It’s a simple enough request. Technically there is a proper answer.
But I also decided to ask around The Town (and Facebook/Instagram) to see how real women define beauty themselves.
A lot of them were actually taken aback by the brevity of the request. It leaves room for so much interpretation but that was kind of the point.
I got a lot of answers that seemed to reflect how I felt about beauty and how I think most people feel about it.
“Beauty is confidence, self-awareness. It shines out most when it’s a reflection of your true self. It’s effortless. You won’t always recognize it right away, but when you do, it’s like magic.”
-Ashley Chen (@avivranthing), Berkeley CA
“There are infinite ways to calculate beauty. Beauty is attraction as much as it is emotion. Beauty makes us feel pleasure. It is all around us and can be found in anyone or anything. Beauty is an expecting mother’s glow. Beauty is a flowing waterfall. Beauty is two people falling in love. Beauty is a garden full of fruits and flowers. Beauty is everywhere.”
-Ashlyn Kelly (@snazzyashlyn), a reader from San Diego, CA
“I personally think beauty is confidence. Beauty is not only something that pleases the eyes, but also please the other senses and the mind. I think true beauty makes you see beyond the lovely sight. It will give you insight or realization of something interesting beyond just the outward appearance. The term beauty is an endearing complement. It’s beautiful to have a caring heart, morals (of what is right and wrong), manners, and elegance.”
-Bethlehem Foster (@ethio_nation), Oakland CA
“Beauty has no concrete definition. It is my favorite adjective because it’s definition is infinite. It’s everywhere, it’s in your lovers face as you kiss them goodnight, it’s in the dewdrops that fall off of a flower petal, it surrounds us in almost every facet of our lives. The concept of beauty is unique to each person who perceives something as “beautiful”. So beauty could be a mountain view, a deep sprawling Forrest, a mother giving birth to her first child, and the list goes on endlessly. Beauty cannot be defined, measured or captured because it is limitless and everyone perceives beauty in their own way. ”
– Alexis Brown (@lexlexilex), reader from Staunton, VA
“Beauty to me is not a physical state. Beauty is a frame of mind, being able to take charge of what makes you happy or makes your strut a little fiercer is what it is to me. Being able to be confident in your own skin, in your own voice, and in your own style is beauty. ”
-Liz Zepeda (@offbasethem), Emeryville, CA
Some went for the more analytical approach:
“I think beauty is defined by society. Societal norms tell us what the definition of beauty is from a young age and that definitely shapes my view of who and what is beautiful. However, I also think beauty grows when you get to know someone. Inner beauty definitely enhances outer beauty for me.”
-Shawn Haley (@shawnhaleyful), San Francisco, CA
“[It’s] a social construct determined by a sort of hegemonic ruling class. […] It’s a look of health that tells our biological unconscious that the object of beauty is a good person to mate with. In the Middle Ages, fat people were attractive because it signified they had money and were able to eat a lot and regularly. Though being fat isn’t necessarily healthy, you’d still rather mate with a person who is financially stable rather than a skinny peasant. Now, it’s the opposite. But either way, the look of beauty emulated is always that of a powerful ruling or elite class. It used to be royalty and now it’s rich celebrities.”
-Alexandria Bell (@nothingsforeverdude), reader from Brooklyn, NY
Our editor-in-chief even struggled with this one but she put it best when quoting the old adage that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Corny, I know, but it’s personal.”
Going into this mini social experiment I already sort of expected the same thing across the board. Beauty is intrinsic. The value we place on it is completely indeterminate most of the time. But, because of that, everyone seems to have this idea that it’s something close to the heart and almost dissociated with societal standards of beauty.
It was truly strange seeing how personal some people got speaking on it. Not once did I get “Blonde hair and blue eyes.” Or “Victoria’s Secret models.” but there was this ever present ideation of a beauty standard, however that’s defined.
It honestly made me wonder, how can we all think so fondly of something in one instance, and then berate the standards that we ourselves have just chosen to follow.
Coming from the fashion world, beauty is something that is ever present. It defines the industry. This question of ‘What is beauty?’ is asked on a regular basis.
This experiment prompted a proposition.
I, like many of you out there, love fashion. I love the industry and almost everything about it. So, what I’m proposing, here and now, is for us to stop making this a conflict. The fashion industry will not change unless we make a conscienscious decision to promote what we feel is beautiful, and not what we’re expected to think is beautiful. One of my surveyors doled out this amazing quote by the late great Alexander McQueen:
“Beauty can come from the strangest of places, even the most disgusting of places..I find beauty in the grotesque, like most artists. I have to force people to look at things.”
– Alexander McQueen
Let’s force ourselves to find the beauty in our own struggles, hang ups and imperfections. Once we can learn to accept ourselves, maybe the industry and society will follow suit.
I’ve learned a lot about wearing my voice recently and what that actually means, and I’ve realized it means having power. When you make your voice heard, people listen. Regardless of whether they want to or not.
So speak up. Think about how you define beauty every time you look in the mirror and even dare compare yourself to the latest campaigns and advertorials.
Someone finally asked me what MY definition of beauty was and after a long time of trying to figure this out, I tried relating it to music, my first love. A good song cannot exist without one of two things: music and lyrics. With just the music, the physical/tonal aesthetic of the song, the song lacks depth, there’s a layer missing. It’s only once you’ve heard the lyrics, and understood the story behind the physical melody and spoken word, can you fully grasp the concept as a whole.
Thanks to everyone who participated in helping us redefine beauty, reframe our minds, and be better more beautiful people. ✌