It’s a question I’ve been asking a lot recently. I am as fascinated to hear how others define beauty as I am about the process of trying to define it for myself. While I am still searching for the answer (and, let’s be honest, the dictionary isn’t exactly the place to look for this type of definition), I have learned a lot in the process and know one thing for sure: I want to expand the definition of beauty.
Through an On Real Beauty series I write on The Beauty Bean, I have had the pleasure of speaking with many notable women about beauty. To each, I ask the same four questions, the first of which is “How do you define beauty?” While most of the media and pop culture would have us believe that this definition would undoubtedly include mention of height (over 5’ 9”), dress size (no larger than a 6, if that), skintone (even and monotone, likely fair) and facial features (symmetrical and feminine, whatever that means); never once has someone I have spoken with regarding beauty mentioned any of these traits. Tennis ace Serena Williams spoke with us about character, confidence and integrity; plus-sized model Kate Dillon spoke of kindness and intelligence; while comedian Kathy Griffin described beauty as whatever attracts you to a person.
Bottom line: not one person mentioned anything physical.
So why is it that our depiction of “beauty” in the American media is so one dimensional and physically based? And why aren’t we working harder to expand it?
If beauty has been depicted differently throughout history (just think of the contrast between Kate Moss and Marilyn Monroe, not even to mention women of the Renaissance) and if beauty is currently defined differently in various parts of the world; it means that this is a malleable definition. Moreover, it means we have the power to change this definition. So why don’t we?
No matter how you define beauty or how you perceive it or how you think our culture as a whole understands it, I challenge you to help expand this definition and put the focus on Real Beauty, however you define that.
Alexis Wolfer is the Founder of The Beauty Bean, a free online magazine and weekly e-mail newsletter, which is an intimate guide to beauty inside and out. Concerned with the focus many beauty magazines and websites place on unrealistic body ideals and weight, Alexis launched The Beauty Bean to provide women with a glamorous beauty site with an unparalleled focus on inner-beauty and health.