CW: Eating Disorders & The Beauty Industry.
It’s NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) Week, and I wanted to speak out about some thoughts on my mind that might be helpful to anyone else who has ever experienced any similar challenges. Throughout history in the beauty industry, we’ve seen these trends of “how to be desirable”, as opposed to exploring our own ideas and feelings of beauty. In the 1920s, narrow hips and small boobs were desirable. In the 1940s, artillery-inspired shapes (out here with the pointiest bras) were desirable. In the 50s, you wanted to be an hourglass; but in the 60s, you wanted to be leaner. And then we moved into the 70s and 80s where it was all about being slim and toned; but in the early 2000s, being thin, tanned, and blonde was all the rage.
We’ve also seen these glorified depictions of women only eating things like salads and vegetables in the public eye. In a lot of early 2000s movies, the women who eat are usually mocked, criticized, and even have food become a part of their personalities for openly enjoying it. So naturally, it felt like I was doing something wrong if I openly voiced when I was hungry. These normalized post-19th century forms of thinking have become incredibly detrimental to not only our physical and mental ideas of who we are, but to our overall general well-being.
I remember being in a grocery store once, and having a woman look at the ice cream and comfort food I was buying. She looked me up and down and said, “I hate you. I could never eat those foods and continue to look like that.” I’ve grown up around a plethora of remarks that never boded well. Examples of those were being called a “stick, skinny legend, bone-thin,” etc. Remarks like these always made me feel ashamed and less prone to speaking out about actually undergoing my own challenges; because I was the “skinny legend whose life must be easy because of that.”
As someone who still models, is passionate about fitness, and acts in the performing industry, I was afraid I’d be depicted as being involved in these industries for the wrong reasons. I’ve loved some of these experiences these industries have provided more than anything. Fitness especially has been a lifesaver for my mental health, and makes me more aware of taking care of myself. However, there are absolutely flaws in these industries that I still see time and time again. Anything taken into extremes that says “hey, you’re less because of x y and z, so here’s what you need from our services to be more”, is inherently toxic and unhealthy, and needs a major reset.
The unattainable beauty standards of our society subconsciously gave me all these ideas of right and wrong. I had to look healthy but not overweight. I had to be thin but not too thin. I had to maintain my figure, or else. I felt like anything “less than” these ridiculous standards would be deemed as unforgivable. Things went sour when “being beautiful” became about others and less about me. Since our standards of beauty were never even built to be fully satisfied, I never was, either. I never felt like I was doing enough. I felt like I had to seize serious control if I was to stay relevant in those classifications.
This wonderful YouTuber I came across named Salem Tovar, who has fantastic insights on the beauty industry, said “we desire to be desired by those most desirable.” And if that isn’t the damn truth. Those parasocial relationships can convince us that the people we’re seeing are the people we make them out to be in our minds. We have to remember that there is always far more to everyone’s stories than what meets the eye, and to pay attention to who and what we are investing our time and energy into. If something feels off, it might be worth reconsidering the content you’re being exposed to. After all, something we do have control over are the people and resources we choose to invest our energy into on a daily basis.
Art is something that can be particularly empowering to reflect on. Remember when women were depicted as goddesses in those paintings? Remember when curves and cellulite were celebrated and honored? Remember how much women were honored as the “divine feminine?” Who says we have to stop honoring ourselves like that now; not just with women, but with all genders? Who says we aren’t still those beautiful, diligent, glorious creatures to this day?
We’re conditioned to believe that self-love and self-value are far out of reach, and are instead found outside of ourselves. This is not the truth. These are tricky paths to unlearn with many layers that can be intimidating to dissect. However, embarking on that journey is not impossible; easier said than done though, I know. We can change the way we think and view beauty so long as we are willing to put in the work towards getting there.
As challenging and dark as times might get, there is nothing on this earth that could possibly take away the fact that you are a beautiful, authentic, one-of-a-kind soul here with a purpose. You are worthy and deserving of healing. And you are so capable of getting back up. I’m thankful to be in a place where I can acknowledge if I ever feel myself start to slip, and can utilize my support systems to get back up. Our bodies deserve to be celebrated for the endless wonders they are capable of.
I’m still working through things to this day, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m going to continue working on creating a kinder inner voice towards myself and to honor my body in the ways she has always rightfully deserved.
Beauty to me above all is about the feeling it exudes. When I feel truly happy in my own skin, the feeling is the most important factor above anything else.