Campaign for Real Beauty: Be the Change!

Campaign for Real Beauty: Be the Change!

When actress Lupita Nyong’o spoke at the 7th Annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon (hosted by Essence Magazine) about the beauty industry and how it impacted her as a little girl (when the standard was mostly white skinned models, which caused her to try bleaching her dark skin) she wasn’t only voicing a personal distress that shaped who she became, she was voicing a very scary truth about growing up a girl in American society.  That truth is this: American girls, no matter their race, are constantly bombarded with the message that they aren’t good enough or pretty enough the way they are…and that improving on their looks should be the main focus of their life.

Though it is most pronounced in the beauty industry, where too thin is in and ads insist through not-so-subtle campaigns that no real woman/girl is naturally beautiful, the message is actually everywhere – clothing for toddlers that implores “check me out,” beauty parlor Lego sets, makeup kits for elementary girls, “sexy” dolls with unrealistically tiny waists & large chests, push-up bras for preteens – the list goes on and on.  And that is the scariest part. Our girls get the message from all directions, and from a very young age.

To a certain degree we expect advertising to imply we aren’t perfect as is, because why else would we need their products, right?  But the ad campaigns have gotten out of hand, are more and more extreme in their standards and are marketed to younger and younger girls.  It’s one thing to market beauty care products to grown women, but when you start telling preteens that their bodies are “lesser,” that they should strive to change them, that is a very DANGEROUS thing indeed.

Yes, every little girl growing up in America could give a similar speech to Lupita’s, because what she so eloquently highlighted is the extremely narrow standard of beauty that exists in our culture, and how it gets absorbed by our girls.

How do we combat this? By encouraging our girls to see their REAL BEAUTY, and allowing ourselves to see our own.  That second part is crucial because it’s one thing to TELL your girls to focus on their inner beauty, buts it’s a whole other thing to lead by example.  Our girls learn from us, and not just the things that we TELL them but what they witness us doing.  Our behavior sets the standard for how they will behave.  Thus how we treat ourselves, our inner dialogue, can become how they treat themselves, their inner dialogue.  If you wrinkle your nose at your “chubby thighs” or always insist on applying makeup before going anywhere, or try diet after diet to “drop that last five pounds”, your daughter is watching you and learning to criticize everything about her body.  So, we must convince ourselves of our own message — that we are beautiful as we are–and stop trying to attain that prefab notion of “perfection” we were brainwashed into thinking should be our goal.

One mom, Lauren Fleshman has done just that.  She did the scariest of scary moves for a women in this society…she took pictures of herself on “not great” days, of her flaws, of her insecurities, and posted them on her  blog!  How brave! And she’s encouraging other moms/women to do the same.  It’s her own campaign for real beauty, for getting the TRUTH out there (everyone has cellulite/”cottage cheese” and “flabby days.” It’s just a part of life.)  NO one is perfectly toned, tanned, and runway ready all the time, not even models (despite what the media will try to sell us.)  Changing this standard starts with us.

So, I encourage all you parents to embrace Lauren’s campaign.  Snap a picture that shows you at your most “real,” an average day and post it online.  Show your kids that it’s okay to not be perfect, that we are all beautiful despite our self-doubting inner voice.  Believe me, I understand that this is easier said than done, that it’s intimidating.  But it is SO worthwhile.  Our children, particularly our girls, deserve to have this role model out there for them to emulate (rather than the pouting, anorexic, overly sexualized images online, in magazines, TV ads, music videos, and the like.)  Let your girls see you BELIEVING IN YOUR OWN BEAUTY.

By the way, I am not just instructing you to do so…I am “walking the walk.”  See my average, real beauty day below.  My insecurity: my postpartum belly.  I readily share this image for the sake of my new daughter.  May she grow up believing in herself, in her abilities, her talents, and believing that she and all girls are beautiful just as they are.


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