American Beauty 2 Essay, Research Paper
A tall thin singer/model poses for the cover of a magazine. Her hair is long and flowing. Her eyes are a mixture of hazel and green; her almond skin accentuates her petite nose and perfectly shaped lips. Her name is Vanessa Williams and as a former Miss America, she is a role model for young African-American s. Her almond skin is the ideal shade, it s not dark enough to be black, but it is dark enough to be exotic. Her hazel-green eyes are light, unlike the dark brown eyes of most African-Americans. Her long flowing hair is a feature most African-American women would die for. Vanessa has all the features that many African-American women want, and so she is considered the idea of beauty. An African-American s idea of beauty is to not have any features that are African-American. You are seen as beautiful in America if you are an American Beauty . An American Beauty is usually blonde, with blue eyes and pale skin. Women all over the United States covet every detail of her existence. Especially African Americans.
A woman sits in a bar and watches as handsome men pick-up her friends. Her friends, of course all have toffee colored skin. Her skin is the color of dark chocolate. She sits alone as her friends have a good time. Although her figure is near perfect and her hair and make-up are perfect, she is not approached. Even in second grade, competition was fierce among the long-haired, light-skinned girls in my second-grade class for the attention of boys. (Carolyn Edgar Black and Blue Mirror On America pp.79). Dark skin is seen as an ugly feature in the African-American community. In Anne Rice s novel The Queen of the Damned, all vampires, including African vampires, become beautiful – meaning they become as white as alabaster. Toni Morrison explored the idea of beauty in her book The Bluest Eye. In the book an unhappy eleven-year-old girl wishes for blue eyes. She feels that blue eyes will make her beautiful, and that if you are beautiful, you have no more troubles. Throughout history, the whiter something is, the more beautiful it is perceived to be. In the 18th century people powered their faces in order to be as white as possible, even today, some women treasure their flawless, snow-white skin. In the fairy tale Snow White, the title character is seen as beautiful because her skin is as white as snow. Even today, on the soap opera Passions an African American family shows favoritism to their lighter, thinner daughter. They raise the young woman to fit in the rich crowd by enrolling her in the country club, and giving her tennis lessons. Both parents dote on her and put all energy into making sure she is a well-groomed woman. Her younger sister, who is shorter, plumper and darker is often ignored and dumped in favor of her older sister. If she has a problem it will be put aside for her sister to have a tennis lesson. The younger sister has not received tennis lessons, and is not a member of the country club, she just a daughter, not a so-called role model like her sister. Although it may be a bit exaggerated for television, things usually happen that way. In many cases I ve observed, a darker girl is shunned while her lighter sister is favored. African-American supermodels are always toffee colored or lighter, because that is what is seen as beautiful. Thandie Newton, one of the stars of Mission: Impossible II is a very light-skinned African-American. She is seen as beautiful by a lot of people, on the other hand Kimberly Elise, a woman who co-starred with Thandie Newton in Beloved, is just as young, but is not considered as beautiful. Kimberly Elise is a little darker than Thandie Newton, even in the movie Beloved, Thandie is chosen over Kimberly, both women whom are equally beautiful in my opinion. Dark skin in African-American females is perceived as an undesirable feature.
Dark eyes are also undesirable on an African-American person. The lighter an African Americans eyes are, the prettier they seem to be. A woman with almost black eyes will be over looked if there is a woman with hazel eyes in the room. Vanessa Williams s eyes are not dark brown instead they are a hazel-green. Super model Tyra Banks has light brown eyes. In the novel The Bluest Eye, a young girl wishes for blue eyes. Her eye are a dark brown, but she may think that since all the famous, beautiful woman have blue eyes, maybe blue eyes will help her become happy and care free, like the famous women seem. Today the same problem seems to exist, although it is easy to remedy. Contacts can be purchased to make eyes a desired color. …You have really pretty eyes for what you paid for them a woman, assumingly said to Carolyn Edgar, an African American with naturally light eyes. Since people know that contacts can be purchased to make eyes a desired color, it is mainstream to assume everyone wears them. The lighter your eyes are, the prettier you eyes are perceived to be.
A woman s hair is seen as her crowning glory. The American Beauty s hair is long, blonde and flowing. An African-Americans hair is not like that. It is rare for an African American to have naturally blonde hair. The hair is tightly curled, or kinky as it is sometime called. Usually it is not very long either. The kinks in the hair cause it not to feel it s softest potential. If an African American woman wants ideal hair, she will have to go through a life-long and expensive process. The process does not always work. First she will put caustic chemicals in her hair to straighten it. The chemicals consist of lye among other things. Gloves are usually worn to protect the hands as the mixture is placed on the hair. Scalp burns are not uncommon when the procedure is done. Many times, the procedure has caused a persons hair to fall out, as a result of scalp burns and the other chemicals. Many times the chemicals cause the hair to break. After the hair breaks, they get extensions on their hair, to make it longer. If they don t want extensions they get their hair braided so it can grow back. After the hair grows back the process starts again. If a woman wants her hair to be blonde, and she is African American she first has to damage her hair enough so that much of the natural color and texture is gone, then bleach it. After bleaching it, she can dye it the blonde she wants. Gloves are also worn for the dying process, because the chemicals used to dye hair are also caustic, and can burn your skin. If an African-American has hair that is naturally long and straight it is called Indian Hair . Indian Hair is greatly coveted in the African American community. Hair that shows any sign of being African-American is perceived as ugly in the African American community.
African-American s, along with the rest of American culture, see beauty in the terms of light skin, long and soft hair and light eyes. and the black woman who gets the most attention from black men is often the sister with light skin, long hair and light eyes. (Carolyn Edgar Black and Blue Mirror On America, pp 83) Light skin, long hair, and light eyes are features that are not African-American. Beauty is most always seen in Women like Vanessa Williams, or in a lot of other super models. Rarely do you see a dark skinned, nappy haired women as a super-model, or the idea of supreme beauty. The women who do not fit into the light-skinned, longhair, light-eyed mold are at a disadvantage. As long as they do not fit into that mold they are considered ugly . In school they will be taunted. They will encounter more prejudices than the more beautiful girls. In Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye a little girl comments on how the most popular girl in school has long, straight hair and light skin; one of the main characters in the book, an eleven year old African American girl, wishes her eyes were blue, to make her beautiful and happy. If the idea of beauty is to become light skinned, light eyed, and longhaired, the so-called American Beauty what do the girls who don t fit in that mold have to look forward to? With many images of the so called American Beauty thrown at young girls every day, it seems hard for the young girl to become happy with herself. Her appearance becomes a major part of her life. With generations before her groomed on the idea of the lighter, the straighter the better, she is thrown into a world of chemicals, contacts and makeup. At an early age, her hair is determined to be good meaning long and straight, or bad meaning nappy. Good hair means beauty, bad hair means a lifetime of caustic chemicals on your hair. If her skin is light, she is a pretty baby, but if dark then at best she may be cute but mostly people comment on how dark she is. If she is dark and has the good fortune to be born with light eyes, she may be considered as cute, but if she has light skin and light eyes, she is becoming close to the idea of an American Beauty . Today s society proves that women will literally stop at nothing to become beautiful, and if children follow their parents examples, what will become of these little girls? The idea of beauty needs to change, or expand.