Redefining Beauty During An Ugly Time

For me, it started young. When I was 11 years-old, I looked up "beautiful woman," on the internet. Page after page, I saw the same women—and no one who looked like me. As a young Black girl, a daughter to Haitian immigrants, I realized the truth about the magazine covers stacked up alongside my bed. They were not made for me.

I walked away from my computer knowing the innocence to my search was lost. But I grew stronger and trained my eyes to believe the truth beneath the surface. My pursuit for the answer to that question, what is beautiful, led me to one undeniable reality: The picture we have accepted—the widely recognized, idealized form of beauty—is based on a lie.

That picture, now crooked and collecting dust, was hiding the hideous truths created by racism. This deeply-rooted hatred grew and gained power because it was rarely addressed. The world is beginning to see it now, but I’ve found anti- Blackness in rooms and on shelves my entire life.

The language and qualifications we use to define beauty leave so many people out of the conversation. Black women are often an afterthought in the decision- making part of the beauty industry, however, Neilsen reports demonstrate just how staggeringly influential Black consumers are.

The erasure and cultural appropriation of people of color is present in various areas of life. From advertisements where edits are made to "lighten" models, to hairstyles worshipped on the runway but inappropriate in the workplace. As we face that ugliness, we have to ask ourselves if we have been seeing beauty from the eyes of the oppressor all this time (think about it—who is the beholder?). It's not hard to see how we got here. The issue is we never left the exclusiveness of Eurocentric principles behind.

Being Black is not a burden. It is beautiful. It is dynamic. Beauty is not a monolith.

For centuries, Black women have been innovators who are hyper-sexualized and criticized for not being soft or quiet enough. We are often left in a familiar position—one that is unprotected. Systemic racism has tangled itself in our navigation through the beauty industry. It is in the way we test ten foundations before finding one that fits. It shows in natural hair care products produced by companies that do not honor our textures. It is tone-policing when we question the norm. It is mentally taxing to see how the world champions pieces of our culture, but not us—the people behind it.

Much of the change we see in this time has been surface level (street name changes, removing the labels from products, etc). These are topical resolutions to hold us over before realizing it's not what we asked for. We want justice.

It stings to see brands feign for "wokeness" like it's a summer trend. I find myself grappling for words to describe how draining it is to search for yourself and find no one. It might seem fruitless to discuss beauty in a time where the earth is groaning, but I see this as necessary growing pains. Black women have spoken, passing down affirmations and strengths to the next Black girl who needs it. Being Black is not a burden. It is beautiful. It is dynamic. Beauty is not a monolith.

We redefine beauty by calling out the status quo, like Sharon Chuter, the founder of Uoma beauty and Pull Up For Change, who asked for transparency from corporations that benefit off of Black workers and their money. The performative nature of this time is rearing its ugly head, but, thankfully, we know which companies support us and have been for years.

Beauty is boundless. It is bold. It is not silent—it acts.

For many, it may feel uncomfortable to recognize you've been complicit, silent, or tirelessly caught in moodboards of thin, white models, effortlessly navigating in a world celebrating European beauty for its anti-Blackness. Today, I am hopeful we will shatter those ideals together. While we are fighting within a system that wasn't created for us—I am grateful for every Black woman who has paved the way. I acknowledge the strides that have been made from IMAN Cosmetics to Fenty.

To the next Black girl who will one day search for the answer, I celebrate you for all that you are and will be. Non-Black people, I challenge you to be an ally as a verb, not a noun. The reanalysis of beauty will not end here.

Beauty is boundless. It is bold. It is not silent—it acts. Toni Morrison said it best, “Beauty was not simply something to behold; it was something one could do.” Real beauty inspires you to take a second look and peer closer. The moment your eyes shift, it will expose how accepting the ugly truth can be an invitation to challenge the ideals we find comfort in.

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