FEATURISM: IS VERY REAL.

Nia Hernandez
Apr 9, 2018 · 5 min read

I was trying to educate myself more on the topic of featurism but was unable to find any real conversations or topics about it — so I felt it was only necessary to speak on it. The official definition of featurism is “A form of architectural design based around certain accentuated features”. In other context, society accepting or preferring certain features over others (i.e. European features over African features).

If you don’t understand why this is a problem then allow me to enlighten you: for our society to indirectly (sometimes directly) imply that European features are more attractive than African features is unfair. It is unfair because when a European women decides that she wants African features — it’s praised and admired — so why can’t black women who naturally have these features receive the same admiration as much as European women do. Why does our society get to choose what features are beautiful and what features are not?

Chaka Khan

To be more specific, quite a lot of African American women typically have round, bumpy, large, sometimes pudgy-looking noses. If you haven’t noticed, a handful of African American celebrities have gotten rhinoplasty surgery (nose jobs) in order for their nose to look more European. Even I’ve thought seriously about getting a nose job because I was convinced something was wrong with me. I literally had to sit myself down, look in the mirror and remind myself that the features I’ve been given were given to me for a reason. It’s not like I was made fun of or ridiculed because my nose isn’t Eurocentric, I was doing all the ridiculing myself — but why?

Going back from slavery to now — European features have been put on a pedestal while Afrocentric features are forced to take several seats back. I believe this has a lot to do with slave owners labeling light-skinned slaves as trophies because they were either half white or had white features. They were considered more beautiful than slaves with more African features because their features looked similar to those of European decent. This phenomenon has lasted quite a while and until people start realizing that, it will continue to. Why else would black women in the industry “feel pressured” to get a nose job — Halle Berry stated she did. Why else would Kelly Rowland, Tyra Banks, Toni and Tamar Braxton, Porsha Williams, K. Michelle and countless other black celebrities get a nose job? Because our society has made it very clear on what it considers beautiful, that being: a small pointy nose, full lips, wide hips, slim waist, and flowing hair. We all know that’s not only unrealistic but also overwhelmingly discouraging — because women who aren’t born with these accentuated features now feel the need or pressure to obtain the ideal idea of “beauty” that our society has painted. It’s absolutely astonishing how we were all made differently but are continuously pressured to look the same in order to be deemed beautiful.

But this is in fact the best time to be a black woman because our society has made it loud and clear that black women rock… to a fault. The industry picks and chooses what kind of black women they want and how they want us to look. If they want an Afrocentric black women for a background photo, I’m booked. When they want a Eurocentric black women for the main role, she’s booked. Whether you agree or not, go on Dr. Miami — look at the before and after photos under rhinoplasty: I guarantee you won’t see a woman of color getting a nose job to look more African. If you do — then this article was literally for nothing — but I guarantee you won’t. A clear example of our society saying this (Eurocentric) is more beautiful than that (Afrocentric), and here’s why: looking black is great, yes it is wonderful but looking too black is… a no. So meet Dr. Miami — he’ll fix you right up.

Chaka Khan

Colorism and featurism go hand and hand. Light-skinned women with Afrocentric features are rarely to never insecure or feel less than because they are light-skinned so they already have the upper-hand in society right? Having a lighter skin complexion and still being black is considered gold. Oh, and we can’t forget how our own black men treat light-skinned women better than brown/dark skinned women. Light skinned women are put on a high horse and are given major passes when it comes to typical features that men desire while brown to dark skinned women are held to much higher standards, such as: having a straight or small nose, having hips and curves, looking “full” and having manageable or attractive hair. So even though black men “appreciate” black women, they hold us to much higher standards than a light skinned woman is held to, and that says a lot about some of the black men in our society. It is sad because black men are not only mirroring how slave owners treated brown skinned women but they are also oppressing their own people. Making colorism and featurism cousins if not siblings.

The black women that our society promotes don’t look anything like average black women. The majority of them don’t have predominantly African features, are light-skinned or have gotten nose jobs to change their features to embody “Eurocentria”. So tell me… how am I and other black girls with Afrocentric features suppose to feel beautiful if our society keeps telling us we’re not? Who are we suppose to look up to when our own black women don’t want to be black?

There is no way to erase the mental damage and incarceration that slave owners suffocated black people with. But if we consciously recognize the colorism and featurism that surrounds us then maybe we can slowly reteach how we think and look at one another. The only people we can truly learn from and look up to are our ancestors and mothers, but more importantly… ourselves.

Nia Hernandez

Written by

Life-long student | Afro-Latina | Poet | Lover | Truth-seeker | Dreamer

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