Modern-day beauty standards are defined by dominant culture — which, in today's world, means that White beauty ideals permeate our social consciousness. White women are the model of perfection, with their straight hair, fair skin, large eyes, and sharp noses. Companies incessantly churn out products claiming that these ideals are attainable if only we use this skin-lightening cream or that hair product, because who wouldn't want to look like that?
As it turns out, many women of color don't. The pressure to conform to these limited beauty standards is not only exhausting, it can be incredibly damaging to women's self-worth, especially considering how wholly unrealistic they are for non-White women.
In a video by MTV Decoded, prominent women of color speak about why White beauty standards are problematic, drawing from personal experiences on how it's affected them. The five women include TV writer and Feminist Ryan Gosling creator Danielle Henderson, comedy writer Rekha Shankar, makeup artist Delina Medhin, comedian Lily Du, and MTV Decoded host Franchesca Ramsey.
"White beauty standards is when whiteness is the default and it becomes the cultural ideal for beauty," Henderson says in the video.
From eyelid tape aimed at enlarging Asian eyes to skin cream called Fair and Lovely for brown girls, beauty products send a message that these sort of features are more desirable than what they have. Even comments from well-meaning family members about natural hair being unprofessional or clothing brands using White people in their ads instead of locals — these are things that people all around the world grow up with, and it pushes a certain ideal of beauty on other cultures.
"The problem is that all these social messages you get about what is and who is beautiful influences who you think is beautiful," Henderson says. The problem is everywhere — from the media, in beauty aisles, even in Hollywood, where people of color and women are increasingly vying for proper representation of their communities.
"Representation matters," Henderson continues, "and it matters because we can raise an entire generation of people who don't carry this cultural baggage with them."
Think (Body) Positive is an A Plus original series featuring body positive advocates and thought leaders. Their goal? Encouraging you to love the skin you're in.