We’re constantly bombarded with all sorts of messages from the beauty industry, and the majority of them are on what we need to “fix.” From the dimples on our thighs to the bags underneath our eyes, to the freckles on our noses, we’re seen as a work in progress - and products are the only answer.
But what if you didn’t agree with being bullied that way? What if you heard these opinions, listened to the tips that would help smooth, lighten, and contour you, and said, “no thanks, pass.” What if you just used makeup and beauty products because they were fun, let you be creative, and helped you be confident - rather than feeling like you would be less than without them? Or, what if you went up to your closet and were excited - rather than intimidated - by the clothes you were about to put on? There are plenty of women out there who have come to that conclusion. They have embraced body positivity and the parts of themselves that society said they should hate - and are all the happier for it. Here are their stories.
1. I Love My Bags
I have bruised, Slavic bags that I got from my Polish grandma, but I never really found them to be something I needed to hide. I know there are all sorts of products out there that are made to disguise them, but the only time I use foundation and concealer is when I’m in the mood to play with makeup and try something special that night -- and not because I have flaws I need to buff away.
I’ve seen it in ads, read all the tips in magazines, have seen friends complain about their dark circles, but for whatever reason I never took it to heart that this was something I needed to be embarrassed about. That opinion really solidified for me when I was in Paris a few years back, and was having wine with the woman that was hosting me in her Airbnb. She just came back from a long day of school and work, and her undereyes had mascara smudges under them, and were bruised purple from working for 10 plus hours. And I remember thinking how pretty she looked, and how that particular detail actually made her seem more beautiful. The purple and brown made her eyes pop, and I liked that I could see all her hard work right there on her face. After that, it has always been a non-issue - and how awesome would it be if every insecurity or perceived “flaw” was seen that way?
2. Kreasha Loves Her Breasts
Society has a lot of opinions on what boobs should look like, but Kay doesn’t listen to any of the chatter. She loves what her set looks like, and doesn’t agree that she should want to change. “My entire life I’ve had large breasts - I am a DDD and society has told me that big, natural breasts aren’t beautiful. They aren’t perky. They aren’t perfectly round. They sag too much.
I recently decided to take that back,” she shared. She does that by showing off the cleavage that she’s proud of, by embracing the same styles smaller chested women wear, and by refusing to accept that there are certain styles that are “off limits” for her. “I refuse to allow society to make me feel like wearing a triangle swimsuit top is ‘too sexy’ just because my breasts are bigger. My breasts are big, sexy, saggy - and most importantly - perfect just the way they are. My body is perfect just the way it is. Imperfection showcases true perfection.”
3. Ashley Loves Her Shape
Ashley has recently found people referring to her as “curvy,” which is just another way to say “plus sized.” But when she Googles curvy women, the body type that shows up isn’t hers. “Yes I am a woman with curves but I am not a curvy/plus size woman. As stylish as the clothing is, I unfortunately can’t fit into any of it....trust me I’ve tried!” she shares. But she finds that the reason people are so obsessed with trying to label her body shape is because they’re trying to limit her potential. After all, the label will signal whether or not society thinks her figure is “good.”
“It’s just frustrating that society deems it necessary to constantly define and label my body. If you’re not a size 0 and if you have hips and thighs they automatically assume that you’re a size 20. I grew up with a bunch of women who are shaped and built like me,” she shares. “I like to consider myself an around the way girl that can’t be defined. Someone that the everyday woman can relate to. Someone that when they see me they see themselves. I am comfortable and okay with my body type...very proud of it actually....and if you can’t figure out where to place me without putting a label on me that’s okay. I wasn’t created to be defined by you. I make my own rules and I don’t let society determine what I can and can’t do or how I should feel about MY body.”
4. Erica Loves Her Small Butt
Women get constantly bombarded by contradicting beauty standards, especially when it comes to body types. For example, fashion loves a waiff, but society wants a woman to be thin and curvy. This can make some people feel insecure about their lack of curves - but not Erica. “Though it's something I've never talked about publicly, it is something I think about. It's hard not to, especially when you live in the world of Kardashians and J. Los,” she shares. She agrees that shopping for jeans and swimsuit bottoms can be a pain, but otherwise it’s never bothered her, especially since she can’t see her backside unless she turns in a mirror. “Out of sight out of mind? Either way, I love my small butt and wouldn't have it any other way.”
5. Elise Loves Her Entire Body
Elise loves everything about her body, and doesn’t waste time listening to what random people think about what they think is beautiful. She already knows. “I really love my whole body. It’s covered in dimples, freckles and rolls. I have my mom’s feet, Mamacita’s smiley eyes, and a thicc Cuban butt,” she shares. And the one time that she did consider changing something about herself, she learned that she would have regretted it if she went through with it. “I have a large mole under my left arm that I almost got removed when I was a teenager. I thought it was unsightly and ugly, but my Grandfather, whom I never met, had the same one in the exact same place. I would be very sad today if I didn’t have that little piece of him with me.”
6. Eileen Loves Her Buzz
Eileen has always wanted to shave her head, but it took her a long time to gather up the courage to pick up the buzzer, mainly because she was worried about what people would think. But once she did, she felt free.
“The way I looked (before shave) had an impact on my daily mood and I was sick of it. Bad hair day = bad day. I was tired of being managed by my hair. So I just chopped it all off and damn did it feel good. I felt so free. Despite not recognizing myself in the mirror for a few days, I felt empowered and strong. Fearless. Like, F--you, this is what I look like and I like it a lot!” Eileen shares. “It’s interesting to look in the mirror and not recognize yourself. Shaving my head forced me to embrace who I am because I couldn’t hide behind my hair or a ‘look.’ I started to see more and more q-ball women and felt like a member of some badass lady club. It was a great feeling.”
7. Lesley Loves Her Cheeks
Lesley never really understood why she should feel bad about her full cheeks, even though sharp cheekbones are the look du jour right now. For her, both versions look great. “I used to feel self conscious being baby faced but I couldn’t figure out how to contour without looking like a different person altogether. Now that I’m more conscious about aging, I love round cheeks and blush. They make me feel fresh and youthful,” she shares. “When I get my makeup done for weddings or if I’m a bridesmaid, it infuriates me when I get such heavy contour, like the artist is trying to will my face into a different shape. I just want to look like me.”
8. Raven Loves Her Hair
For Raven, she loves her natural hair even though society would rather she change it. “I love my hair. Most times my hair is in an Afro, unruly, curls hardly defined if at all. I love the versatility of my hair and the fact that it doesn’t fit in society’s box,” she shares.
She points out that the fashion industry is coming to embrace natural hair more and more, but society and the everyday world still hasn’t accepted it. For example, it is still ‘unacceptable’ or ‘distracting’ to wear her hair naturally in a corporate setting - and the office isn’t the only place that eurocentric beauty standards take over. ”Little girls still get kicked out of school and suspended if their hair is ‘distracting.’ I wear my hair for them and for all the little girls and boys self conscious of their unruly or not ‘socially acceptable’ hair texture. I love making eye contact with a little girl who also has an Afro, basically saying ‘There are women who look like you.’ One day my hair will be fully acceptable in all settings, but until then, I continue to wear my hair how it grows out of my head and not apologize for it.”
From natural hair, to saggy boobs, to round cheeks and bruised undereyes, more and more women are refusing to perceive their natural bodies as things that are “flawed.” You can either listen to what random people in magazines tell you, or you can look in the mirror and see the beauty that’s already there. Ultimately, you’re the only one that gets to decide what’s beautiful to you. Choose yourself.