This week’s Blog post is inspired by one of my favourite YouTube channels: ‘StylelikeU’ A quick description on their website (StyleLikeU.com) explains: ‘We’re a mother-daughter team leading a movement that empowers people to accept and express their true selves.’
This movement isolates style and beauty as a confidence, a presence and self-worth that is not defined by standards of aesthetic attractiveness or sexual appeal.
The format of the ‘StyleLikeU’ videos basically strips back and exposes the vulnerability of the individuals in question. Those in the chair, describe some intimate details of their personal development as a human being, while removing their clothes and accessories.
Recently, I received a notification that a new video entitled ‘The New Supermodel Won’t Be Retouched Without a Fight: Iskra Lawrence’ had been uploaded. So, intrigued, I boiled myself some green tea and decided to take 12 minutes out to watch it.
Now although my plan is not to explain explicitly the content of this video in particular, I will highlight some of the more provoking thoughts that this and some other videos on this channel have brought to my mind.
(A side note, I would definitely recommend watching the video through and whilst you’re there Subscribing to the ‘StyleLikeU’ Channel)
As a very vague synopsis, Iskra Lawrence speaks on her interactions with the modelling industry, her fluctuating weight, size and shape and how her image of herself has changed. Now, at the very least, by modern Western Standards Iskra can be described as beautiful and ‘curvaceous’. One of the things that confused me about the comment section of this YouTube video is that so many were commending her on appearing to be a ‘real woman’, whilst some were saying that she wasn’t real enough….
“In the model world she’s considered “plus size” but in the real world many people would look at her and say she’s skinny with a fat ass or She’s skinny but fat in “all the right places”. She’s a curvy girl with a flat stomach and a fat ass. Society wants to say this is plus size but she’s not. They hate to actually promote a real fat woman with rolls and back fat and a chubby face. This is just a another form of crazy high beauty standards nobody can reach!”(YouTube| comment 25th July 2016)
As I say, I am no expert, but it is my belief that every body is a ‘real’ body. And I have never understood the phrase: ‘Real women have curves’. All women are real women; women who are overweight, underweight curvaceous, transgender, without arms or legs, with or without body hair etc etc etc. To extremely over or underweight is actually unhealthy, and therefore not something to normalise as something ‘real’.
If you imagine there’s a giant hand that hovered over planet earth for example, that grabbed several women from different ends of the earth all at once. No two would be identical and yet they would still all be real women.
The way I see it our bodies are real, palpable examples of the way we choose to live our lives. If a woman has rolls of fat on her body, it could be because she has an eating disorder, it could be a thyroid problem, it could be laziness , it could be a medical condition, you just don’t know. In the same way a woman who has stretch marks on her stomach from childbirth, shows that her body was used as a vessel to carry another human being. A young girl can also display these same marks from rapid weight gain/loss, but you wouldn’t know unless you ask, and in my opinion, it doesn’t make her ‘ugly’. BUT it also doesn’t make her more real than a woman with flawlessly smooth skin.
Essentially what I’m saying is that Iskra isn’t any less of a woman because she doesn’t have visible stretch marks or cellulite or scarring. I’m not saying that we are all ‘perfect’, I don’t believe there to be such a thing as perfection. The problem with aspiring to achieve perfection is that you will never feel satisfied, and you might never be happy.
It’s important to take a step back and evaluate what you’re aspiring to. Earlier in the series, StyleLikeU collaborated with Charli Howard , a young women who had been dropped by her modeling agency for not being thin enough. In retaliation she took to social media inspiring an anti-body-shaming movement which brought light to the dangerously unhealthy standards for body shape in the modeling industry.
I say this because it’s clear that even the models that some are aspiring to look like are not content with themselves. setting such standards can only be destructive. I can appreciate beautiful and healthy bodies and honestly am in awe of them a lot of the time, but I don’t idolize them in an obsessive way or aspire for my own body to look the way theirs do , because I know that’s not how I’m built. Its really empowering to accept and come to terms with what you have and trying to work with and improve that!
Another point that a many people seem to overlook is that full time modelling is both a profession and a way of life. Many models devote time, effort and money into reinventing themselves to fit the beauty standards of their agency. This means round the clock exercise, clean eating, coaching, hair appointments, nail appointments, waxing, skin care, psychiatric care, cosmetic treatment etc etc. A team of people specialised in these areas to ensure that ONE individual appears perpetually gorgeous both in person and in photograph. If you’re not a model , or do not follow a similar regime to those who model, setting these same standards of beauty seems nonsensical to me. In the same way that athletes train tirelessly and resultantly develop a toned a muscular physique, it would be strange to expect to have a six pack if you do not do the same.
‘Beauty’ itself is just another word along with about a million others in the English language. I feel like it has, in a way, been stigmatised because of its rooting in superficial attractiveness. But I don’t think it should be. Some, for example might find someone ‘beautiful’ with make up but ‘ugly’ when the make up is removed and the acne or freckles or dark circles or redness are unveiled. Where does the beauty lie then? In the foundation and liquid lipstick? Perhaps these are used to accentuate ‘beauty’ for those too superficial to see natural and organic beauty in the first place.
Ultimately what’s important is to realise that you are beautiful. (As cliché and cringe worthy as it sounds.) Don’t be afraid to tell yourself you’re beautiful. Identify a favourite part of yourself and celebrate it. Try not to let society put you down for being confident, however you look. If anything, aspire to be healthy and happy, healthy body and mind above everything else and self- acceptance will hopefully follow.
The song for the week is Mapei’s Don’t wait