Essence Magazine just revealed new data from a research study about African-American views on beauty (Smart Beauty V: Essence releases new insights on African-American women and beauty, PR Newswire). In addition to recognizing different beauty archetypes, the study revealed how much more positive African-American Women feel about their beauty. Twice as positive than Caucasian women, to be exact.
I was actually privileged enough to be exposed to the precursor of these findings over a year ago, and also conducted an extensive interview with Pamela Edwards Christiani, currently with People Magazine and formerly the beauty editor of Essence. For African-American women, their beauty is tied to self-respect. Not something to downplay or obsess over. She gave me a great image to dramatize the cultural differences between black and white women concerning beauty: “If you were to see two female toll collectors, one white and one black, the white one is likely to look plain, bland, utilitarian. After all she’s sitting behind a glass window not really connecting with anyone. But not so for the black toll collector! She would still have her hair done and her nails would look fantastic.”
In addition to feeling sexier and more attractive than their Caucasian counterparts feel about themselves, black women also have a healthier relationship with beauty. Instead of being so linked to age, as it is for most of us, beauty is associated with strength, self-expression and uniqueness. According to last year’s research, 74% of African-American women believe they have a unique style and 45% celebrate individual beauty and uniqueness (versus 46% and 19%, respectively, for Caucasian women).
Moreover, expressing one’s beauty is a form of cultural pride. Beauty isn’t a matter of social necessity but has deep cultural significance.
There’s no question we all can afford to adopt some of the same pride and perspective when it comes to our looks. It’s no coincidence that African-American women feel more confident as well (79% vs. 69%)! We should all enjoy how we look more and maybe it will make us feel even better about ourselves too!