Beauty & Wellness

Eye of the Beholder

An exploration of how to avoid succumbing to what society considers beautiful while realizing the real meaning of true beauty.
Text by Francesca Cruz | May 10, 2018 | Beauty & Wellness

Beauty, many believe, is “in the eye of the beholder,” and that can change often depending on pop culture and the prototype of what is beautiful for the times. Take, for example, the heroin-chic look of the ‘90s catapulted into the limelight by a teenage semi-nude Kate Moss. The now infamous and risqué Calvin Klein ad had her wearing men’s boxer shorts, military boots and not much else. Pale, petite, with a full meaty Cupid’s bow pout, non-existent cleavage, and disheveled hair, she appeared almost emaciated.
Just a few years earlier, athletic, beach-bound supermodels like Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell had reigned supreme on every magazine cover around the planet. In the interim, arriving to California via Canada, an overly sun-tanned, beyond buxom peroxide blonde with a penchant for tattoos and bad boys became the newest craze. Anatomically altered to look like a Barbie doll, Pamela Anderson shot to the spotlight running down the Malibu beach decked in a fire engine red bathing suit with a toothy smile and perfectly tousled tresses. Her thinly plucked and arched eyebrows became the rave — driving women to over-pluck their eyebrows for decades after.
What we’ve learned is that we can’t get too attached to a look and alter our anatomy to follow a trend — women were dashing to tanning beds and getting breast augmentations in droves during Pamela’s reign, and then the natural breasted “girl next door” stereotype became popular. Thanks to Jennifer Aniston and the success of Friends, women went back for breast reductions, and clamored to their hairstylists demanding the Rachel haircut, coined after Aniston’s character. Currently, it’s about a tiny waist and a very defined backside, no matter where it came from.
We can attribute the furor for the pear shape all the way back to J. Lo’s portrayal of the late Tejano singer Selena — and yes, the Kardashian/Jenner clan that followed right behind (that pun was not premeditated, I promise). I was hoping to leave them out of this article, but we are constantly bombarded by their presence and they’ve become a part of pop culture.
On that note, have you noticed how every other girl on Insta is a clone of Kylie Jenner? The injected lips painted matte mauve, the fake eyelashes, defined nose and cheekbones due to excessive contouring or perhaps a visit to the plastic surgeon — we have no confirmation on either option. And my favorite, the videos of those same gals lip-synching to rap songs inside cars; ridiculous doesn’t fully describe the hitch.
It’s a Stepford Wives pandemic. I find it disheartening to see that many of the women are in their late teens or early 20s…they haven’t fully grown into their looks and have already altered their faces cosmetically to the point of distortion. It really goes against Coco Chanel’s version of beauty; she believed that “in order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.”
In my recent trip to Havana, I saw something out of the ordinary. Since advertising is frowned upon there, there’s no blatant imposed definition of beauty. Women feel comfortable walking around in their own skin. Don’t misinterpret me; Cubans on the island have plenty of other issues they struggle with. This is simply an observation as a journalist writing a story that focuses on aesthetics. Women on the island might be a bit robust, their hips might be a tad rounder, but they walk around with a great sense of self-esteem and palpable sensuality. No one has dictated to them what beauty is, so they get to decide it for themselves.
Moving from voluptuous beauties to the quintessential gamine of the ‘50s, Audrey Hepburn was graceful, boyish as well as feminine, sleek, beautiful and doleful. She had survived WWII by the skin of her teeth, and was soon discovered by director William Wyler, who handpicked the novice to play the lead role in Roman Holiday.
Aside from taking home the Academy Award for that film, she quickly became a fashion and beauty icon, and in later years a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Hepburn once stated, “Happy girls are the prettiest!” Who can argue with that? Seeing someone joyous, laughing, full of enthusiasm and content with life is incredibly attractive. Perchance a part of that she attributed to becoming so well acquainted with struggle early in life, learning gratitude for her many blessings, and in her golden years, making a difference in the world. Moreover, she was also the muse for many years to French luxury designer Yves Saint Laurent, and no doubt she might have influenced his take on beauty. He believed, “the most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion.” When you’re free to pursue your passion in life, it sparkles from every pore of your body. That’s one thing we all wear well.
One last element that can’t be left out is our health. When we include exercise into our beauty regimen, the domino effect activates. Scientific research has proven once and again that exercise (combined with a healthy diet low in fat) produces feel-good endorphins that reduce stress, help to slow the aging process and boost immunity. Our metabolism increases, as does our energy, and with all the added bloodflow, our skin cells are nourished — hence the glow that comes with staying physically active.
In the end, beauty is not as much in the eye of the beholder because that takes place on the outside. Beauty is an inside job. It comes from not falling victim to fads, going after what sets your soul on fire, and becoming your own best friend. Beauty refuses to remain opaque in a jubilant person, its obligation is to transmit light to any who cross its path.