Rhiannon D’Averc attended the inaugural event for Beauty Series, a new networking experience for beauty fans. With hosts Wunmi Bello and Chioma Neke, we talked about huge topics in the beauty realm and beyond, pulling no punches. This feature touches on the main points of conversation and the conclusions we came to through group discussion.
Even though we agreed that all skin types and body types should be celebrated, the general feeling in the room was that black women experience the most pressure to conform to beauty standards. With influences coming from social media, traditional media, and in the pages of magazines, the struggle to feel attractive is real.
Even television is making a big impact. The recent series of Love Island made people feel particularly that a certain look was undesirable, with cast members placed into the show without any hope of finding a match.
For women, the solution is to find the inner strength and peace that allows you to look good for yourself, not for anyone else. When you begin to feel anxiety while looking at social media, or you begin to feel inadequate, make yourself shut down that feed and step away. Stop looking at and comparing yourself to Americans, because they aren’t us – and we don’t have to conform to their standards!
Negative messages coming from our peers can be incredibly harmful. Some women go so far as resorting to surgery to attain the larger bum and tiny waist, with big boobs on top of abs, that has been so popularised on social media. The truth is that many images of others have been altered with apps, or show them only at their best – so don’t believe the hype! When you see someone doing squats in the gym, realise that it may be that they’ve had surgery and are only posting that 5-second clip to deny the rumours. It doesn’t mean it’s real.
As women, we can help ourselves by posting photos of ourselves first thing in the morning, and natural shots without any makeup. Not only will we feel better about revealing that side of ourselves, but we’ll also help our fellow women to realise that natural is beautiful. It’s also helpful to remind people where things come from – the latest beauty trend might be something that women in certain areas of the world have been doing for a long time, not just a fad. Remember your heritage and be proud of it!
London Runway has pledged in the past to support diversity in our pages, so this was a particularly important topic for us! The feeling is still that dark women in particular are not represented enough, with lighter tones being more acceptable in the public eye.
It’s important for brands to remember that black beauty is not a trend. With the success of Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, many makeup brands have been jumping on the bandwagon with new tones of foundation and formulas for dark skin. But when the trend is over, black women won’t be going away. In order to encourage growth of the beauty industry for black women, it’s important to support smaller companies rather than only the mainstream bandwagoners – like beauty brand VLace Cosmetics, who attended the event to showcase their latest pigmented products specially designed to be bright on dark skin. The brand also teamed up with 10FT, a company producing storage solutions for your makeup collection as well as vanity mirrors.
The way black beauty is presented in the media creates insecurity for women about their particular skin complexion. They can begin to feel like they aren’t good enough because they aren’t being represented, and there is a huge rift in colourism of dark versus light tones in the skin. The male view is very important here, and while we can make efforts to change their minds, we can also change our own. Women must remember that they aren’t beautiful just because they have lighter skin – and mustn’t feel ugly just because they have darker skin. A big part of this is also raising our children so that the next generation understand that simply skin colour isn’t enough to make them ugly or beautiful.
Darker women expressed their treatment at the hands of their peers and partners, relating that they had heard men tell them “I would never date a dark-skinned woman”. They also talked about being ignored because they had lighter friends, which led to them never feeling attractive or wanted. Having moved to Wimbledon from Uganda, one woman expressed that she had felt that “Africa wasn’t good enough”.
Change has to happen at home. Men were quoted as saying “I hope my children are this light” when seeing lighter-toned children on the street, a phrase which again cuts to the core of any woman with darker skin who hears it. This harmful language has to be changed.
In the fashion industry, too, there is discrimination. Models talked about being told that no one wanted to hire them because they were too dark, and even being casually asked why they didn’t consider bleaching. In the face of this appalling insensitivity, it’s easy to feel threatened and hurt, and then become aggressive. While it’s completely understandable, the feeling is that we need to be having more open conversations instead – telling people what their words do, and helping them understand that they are wrong, rather than clapping back.
SELF-LOVE AND EMPOWERMENT
Self-love, we all agreed, is hugely important – whoever you are. You have to have that respect for yourself to know that when you’re talked down to at work or made to feel small, you’re better than that.
The easiest way to empower yourself is to find your purpose. What are you here on this earth for? When you know that – and it may take a while to find it – you will be much stronger and more secure in yourself. You also need to protect your energy. Watch how your behaviour changes based on the people that you are around. It may be that some of the people around you are affecting your energy negatively, and you need to move on from them.
Accept yourself for who you are. Don’t apologise for having to cut people off, or for changing. If people criticise you for becoming someone else, remember: you’re just becoming who you really are, who you were all along underneath it all. Accept your flaws and realise they may in fact be your strengths when you have fully embraced them.
Hair is such an important thing for the black community in general, and debates can rage on and on about whether wigs, weaves, or natural hair are best. The truth is that you just need to do you. If you want to wear wigs, fine – and if you want to go natural, that’s fine too! The important thing is that you’re taking care of yourself, because hair shouldn’t define you.
Go your way and stay in your lane. Ignore any hateful comments that come your way, because everyone gets them. The best response to someone who wants to hate on you? “And what else?”
Have a thick skin on social media. Bear in mind that most of the time, it’s not even personal.
Oh yes, we got onto the subject of fuckboys – perhaps the most raucously debated topic of the day! Women need to know that there is a difference between guys who are just looking to have some fun and guys who actually want to see where something might go. But on the other hand, if you never come into contact with a fuckboy, you’ll be missing out on some important life lessons – so just know that if you get hurt, it’s part of the learning curve.
Women sometimes think that they can change a man, but in almost all cases, that’s not going to happen. When you see that first sign that he might be a fuckboy, run! There is no perfect man out there, so don’t be too harsh to judge – but just know that there is a right man for you. You are both imperfect together, but there is someone who will be the right one.
It’s important to acknowledge that there are fuckgirls out there too! You need to understand what you want out of a relationship. If he can’t give it to you, then tell him to have a nice life. If you can’t love yourself, you can’t love somebody else. Tell him to pull his socks up and fix his life, and then he can have you. If he wants you enough, he’ll do it. If he’s been about, tell him he’s not going to be about you!
When you see that first sign, show him that he can’t be a fuckboy with you. If you chase him, he’ll continue to be a fuckboy.
On the subject of cheating, there was some conflict. Some women felt that if a man has stepped out of the relationship to be with someone else, then he can’t possibly love you enough to deserve you. Others were more cautious, particularly if the cheating happened while the couple was married. They felt that throwing a marriage away should be a big consideration, and that if it only happened once, it might be possibly to move past it. Others still questioned whether you would really be able to forgive and trust the man, and whether he would really be able to stop.
TO WIG OR NOT TO WIG?
When is it too early for your man to see you without your wig? Some say you should let him see you au naturel right away, preferably over FaceTime or something similar so that he can see you how you really are and adjust to that. However, together we acknowledged that it may depend on who you are dating.
That doesn’t change the fact that you should be able to feel comfortable, no matter what. If you are hot or your wig feels uncomfortable, you should be free to take it off! That stage can happen once he has got to know you, and gotten past the idea of just the looks that attracted him in the first place.
We also had a good laugh wondering when was the right time to fart in front of your partner for the first time. We concluded it’s best to try to hold them in until you both know enough of each other!
After a lot of discussion, we were all pretty happy with the opportunity to moisten our throats with delicious cocktails provided by Iced Cups. Finally, we took home some goody bags filled with products from Barry M, L’Oreal, Evangeline Barrett, 10FT, and more. Are we looking forward to the next one? You bet!