For the first 10 years of my life, I grew up in a small town tucked away in a corner of Iowa that had the best snow days, the biggest backyards, and the coziest rocking chair in the world, which I’d curl up in with my grandma every weekend. It was the type of town where parents let their kids play in the neighborhood without a worry in the world until they were to come inside. Nobody was cruel or dangerous. It was truly a dream. So the summer before fifth grade, when my parents sat my brother and me down and told us we were moving to Phoenix, Arizona, a part of me was scared, but a bigger part was thrilled for the adventure.
I couldn’t wait to move to a bigger city and make new big-city friends. What could go wrong?
I remember walking into my first day of school with my platform flip-flops and floral skirt ready to find a new group of friends to call home. It wasn’t long before I did—we called ourselves “The Ferocious Five” and coordinated outfits practically every day. I felt like the coolest girl in school hanging out with these bubbly, beautiful girls who everyone seemingly wanted to be friends with. We stayed close friends into middle school.
One night in seventh grade, during one of our sleepovers, a couple of the girls were talking about their boyfriends and asked me if I had a crush on anyone in school. I didn’t. My mom always told me I couldn’t have a boyfriend until high school, and I always obeyed. Just before the conversation ended, one of the girls said something I’ll never forget: “Shelby will always just be the ugly friend because she has a big nose.”
The Ferocious Five laughed, and I’ll admit I did too.
They tell you that everyone is more mature once you get to college, but sadly, the rock bottom of my bullying experience was yet to come. I don’t personally blame GoFundMe, but that’s where it happened.
In college, a couple of girls and a guy who didn’t like me (to this day, I’m not sure why) made a GoFundMe page lobbying to raise $5000 to buy me a nose job. The page featured a huge picture of my face and was shared multiple times on Facebook. When I saw it pop up on social media, I was so shocked I started to physically shake at the sight of it. The group of people who made the GoFundMe comprised girls in my roommate’s sorority and a guy who was in a fraternity on campus. Eventually, enough of my friends saw the shares on Facebook and stuck up for me that the group who posted it took it all down.
I’m not sure what happened to them in the end; I didn’t really follow up. The last thing I wanted was to be involved with these people who thought it was fun to feed off of a person’s insecurity. Rumor has it they received repercussions in their sororities and fraternity and were eventually kicked out, but I can’t say for sure.
Here at Byrdie, we know that beauty is way more than braid tutorials and mascara reviews. Beauty is identity. Our hair, our facial features, our bodies: They can reflect culture, sexuality, race, even politics. We needed somewhere on Byrdie to talk about this stuff, so… welcome to The Flipside (as in the flip side of beauty, of course!), a dedicated place for unique, personal, and unexpected stories that challenge our society’s definition of “beauty.” Here, you’ll find cool interviews with LGBTQ+ celebrities, vulnerable essays about beauty standards and cultural identity, feminist meditations on everything from thigh brows to eyebrows, and more. The ideas our writers are exploring here are new, so we’d love for you, our savvy readers, to participate in the conversation too. Be sure to comment your thoughts (and share them on social media with the hashtag #TheFlipsideOfBeauty). Because here on The Flipside, everybody gets to be heard.
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Opening Image: Imaxtree