How Western Beauty Ideals Derail Women of Color

by Olivia Capriotti

In modern American society, many can argue that views have changed immensely concerning beauty standards for women. Recently, it has become widely recognized that these standards have been proven to be unrealistic for  not only girls and women that range across the nation, but also for those who aren’t white and don’t fit any of the so-called ideals. Magazines, TV shows, and movies all compromise our media, along with the booming influence of popular social networking sites including Instagram and Twitter.  Pictures come across thousands of girls views each day, all reflecting western ideals. It is made up of European characteristics that emphasize skin colors and hair types that exclude many women of color.

According to Beauty Redefined, this is a major problem considering the fact that our country is extremely diverse, with one third of the population being African American, Native American, Asian, Hispanic, or Latino. But these groups are underrepresented tremendously in the media despite their demographics. As a result, it negatively affects females who rarely see their race in magazines.

“Many girls will be influenced to conform to a certain ideal, furthering the idea that they are underrepresented,” said sophomore Sreeja Daliparthy.

In the past, there have been several examples of how white beauty has overtaken women of color. Magazine covers have featured predominantly white women only, and when there was a women of color featured, the magazine  would edit the cover to fit the ideal. The mainstream beauty ideal is almost exclusively white, making it all the more unattainable for women of color. Although women of color like Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Halle Berry, Rihanna, and Jennifer Hudson have achieved major status in our culture, media representations of these women have become whitewashed over time, with lighter-colored, straighter hair, lighter makeup, and often shrinking  figures.


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Pictured adjacent is a beautiful and talented actress Gabourey Sidibe. On the left, she is presented on the cover of Elle, whereas on the right, is her actual skin tone. The magazine edited her skin to much lighter tone




While representation of women of color in media has increased slightly over the past decade, finding positive depictions of women with dark skin tones or natural hair is still close to impossible in mainstream media. Furthermore, when WOC are seen in the media, they shouldn’t have to be praised more than any other because they fit the standard. Pictured below is Beyoncé’s natural complexion versus her “model” look.


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As a society, we need to continue to move our progression and embrace the natural beauty of these women. “More representation is a must. That way girls and women throughout the country will feel comfortable within their own skin,” Daliparthy commented.


It is essential to stop trying to conform the diversity of our people across the nation to fit one standard. The picture adjacent is of Academy Award winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, and her skin tone here is much less whitewashed than the previous examples. These kinds of magazine covers are what society needs

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to obsess over- the ones that embrace races of all kinds. It is what all of us as a whole need to do more. We need to teach girls and women to have a strong sense of racial identity and feel confident, if they don’t already. These females don’t need a beauty standard to define themselves and their worth.










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