A button nose, blue eyes and blonde hair – the features belonging to the ‘most beautiful girl in the world’. Alina Yakupova, a six-year-old from Moscow, has thousands of Instagram fans worldwide who have bestowed her this accolade. Before Alina, Thylane Blondeau held the most beautiful title, another blue eyed, fair-skinned girl. How long are racial beauty standards going to affect women?
Eurocentric features reigning supreme
The “most beautiful woman in the world” happens to also be white. Bella Hadid nabbed the top spot based on “The Golden Ratio” – an ancient Greek equation used to measure beauty. Published in The Daily Mail, Beyoncé is the only black woman on the top 10 list. When you add the word “most”, you’re subsequently implying racial preference.
These lists are excluding and damming. It’s not about science – the tabloid published research from a Harley Street plastic surgeon who uses “mapping technology” to help sculpt his clients faces. Though Bella has denied cosmetic work, her image has vastly changed in before and after photos. Her nose (like many celebs) has narrowed to Disney Princess aesthetic. The Golden Ratio suggests it’s the perfect width.
Despite black people honing various features, there’s a stigmatised stereotype of Afrocentric traits such as wide noses. Discussed in Medium, when black people look “Eurocentric” (slender features, lighter skin), they’re “more favourable” in culture. Kerry Washington, Zendaya, Halle Berry, Victoria Secret model Jasmine Tookes, Beyoncé… they each have this ‘appeal’. Reported in Everyday Feminism, because the beauty industry upholds European eyes, “East Asian women” for example, feel “pressure to make their eyes look “less Asian”.
But it’s not just women of colour
My post Racial Fetishism: Mixed-race Problems talks about racism in dating and the issues I’ve had with some people branding me “exotic”. When promoting, I received DM’s from men and women who spoke about the ridicule and harassment they’ve endured for their fair skin being considered too pale. While I’m not comparing experiences, it seems racial beauty standards affect a multitude of us.
The past decade has seen a rise in fake tans and sunbeds. Even as a mixed-race woman with olive skin, I feel less attractive in the winter when my bronze glow has faded. When the Kardashians began their reality show, they initially felt like a breath of diverse air. As proud part Armenian women who embrace curves, they naturally continued the large-hip positivity promoted by Jennifer Lopez. That was until their hips grew disproportionately wider and their faces thinner. To resemble Kim K now, you’d most-likely need surgery.
And, an array of makeup and tanning products. Millennial clothing websites like Pretty Little Thing and Oh Polly, mainly use white models with plumped lips and tanned skin. The models regardless of ethnicity, look similar because of their Eurocentric features combined with Kardashian altered characteristics. As a result, nearly all women don’t fit the criteria of attractiveness set by marketing.
Despite women of colour having minimal representation, many people choose to admire “blackfishing” women – white influencers who make themselves look ethnic. Swedish influencer Emma Hallberg made international news for darkening her complexion. She now collaborates with Oh Polly and has 307,000 IG followers.
Cultural appropriation and old assumptions
I didn’t get it at first. Why is cultural appropriation suddenly a thing? But what I had to learn, it’s not about mutual exchange. There’s a problem in racial beauty standards, whereby people of colour can get ostracised for representing their culture while white women are celebrated for imitating it. Social activist Brittany Packnett stated via Twitter: “America loves black culture but not black people.”
Sourced from Style Caster, the publication explains how Packnett targeted Kylie Jenner who has faced numerous racial controversy. This includes her altering appearance, allegedly stealing designs from a black independent designer, and for wearing cornrows. Jenner was branded edgy and trendy for the hairstyle, ignorant of the fact black women haven’t receive the same praise.
Large butts and lips are now desirable as part of our racially ambiguous obsession. While it’s not simple enough to stereotype traits and say this is one background and that’s another, there are obvious patterns. It’s an issue that black women don’t have the same compliments for their hair and bodies. It’s equally problematic when some beauty companies still don’t cater to darker skin tones. When I trained as a makeup artist, I had to pay extra money to take an “ethnic course” to learn how to put makeup on people of colour.
Why racial beauty standards fail all women
We grow up being told racism is unacceptable, yet racial beauty standards continue to exist. As long as society keeps using race to define beauty, people will live aware of their ethnicity and what it means in the world. We’re suppose to see others for who they are – that’s unrealistic when Western media encourages us to adhere to a plastic physical ideal.
I believe racial beauty standards fail all women, but this statement doesn’t have intention to group personal stories. What’s written is based on personal experiences, listening to friends and relatives as well as reading opinion pieces. Living in a mixed-race family, I see how separate our beauty narratives are, based on how dissimilar we look from one another.