“If people are going to see me on social media, I want people to see my real life, the good, bad, and ugly of it all because human perfection is not beautiful, it’s a lie.”
I gotta give it to Alicia Keys. It takes character to decide to ditch make up in an industry as shallow as the music and television industry. Keys has essentially kicked off another wave of media authenticity with the #NoMakeUpMovement (Jamie Lee Curtis shook the industry with her exposition of photoshopping among celebrity images). Now that another form of natural beauty is trending these days with Alicia Keys, Sanaa Lathan, Kendall Jenner, and others who have committed to natural looks in their public lives, it will be interesting to see if the movement will go beyond trend and revolutionize how we understand beauty as a culture.
Many of us were already on our own #natural hustles well before someone decided to make it a hashtag.
While I was in school, I came to realize how inauthentic this thing we call “beauty” really is. I noticed that what most have come to accept or identify as “beautiful” is often times a manipulation, a staged representation, a construction, and rarely is it a natural or authentic presentation.
Not too long ago an incident occurred that launched me into my own exploration into authenticity.
It was Labor Day weekend and I was checking email. I received a notice that my husband, Michael, had just posted a new blog post (which also posts onto his Facebook page). I opened it up to take a look and to my horror there I was with my 4 year-old son looking a hot mess. Michael had posted what seemed like a deluxe sized pic of me that if I had my way, would have been deleted and doubled checked for the deletion as soon as it was taken.
Immediately I called out to Michael. “Hey,” I said. “I’m going to need you to take that picture of me off your blog.” “Why,” he asked. “Because I look about 5 months pregnant in that picture, that’s why.”
He fought me on the matter but I was clear, people were going to think I’m pregnant. My husband ended up keeping the pic on his page because he “liked it” and sure enough, the next morning we were greeted with congratulatory messages for our new addition.
Before I could get the words, “Fix this ish, to my husband, I stopped and took a deep breath. “Why is this picture a problem for me,” I asked myself. “That is a picture of me, is it not?”
Celebs aren’t the only people who are photo shopped and styled ad nauseam for their seemingly “candid” beauty shot or selfie.
We too, on Facebook, Instagram, etc. over edit and critique ourselves, carefully choosing which photo will make it onto our pages and which ones won’t based upon some standard of beauty we learned to value.
We want to give the illusion that we are well put together all the time, that we’re sexy, that we’re in good shape, that we have a lot of friends, that we’re loved, that we’re happy. It feels good to be admired sometimes.
But consistently rejecting who I am in exchange for some filtered version of myself doesn’t make me happy.
If people are going to see me on social media, I want people to see my real life, the good, bad, and ugly of it all because human perfection is not beautiful, it’s a lie.
Should I look like I picked up a little weight, got muffin top, fatback, whatever…if I don’t like what I’m seeing, there’s my motivation to get my ass in the gym to work it off. If my hair is jacked, my face crooked, one eye twitching, I’m not going to remove the pic. Should the camera capture me in all my unguarded, unscripted, unedited glory, I’m going to let it go because the truth of the matter is that I don’t look perfect (whatever that means).
…it’s one of the reasons why I wear my hair natural, it’s the reason I don’t wear Spanx.
Do I make mistakes sometimes? Of course. See fashion faux pas #512 in my husband’s blog post. My decision to have him leave the pic up is an embrace of my authentic self. No, I’m not a professional stylist, sometimes I choose the wrong dress to wear. No, I’m not as thin as I used to be. And bless his heart, Bryce, my 4 year-old son, didn’t know that by placing his precious hand on mommy’s mid-section while wearing an ill-fitting dress would make her look pregnant.
What I choose to embrace about the photo is that it was a lovely day when I took it, I felt good, I had just shared a lovely wedding brunch with good friends, I was with Michael and Bryce (two guys I love dearly), and my husband chose that photo to share with the social media world that I’m his “perfect inspiration.” Not so bad for a seemingly “fat” shot.
Don’t get me wrong, I take pleasure in seeing a better picture of myself online but I refuse to reject my “bad” photos because they are just as much a part of me as the “good” pics.
The truth is that my image is not perfect, my life is not perfect. I am flawed, my life has many rough edges. The beauty in all that is that I accept that reality and am at peace with it. I prefer to embrace the various stages of my image and life. This is where I find beauty. I refuse to conform to the illusion because the illusion is nothing but smoke and mirrors and can’t compete with the fearfully and wonderfully-made being that is Dawn Washington.