Body positivity has been a huge topic in recent years, with individuals sharing incidents ranging from being shamed for their physique to having their perceived “flaws” airbrushed out of media images. Kenyan-Mexican actress Lupita Nyong’o has raised awareness that there is such thing as “beauty shaming” — which is just as concerning as body shaming — after a photographer digitally altered photographs of her hair for a magazine cover.
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The star noticed her “kinky, coily hair” had been edited out and replaced with a smoother look, which she tweeted “fit a more Eurocentric notion of what beautiful hair looks like.” Looking at the before-and-after photos, it’s hard to deny that she has a point.
An Le, who shot the Grazia magazine cover in question, has issued an apology for the “incredibly monumental mistake.” But his actions are part of a much larger problem — namely the emphasis on promoting certain standards of beauty over others.
“I realize now what an incredibly monumental mistake I have made, and I would like to take this time to apologize to Ms. Nyong’o and everyone else that I did offend,” the photographer explained in a statement. “Though it was not my intention to hurt anyone, I can see now that altering the image of her hair was an unbelievably damaging and hurtful act.”
He went on to say that altering the image was “not born out of any hate, but instead out of my own ignorance and insensitivity to the constant slighting of women of color throughout the different media platforms. There is no excuse for my actions. I deeply regret the pain I’ve caused Ms. Nyong’o, a woman I’ve admired for quite some time now.”
Nyong’o initially shared her disappointment in a poignant Instagram post along with photos of both the edited and unedited photos. “Had I been consulted, I would have explained that I cannot support or condone the omission of what is my native heritage with the intention that they appreciate that there is still a very long way to go to combat the unconscious prejudice against black women’s complexion, hair style and texture,” the Oscar winner wrote.
If there’s anything we have learned in the past few years, it’s that it’s important to accurately portray diversity in beauty — which comes in all shapes, sizes, genders and ethnicities.
According to a study conducted by Dove, women are more than twice as likely to say that their conception of beauty is shaped by women in the public domain and social media than they were before they entered high school. Since the media is so influential in defining our opinion of beauty, depicting it in an all-embracing manner breeds healthier people.
What’s awesome is that the world is listening and change is happening. Recently, Kmart did its part to remove the “plus size” stigma, replacing it with the catchy term “Fabulously Sized” in its “I Can” campaign. Fashion-industry folks like Vogue, LVMH and even Paris Fashion Week have banned the use of super-skinny models. Fashion houses have been using transgender models on the runway and in advertising campaigns, and magazines have been splashing them on covers. Even anti-chafing thigh bands modeled by realistic-looking beauties were featured on the runway of New York Fashion Week this year.
Let’s all take a cue from Lupita in openly and unapologetically speaking out about both body and beauty shaming.
What Do YOU Think?
Do you feel like beauty shaming is an important issue? Does the media accurately and fairly depict beauty in a diverse way? How can we make changes at a personal level?