What is “Beauty,” Anyway?

I have never thought of myself as beautiful — or any synonym of the sort. I remember being very young and trying to understand what it meant to be beautiful, and struggling to figure out what made one person’s looks worth reveling over, yet another person’s looks were to be gawked at or laughed at. What is this beauty thing all about, and why was it always on everyone’s minds — or, at least, why was it always on mine?

Growing up as a 90’s kid, I had influences through hit TV shows like Baywatch. I don’t really remember too much about the show, except that the one everyone drooled over had blonde hair and was well endowed. I also watched older shows like Bewitched, The Beverly Hillbillies, and I Dream of Genie, where the leading ladies were blonde and beautiful. And, as a younger kid, of course I watched Disney movies, with princesses like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty who were revered for their beauty. They were also blonde. There were certainly other shows and movies out there that I grew up watching, but what impacted my little-kid-mind the most were all the pretty blondes with their bright blue eyes, and the first impression I had as a child understanding beauty was: blondes were beautiful.

Well, crap. I had nearly black hair and boring brown eyes. This was an exceptionally hard pill to swallow as a child who tried to “fit in” with their peers and be accepted. Especially when this girl with crazy dark hair was also fair skinned, which meant that hair on her arms and legs was much more visible than someone’s hair that was lighter. No, “beautiful” was not what my peers called me. I still remember being told that I looked “like a monster” when I was in 1st or 2nd grade because of my dark hair. Well, I knew that I was nowhere near blonde, and I knew I had plain ol’ boring, brown eyes, but monster? Talk about a hard pill to swallow; that was more like swallowing a knife.

After years and years of being picked on and bullied at school, it was something I had learned to accept: I was never going to be beautiful because I wasn’t blonde. As I got older, this realization only became more apparent because I also was not curvy (another element that is tantamount to beauty). It was more than clear to me that I did not hit the genetic jackpot.

So, there you have it, the definition of beauty: If you are blonde and curvy, you are beautiful.

If I were 16 again, I probably would have ended this post with that sentence. What a depressing sentiment. Since I am a bit older now, let’s explore this definition just a little bit more.

Yes, let’s explore this because the paths I’ve traveled in life have led me along an amazing journey of somehow learning acceptance and redefining beauty to myself. It wasn’t until my early twenties when I discovered pinup models like Bettie Page and Bernie Dexter. My mind was blown! Where were these women all my life?? They were gorgeous women, with dark hair and fair skin, just like me, and they were loved by many. I believe this was the very first step I took to truly accepting my appearance.

I had always thought that my body frame, often compared to that of Jack Skellington or a “stick figure,” would never be able to look sexy. But, oh what wonders a wardrobe can do when the clothing you buy actually flatters your frame. I no longer feel like an awkward skeleton trying to make clothing work for me. When I slip on those stockings and petticoats, I start to feel all of those doubts about the way I look just melt away. As I brush through the curls in my hair and pin it all in place, I don’t even think about it’s color. By the time I’ve finished my lipstick and mascara, I’m no longer the frail little girl once called a monster — I feel like a pinup princess.

One might think, “of course, if you wear pretty dresses and do your hair and makeup, that’ll boost anyone’s self-esteem.” But, it’s more than that. While I have a closet full of gorgeous dresses and vintage goodies, and I have loads of makeup and hair styling products at my fingertips, it isn’t simply “putting my face on” that makes me feel secure in my own skin. I can see myself for who I am, flaws and all, and I have found peace and acceptance with how I look with or without being “pinned up.” Along my pinup path of discovery, I have learned that I feel just as beautiful without all the add-ons — and further more, I don’t always need them.

As I take a look at my fellow pinup friends and sisters, I see nothing but radiating beauty from all of them. Again, not because of what they are wearing – it goes so much deeper than that. It’s about the acceptance and the sense of inclusion that each pinup seems to offer each other. Height doesn’t matter; weight doesn’t matter; curves or no curves, platinum or rainbow hair — none of what is on the outside matters at all. We band together and boost each other up, celebrate each other’s achievements and suffer the losses together, even if we are thousands of miles apart. How beautiful is that? The fact that friendship and kindness can exist between so many women all because we are drawn to the same interests and ideals. Finally, there’s a feeling of freedom after all these years of feeling trapped with the wrong face, the wrong body, or the wrong hair color, and I have found this feeling in a most unexpected place: a vast group of women from all over the world.

I am now over a decade into my pinup journey, and I continuously meet ladies who inspire me to this day. I have gone from a girl who thought there was only one way to be beautiful, to a woman who now realizes there is no checklist for beauty. There have been many rocky roads and rifts along the way, but I have also learned so much and grown so much — I know I would not be this same person had I never discovered those raven haired beauties that initially inspired me to take those genetic lemons and make an unforgettable lemonade.


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