Why embracing #RealBeauty is embracing diversity

Nikki Natividad
It's not a quality, a trait, or even our biology that determines this

MANILA, Philippines – A new Miss Universe has just been crowned.

Regardless of what you think about beauty pageants, you probably think that the winner is beautiful.

Most people would agree that all the girls who joined this pageant are beautiful. 

But have you ever stopped to think about why you, and the rest of the world, arrived at this consensus? 

In a BBC article, David Robinson explains that our definition of beauty is shaped by familiarity. He says that “the more people you see with a certain appearance, the more attractive it can appear.” 

Try to imagine a beautiful woman in your head. What image do you see? Does it match the “beauty” you now see on billboards, commercials, and magazines, or on social media?

Beauty norms can be shaped by an appearance that dominates a certain community. It can be reinforced by what we see around us. The problem here is when one image prevails, then beauty becomes something that’s exclusive; if you do not fit the mold, you are not beautiful.

So even as we celebrate the success of girls who have been dubbed as “most beautiful in the universe,” we still need to ask: is there really a set standard, quality, or trait that cuts across countries and cultures to qualifies someone as beautiful?

In order to challenge this perspective, Dove came out with their #RealBeauty campaign where they forward the idea that beauty is not just one type.

In their latest video, Dove featured real girls who do not fit into the mold, but instead create their own definition of beauty through their unique traits, interests, and experiences.

Dove believes that there is no one standard for beauty – that #RealBeauty is universal. 

Beauty as a journey

The women featured in Dove’s campaign have different perspectives on what looks or feels beautiful.

“Beauty, for me, used to be this notion of skinniness, of flawlessness; this certain idea of feminine,” says Patricia Ramos, co-founder of FITME.PH. “But ‘feminine’ doesn’t have to do with just skirts or having a small voice.”

There’s a prevailing notion that the ideal Filipino girl falls into the Maria Clara archetype; someone who is meek and submissive.

Patricia is a body builder, and for her, there’s beauty in strength. “Feminine is whatever you want it to be, as long as it’s you,” she says.

Conversely, beauty can also be seen in vulnerability, as is the case for Satria, a 37-year-old teacher and mother.

“Beauty can also be weakness, like when I gave birth. I felt so weak; but I knew I was giving so much,” Satria says.

“Beauty is so diverse,” says Reins Melitante, a 17-year-old student. “I’m half-Chinese, and sometimes people say certain things about it. But I love my culture; I love my language, the food, the history. And I like my eyes. People always say I have small eyes that look like lines. I love that they’re different.”

For Reins, beauty is more than just what’s on the surface. Her physical traits represent her culture and heritage, and she’s proud of that.

None of these women look like each other. It’s their unique traits and experiences that make them equally beautiful.

Pay it forward

Robinson’s piece also cites studies showing that “if somebody else dubs you attractive, the perception can be contagious.”

Yes, beauty is largely shaped by what you see. But your own actions also have the power to define beauty for others.

If you start recognizing that there is beauty in diversity, and acknowledging the beauty in others, you can start a ripple effect of challenging current conventions about it.

A 2014 Dove study revealed that 7 in 10 women felt that the portrayal of beauty on social media was unrealistic, 8 in 10 believed that social media can also be the platform to change the standard.

Yes, the women of the Miss Universe pageant are beautiful, but beyond the dresses, gowns, and figures, their beauty does not lie in what they have in common.

Their real beauty lies in their nuances – their unique features, talents, and back stories. Much like Patricia, Satria, Reins – and you. 

The one thing all women have in common is their uniqueness. 

So what makes someone beautiful? That’s up to you. — Rappler.com