Every Monumental Time Women of Color Redefined the Word "Pretty"

Updated 02/08/18

Many black women sing the same story. Our strong ancestral roots share the perpetuating struggle of segregation. We have inherently been excluded from the nation's narrative. And these themes have also rung true when it comes to the word "pretty." In retracing America's history, it's clear Eurocentric beauty standards have always been idolized. Every curve of our kinks and curls and every drop of our melanin has been left out of what's deemed "acceptable."

What's beautiful is that women of color have collectively rebelled against the chains of cultural implications that have been set before us and unabashedly redefined the word "pretty." Beyond the weak surface of the word, true beauty is imperfect, rebellious, complex, empowering, and inclusive of every hair texture, skin tone, body type, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Thankfully, women of color have taken a stand against cultural norms and painted a different picture of beauty.

We're forever applauding the moments that spread the representation the world of beauty so desperately needs.

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Solange's song "Don't Touch My Hair" from her album A Seat at the Table revolutionized the way black women celebrate their natural hair during an unsettling time in the political climate of our nation's race relations. The powerful lyrics in her song became a worldwide anthem to unapologetically own the crown that is your hair.

@fentybeauty

When Rihanna revealed that her new cosmetics line Fenty Beauty had 40 shades, it was a big moment for women of color everywhere considering mass beauty retailers (still) often release only two to three shades that cater to dark skin tones and fail to acknowledge the widely diverse spectrum of deep skin tones.

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In 2015, Maria Borges made history as the first model of color with natural hair to walk the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. The show has a reputation of historically lacking racial and body diversity, so this was a step in the right direction.

@heriethpaul

A year later, not one but three models of color with afro-textured hair walked down the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show showcasing the beauty of diversity. This was a small yet steady step toward becoming a more racially inclusive show. 

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Lupita Nyong'o's 2016 Met Gala hair was mistaken as a "nod to Audrey Hepburn." In actuality, the actress took that iconic red carpet moment to pay homage to her African culture—sculptural updos are a sign of wealth and status in African traditions. She also spoke about being inspired by Nina Simone, so this hairstyle was a beautiful tribute to black women.

@aliciakeys

Alicia Keys began a no-makeup movement in 2016 that empowered black women everywhere to embrace the skin they're in. She spoke about true self-love and the power of not covering up what you might see as flaws with makeup.

@crowezilla

It's unfortunate that braids and black women have had such a tumultuous past. During a time when black women are ostracized in the workplace for wearing braids that are deemed "unprofessional," artist Shani Crowe created this viral braid series celebrating textured and architectural beaded braids.

@kinglimaa

It's so incredibly important to acknowledge the history Halima Aden has made being the first woman to wear a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant. She later became the first woman wearing a hijab to grace the cover of major beauty magazine Allure.

Original Illustration by Haobin Ye

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