i grew up thinking I was not very pretty. Smart, yes. Pretty,no. It was part of the roles my father carved out for us in my family. My sister was the pretty one but not too smart. I was the smart one but not pretty. my shoulders too broad, my breasts too small, my opinions too loud.
I look back at those photos of my childhood and adolescence (when the pretty thing became really important) and I see how wrong I was. That bright, alive, curious, adventurous girl was pretty…beautiful actually. But because she couldn’t see it in herself, she didn’t see it reflected back to her from others.
I still struggle with this–I do not look like a classical pretty woman. My body is shaped like an apple, the hair on my head thinning and growing instead in odd places on my face. I am the perfect specimen for the ads on Facebook that encourage one to reach for youth (re: unattainable beauty). I do not believe those products will work for me. It isn’t youth I need.
I do believe I am smart, not pretty. I also believe I am kind and curious and adventurous and compassionate. And that is really something beautiful about me.
And you know, sometimes, I look in the mirror and actually hear myself say “you are pretty today”.
You may have seen this wonderful speech by Lupita Nyong’o’s speech from the Black Women in Hollywood luncheon hosted by Essence. She talks about being dark skinned and hence not beautiful. ‘You cannot eat beauty’ her mother tells her. Lupita’s insights are for all of us.
watch. she is inspiring. Lupita’s thoughts about beauty