Would he think I’m beautiful if I looked like her?
Growing up, I was constantly looking for answers about beauty through other people. It began in fifth grade when I realized that my crush wasn’t interested in a 5’5”, 125 lb., fair-skinned, brown-eyed girl. I wasn’t “Dawson Beautiful,” he said, referring to the fact that I wasn’t 5’2″, 90 lbs., sun-kissed or a green-eyed girl like my classmate. He went on to tell me that she was the definition of “true” beauty for every guy at our school, no matter their race or ethnicity. On that day, I learned beauty was no longer in the eye of the beholder but in the eye of the majority, meaning that I would need to mirror the “pretty” women in society to gain the same appreciation.
As I entered middle school at an all-girls’ school, my self-esteem deteriorated, and I became desperate for validation that I, too, was beautiful. I was never satisfied with myself and always thought less of my worth because I only saw my imperfections. This mindset affected me mentally and spiritually, and led me to stress eating and — ultimately — to weight gain. In an effort to strengthen my self-esteem, my mom got me involved in playing the flute and club volleyball.
These activities furthered the development of my self-esteem and road to self-love, because I began to see the beauty in being unapologetically me. It wasn’t until my junior year in high school when I left the U.S. for a semester in Antigua — seeing how they love all body types — made me feel comfortable in my own skin again, becoming the same carefree girl I was back in fourth grade. Finally secure in myself, I began to see peers and friends alike fall victim to these ridiculous expectations placed on feminine beauty, especially through social media. I even fell victim to these unrealistic expectations of beauty and purchased a butt lifter and booty pop cream in hopes to gain others’ appreciation for conforming to the “status quo” of beauty.
Now that I’m older, I realize the only reason I wasn’t comfortable with my body is because there was a lack of representation of my body type in the media, and (at the time) my body type was being shamed. Teens are influenced by images of people in pop culture, especially the trends cultivate through illusions and products they advertise. Lately, many female-identifying teens find themselves relying on harmful products to shape them into the people glorified in pop culture.
Waist trainers, butt lifters & booty pop cream
What do waist trainers, butt lifters and booty pop cream all have in common? They are products advertised to youth and young adults who are pursuing an instantaneous look or shape. Waist trainers have been around for centuries. From corsets to girdles, the act of waist training has been in style for decades for the purpose of slimming one’s waistline. For those who have larger mid-sections, this technique would seem to be the key to a new look, but at what cost? With any product, there are benefits and risks, and one must be aware of both before proceeding to use them.
According to LiveStrong.com, a blog that is partnered with LiveSTRONG Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for a healthier life, the long and short term benefits of wearing a waist trainer are a slimmer waistline, good posture and abdominal support. A big misconception of waist trainers is that they are an easy alternative to balancing a healthy dietary and daily exercise. However, one big risk with waist training is that your abdominal organs are being pushed upwards and deformed. “Squishing your abdominal organs — such as your liver, kidneys and intestines — can decrease their blood flow and function,” Dr. Brad Thomas told LiveSTRONG. “Your organs are also pushed upward, reducing lung capacity while making breathing more difficult and certainly unsafe for exercise.”
Like waist trainers, butt lifters are meant to enhance and lift your butt. The main benefit gained from using this product is a rounder butt, and there haven’t been any reports of risks associated with the use of this product. Even though there may be no risk by using this product, a question we might ask ourselves is this: What are we trying to achieve by using the product and why?
Now, the latest fad that has grabbed many teens attention is Apex Booty Pop cream. Endorsed by celebrities, like Blac Chyna, this new skin serum has hit the market alleging to transform the appearance of your butt in two weeks. According to Supplement Police, a “product review website,” the product uses natural herbs and vitamins to stimulate growth in your butt. Obviously, the benefit would be an enhanced butt, but with this product being so new in the market there is limited data on its risks. Shoppers on various chat rooms have expressed their views on the product, and so far many advise against it because it is a “fake ass scam.”
If these products are proven to have negative or no effects on the body and how we see ourselves, why do people still endorse them and use them?
“Social media is a powerful tool,” Atlanta psychologist Tamara Turner Ph.D. explained in an interview with VOX. “Female celebrities can choose what type of imagery they want to create and what type of products they want to promote. They may or may not realize how much influence they have through those images.”
Added Turner: “It’s really about diversity of images that we put out into the world. Images are really powerful, and people do not realize that. I think that children need to see themselves represented in our media and our promotional materials. The more we see the diversity, the more we become accepting of people of all different shapes and sizes. Marketing campaigns, like the Dove campaign that show diversity, are what’s going to make a difference in how girls see themselves. Think about a healthy lifestyle, and think of your body as a function of something that’s very powerful. The more you think of your body as your own, as something that brings you joy through different ways, the less you think of it as an object for someone else’s approval or disapproval.”
Eighteen-year-old Emani Hunt of Atlanta said she has experienced the pressures women feel to look a certain away and said some products marketed to women to give them a new body image can be damaging: “The women that use these things to ‘fix’ their bodies and make them look picture perfect — the image that they’re giving off to teens [who] look up to them is ‘money can buy you your dream body’.”
In this audio interview, Hunt, who will attend Keiser University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, this fall, discusses the impacts of these products and ways we can advocate for body positivity.
Kayla, 18, will attend Spelman College in the fall.