I was recently reading about a photo exhibit called Posing Beauty at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. The exhibit is based on the book of the same name by curator Deborah Willis. The thought-provoking exhibit questions the definition of African beauty and makes you consider how gender, aesthetics and class are represented in art.
Deborah Willis based the book Posing Beauty on 10 years of photos and research from archives, galleries, friends, family and photographers. For the exhibit, Williams gathered a vast spectrum of images representing beauty for over a century. She expresses who beauty is defined, marketed and exploited.
This made me consider the definition of beauty. What does it really mean? Of course we can always turn to our trusty Webster dictionary for a generic definition, so why not consider it:
1. the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit: loveliness
2. a beautiful person or thing; especially: a beautiful woman
3. a particularly graceful, ornamental, or excellent quality
4. a brilliant, extreme, or egregious example or instance
Wow, that was rather eye-opening. We can even consider our mistakes “a beauty”. Our qualities should bring pleasure to the senses and exalt the mind and spirit. Certainly beauty seems to go skin deep when you consider its literal definition.
What do famous women say about beauty? How do women who have been judged by their beauty all their lives feel about this word? I decided to find out:
I’m not ugly, but my beauty is a total creation.
Tyra Banks, Model/talk show host/author
Tyra Banks, host of America’s Next Top Model, was a Victoria’s Secret model for years. Tyra dares to be fashion and figure forward in her approach to beauty. Viewing beauty as a total creation gives us the ability to work on all the aspects of our inner and outer glow.
It was God who made me so beautiful. If I weren’t, then I’d be a teacher.
Linda Evangelista, Supermodel
Alright, it’s this kind of thinking we have to erase. Beautiful women can be smart and vice versa. Hiding behind God to make such a shallow and inaccurate statement is a cloud on inner beauty.
The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.
Helen Keller, Author/educator who was blind and deaf (1880-1968)
The ability to use other senses to know beauty was an asset to Helen Keller. While she could not see or hear, her heart could feel true beauty right away. If we closed our eyes and ears for a moment to shut out the din of the world, we might be able to sense real beauty ourselves.
Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical.
Sophia Loren, Actress
Why does that women attract all the attention even though she’s not the most “beautiful” one in the room? It’s that inner glow that shines through her eyes, skin, hair, smile and overall essence.
Do you dare to challenge your own perceptions of the fundamentals of beauty? Will you let the media and the perceptions of others define your opinion of yourself and others? As singer Christina Aguilera wisely crooned, “We are beautiful, no matter what they say…we are beautiful in every single way.”