Cosmopolitan, convenient ‘science,’ and the perpetuation of the white = beauty myth

On March 11, 2017 in a now-deleted tweet, Cosmopolitan wanted to remind you that white women are the most beautiful in the world.

And ICYMI, this is according to ‘science,’ no less.

I came across this tone-deaf tomfoolery on my twitter TL, and had the vague memory of having seen this shit before. In fact I had, via Yahoo Style, in July 2016.

And even though the article written by Cosmo was published in August 2016 (screenshots at the bottom of this page), in the seven months that have passed it obviously has not occurred to them that retweeting this message is galvanising their endorsement of the harmful myth that whiteness equates beauty.

The message is clear: the ten most beautiful women IN THE WORLD are either white, or light-skinned (number 2, Kim Kardashian, is Armenian while number 8, Selena Gomez, is Mexican.)

These are the findings of Dr. Julian De Silva, a London-based facial cosmetic surgeon.

Listen, I’m not here to knock anyone’s legit hustle, as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of anyone else’s dignity. As that sage of our times, Son of Baldwin reminded us:

This is not about Dr. Julian De Silva’s business (cosmetic and plastic surgery), but about his assignation of a one-size-fits-all beauty standard to the entire world (!!!) based on Greek facial features.

So let’s take a step back and examine this ‘proof,’ which was also dispelled by IFLS with the hilariously apt opener:

Who’s the fairest of them all?

In trying to find the main source for the declaration of white beauty as best, ‘according to science,’ I hoped to come across a peer-reviewed article from Dr. De Silva himself. Cosmo cited Woman’s day, who cited Brit + Co. A rabbit hole.


So at this point my eyebrows are reaching in more earnest than that mother (bless her) who yanked her babies from the room their daddy was giving that BBC interview in.

The Reach

As it turns out, Dr. De Silva did base his calculations on science. BUT. He then took his story and ‘proof’ to the Daily Mail (according to IFLS), and Metro (according to Yahoo Style.)

Science communicated to the general population should first be peer-reviewed for a number of reasons which include flagging of flawed methodologies, and faulty conclusions drawn.

And while Dr. De Silva does have an impressive portfolio of both peer-reviewed publications and media presence, I am yet to find a peer-reviewed scientific article with this beauty standard he has ‘proven.’

(It is noteworthy that my search was constrained by the key words and phrases I used on Google scholar and PubMed. If you are luckier in finding something, do let me know and I will update this.)

Now, I’m no medical doctor. Neither am I a mathematician. I am but a humble PhD student who has been involved in immunological research for the past seven years. So while I cannot simplify the mathematics used in the formula which ultimately declared these ten women to be the most beautiful in the whole wide world, two valid points come to mind:

  1. Science by press release is not only sensationalist, but harmful. The press can pick up any story and run with it. Slap the grand title of ‘science’ on anything, and you have an unsuspecting public believing it.

So what happens when the variables in this beauty calculation are European-based?

Non-white women are left out of the equation (pun intended.) Or at least, those non-white women without features that fit into the European aesthetic.

But hang on, why is a man still telling women what beauty should look like any way?

Further more, doubling-down and extrapolating this beauty standard over the entire globe?

Business strategy? At the expense of non-white women? (I refer you once again to SonofBaldwin’s tweet.)

And why is it being dressed up as science to give it credibility? Call it what it is: a belief system based on Greek variables. If any one wants to buy into it, they are free to. But I know I speak for many when I say that we will not be investing into this convenient ‘science’ that once again seeks to promote whiteness as the standard of beauty.

And how dare Cosmo- a ‘global brand’ who should really know better, share this racist bullshit? And after seven months, re-tweet it? SEVEN WHOLE MONTHS in which some form of growth, given the current climate of social justice awareness, should have been done on their part? How can you have close to the time of one human-gestational-cycle and not do better?

The nerve. The fucking nerve.

Moreover, the fact that this blatant racism was shared on these platforms without being flagged speaks to the deeper issue going on behind the scenes at these publishing houses.

Athena Talks

A hub of conversation to help young women mature, budding professionals become leaders and leaders become advocates for equality.

Furaha Asani (formerly 'Orisirisi')

Written by

Furaha Asani. PhD in Infection and Immunity. Professional in the streets, loud on the sheets of paper. Wrote on medium every single day of 2016.

Athena Talks

A hub of conversation to help young women mature, budding professionals become leaders and leaders become advocates for equality.

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