When Esther Honig set out to see different beauty standards from around the world -- she sent her picture out to over 25 international editors to "make her beautiful" -- she revealed how subjective and prevalent the culture of beauty is on a global scale.
For journalist Priscilla Yuki Wilson, however, Honig's experiment left many questions unanswered. As a biracial woman of color -- she's half black and half Japanese -- Wilson wanted to expose the standards of beauty for women of diverse backgrounds. So she decided to recreate a photoshop test of her own and sent an edited image of herself to over 25 different countries with one request: make me beautiful.
Wilson explained her inspiration to A+ in an email:
A recent project by National Geographic, The Changing Face of America, explores the overlapping diversity that is quickly becoming the norm in our society and shows that the "Multi-race" option on the U.S census is the fastest growing category, was a timely piece that helped to frame my project. It appears that the genetic makeup of our society is likely to continue to diversify further and further, and as one of those changing faces of America, I wanted to see how photo-shoppers would change (or not change) a "changing face."
And change they did.
She found that while the more diverse countries kept her image virtually the same, minus some brightening touch-ups, others altered her photo to an almost-unrecognizable point. "[In] the image from Vietnam, I"m half the size I actually am, my skin color is significantly lighter, my eyes are widened, my eye-lids are distinct, my eye color was changed, my chin sharpened, and my nose whittled down to a point," she told A+.
She also noticed that many of the countries altered her racial features to look more like one obvious race. "In these images my Asian and African aesthetics are combined with Latina, Vietnamese and European features," she said. "Either pigeon holing me into a more narrow racial understanding or reaching an entirely new level of racial ambiguity."
And in more than half of the images, the editors lightened her skin. In other words, her biracial and somewhat ambiguous look, along with her darker features, didn't fly with the editors, or what their culture perceives as beautiful.
Honig brought this to the forefront with her project, but Wilson explored what this means for people of color: "It"s a dialogue that specifically addresses race and ethic features in an industry where beauty standards are apparently euro centric," she said.
Despite all of the changes, Wilson is glad that her face looks nothing like the altered ones. She's setting her own beauty standards for women, especially those of diverse backgrounds.
"I define beauty as an act of self love and embracing my own humility," she told A+.
You go, girl.