumb to a perception of beauty which is devastatingly narrow. As the saying goes, that reality is upsetting me and my homegirl. And in this case, my homegirl is Kimora Lee Simmons.
Simmons (who I have never met a day in my life, for the record) recently chatted with Glamour for their Big Beauty Questions column, and when she was asked what one thing she would change about beauty perceptions, she said this:
“One thing about beauty I wish people would understand is that when you’re discussing trends for plastic surgery, or for cosmetics, everyone has to remember that no one face or feature is going to be the same. And it’s usually never going to be symmetrical. We were not intended to look alike. So when you think of beauty standards, I would like people to consider that diversity is key. Respect the differences in all of our faces. Embrace your own differences as you go about your beauty journey.”
I like what Kimora said because she isn’t knocking anyone’s decision to go under the knife, nor would I (in most circumstances). But there’s a very real difference in undergoing a cosmetic procedure with the intention of enhancing your natural beauty and having plastic surgery to fit in with the current trend which, we know when it comes to beauty, is constantly evolving. Even the idea of enhancement has to be challenged when making such a serious decision, as we are all subject to outside forces that can make us despise characteristics about our bodies we once loved. Of course it isn’t easy to look different or embrace a version of beauty that exists outside of very narrow margins, but if the way you view yourself is always determined by an external lens you’ll forever be a victim to wayward beauty standards and never develop truly healthy self-esteem.
As has been regularly discussed, over the decades, society has gone from screaming thin is in to embracing curves and round backsides; from shunning crooked teeth to highlighting gap-tooth smiles; from referring to freckles and skin conditions like vitiligo as flaws to putting women with those features on the cover of magazines and on runways. This beauty standard thing is as fickle as it is fictional and it’s a very risky thing to permanently change your body in hopes of acceptance based on a temporary trend.
We all know on some deeper level that we’re not all meant to look alike, it’s just harder to remind ourselves of that fact when we see others receive preferential treatment for having physical characteristics we don’t possess. However, it’s in those moments that a healthy self-view becomes particularly important. Leaning into what you love about yourself is the easiest way for others to learn to love it too. That’s how we’ve come to a place where brands like Fenty Beauty, for example, choose models that look like its customers rather than models whose physicality tells customers that’s what they should look like. Somebody has to break the cycle. It might as well be you and I.