Brown-skinned girls, look past racism to own your beauty

Shamontiel L. Vaughn
Sep 4 · 4 min read
Photo credit: Create Her Stock

I was raised by family members who were adamant about embracing multiculturalism — confident men and women who embraced African-American history, literature and features.

I’m a proud HBCU graduate who also did (college) time for two years in Marquette, Michigan. And although there were countless moments of culture shock for me in the upper peninsula, one conversation with a college friend still sticks out in my mind years later.

Photo credit: Askar Ulzhabayev/Unsplash

A Japanese friend of mine was complaining about her wavy hair, her fuller cheeks and the larger shape of her eyes. She told me: “Monnie-chan, people always think I am Hawaiian, anything but Japanese.”

I shrugged and said, “What’s wrong with that? There are plenty of pretty Hawaiian women. That’s not an insult.” And my homegirl was very pretty.

She looked at me with the “tsk-tsk” face and said, “You just don’t understand Asian beauty.”

She looked at me with the “tsk-tsk” face and said, “You just don’t understand Asian beauty.”

That comment was jarring for me. I kept thinking how miserable I would be if I was constantly comparing myself to somebody’s made-up standard of beauty that I would never reach. It seemed counterproductive, especially considering I think plastic surgery is almost always an absolute waste of money and I skip makeup 90 percent of the time (hey, Alicia Keys). “Embrace your face” is my motto.

Photo credit: Cassandra Hamer/Unsplash

However, a “scientific” study from Harley Street physician Dr. De Silva proved just how easily people can fall into this trap. The study claims to identify “the world’s most beautiful face” by using the ancient Greek beauty ratio Phi to make a determination. The top 10 list is full of the usual suspects found on the covers of pop magazines: Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Moss, Kendall Jenner and Selena Gomez.

Judging from the list and the requirements to make the list, women with African features would be hard-pressed to qualify.

Photo credit: Chris Murray/Unsplash

Although it’s no surprise that they’re on the list (and I agree that they’re pretty women), the more troubling factor is how their beauty was measured: A certain size lips and nose, the distance from lip to mouth or eyes to nose, and even foreheads. Judging from the list and the requirements to make the list, women with African features would be hard-pressed to qualify.

Jaw-dropping women such as Gabrielle Dennis, Janelle Monae, Kelly Rowland, Tika Sumpter, Angela Bassett, Regina Hall and King, Queen Latifah, Meagan Good, Phylicia Rashad, Joy Bryant, Jennifer Hudson, Lupita Nyong’o and Mary J. Blige probably wouldn’t make the cut. And these are women I find to be just as stunning as those top 10.

Photo credit and edits: Asterio Tecson/Wikimedia Commons

Studies that depict people’s beauty based on these tactics successfully marginalize certain groups so they’ll never make the quota. When Beyoncé says “I like my Negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils,” studies like these basically respond back with “You shouldn’t.” (And who in their right mind would argue Beyonce’s not gorgeous?)

When Beyonce creates songs like “Brown Skin Girl,” studies like these leave some perplexed. They’re wondering what in the world “black girl magic” is. That’s on them.

Now does the study make me personally feel insecure? No. I was told one too many times as a child, teenager and adult that I was pretty. Nowadays, if someone tells me I’m not, my response would be to “take that up with your optometrist.”

So why does this study matter? Because there are still entirely too many women of color who are going under the knife, packing on makeup, getting surgical eye color changes, moisturizing with skin lightener and photo-editing their own pics to try to meet someone else’s standard of beauty — not for themselves.

Studies like these continue to perpetuate the stereotype that makes some women feel “perfect” while others feel perfectly less than. So to women who worry about meeting someone else’s standard of beauty, consider reevaluating that.

Don’t diminish your pretty trying to keep up with petty “scientific” studies.

The original version of this edited post was published on Blavity.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

14-year journalist; freelance writer/editor (Upwork); Wag! dog walker; Rover dog sitter; Toastmasters member/3x officer; cohost of Do Not Submit;

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade