Decolonizing beauty - what does it really mean?
For some, decolonizing beauty is simple. Just buy skincare products from POC-owned brands. Done finish.June 23, 2021
Is it that simple? Hardly. Just like any movement as of late, there's way more underneath the surface than any sort of Insta-worthy trending hashtag.
Way back when, a bunch of Europeans decided that they were top of the stairs and everyone else was inferior. So they set out to take over the world reinforcing this belief - eviscerating Indigenous civilizations in their wake.
Colonization still exists under the guise of (air quotes) mission work. It's not work to go to another country and tell other humans that unless they convert to whatever, they're going to have a horrible hereafter. Uh-huh. Bonus points if you can guess who came up with the heteronormative missionary sex position that only takes place between a cisgender man and a cisgender woman.
So this core belief of European superiority has dominated every single aspect of our society today... including beauty. Eurocentric beauty standards are absolutely everywhere. Beauty & fashion brands are just now starting to embrace diversity with a few well-placed people of colour.
Last time I checked, I'm not a token stock photo. Neither are you!
Unless you are a thin white cisgender heterosexual neurotypical able-bodied female between the ages of 20-25 weighing no more than 115 pounds, you aren't beautiful. But don't worry - there's a myriad of green juice fasts, shakes, crystals, jade rollers, injections, no-whatever diets and 8000-step beauty routines that'll get you there fast.
So how do you begin to decolonize beauty? Sounds like an ominous undertaking.
It starts with you reclaiming the entirety of yourself. Colonization only works if you truly believe you are less than. You & I both know that's not the case. Unbeknownst to most, colonization (and ultimately hate) is based on fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of what's different. You - in all your deliciousness - are unknown & different. There's power in that!
Start with awareness of what doesn’t resonate with you. Don’t ignore that feeling because chances are it’s been there all along. Go into those shadows and sit in the dark.
Next, get real with yourself. Find yourself a time and space where you can be alone with your thoughts. Ask yourself these questions:
- What does beauty mean to you?
- What parts of you do you feel you have to hide in order to feel/be beautiful?
- Describe the messages you received growing up about your appearance, grooming and hygiene.
- How does the media influence your skin care choices?
- How does the media influence your fashion style?
- Describe what’s most important to you (e.g. values, family, esteem, etc). Why are these things important to you?
- How does your queerness affect the way you perceive yourself to be?
- Do you wish you were a different size, colour, gender or ethnic background?
From here, you'll get a better sense of how colonized beauty standards have affected and/or influenced you personally. It's super-important to remember this: you define your beauty standards... you & you alone.
It's up to you to decide where you go from here. By all means - where you purchase your beauty products matters. Our dollars - scratch that - our trillions of dollars in collective purchasing power can speak volumes.
Most importantly, decolonizing beauty isn't just about buying different products. Reclaiming ourselves, fully accepting the entirety of our Selves and renouncing colonialism are incredibly radical acts.
About the Author
Althea Branton (she/her) is a Skincare Designer. Her upcoming eponymous skin care line “Althea Branton” is for QTBIPOC who are tired of staring the current beauty industry in the face and not seeing a reflection that actually looks like their own.
Follow Althea Branton onInstagram
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