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For the first time in history, all of the major beauty pageant titles worldwide are held by black women. For the first time ever, young black and brown girls can see themselves represented in a space that had previously excluded them.

The women winning these pageants are being praised for embracing features that have not always been considered ‘beautiful’. During her final statement at Miss Universe 2019, South Africa’s very own Zozibini Tunzi said:

“I grew up in a world where someone who looks like me, with my kind of skin and my kind of hair, was never considered to be beautiful. I think it’s time that it stops.”

She is right, it’s time that it stops. Diversity in beauty should not be treated as a trend or as exotic or strange.

Cultural Appropriation

For years, white women have appropriated black beauty and fashion. More recently, the phenomenon has been normalised by the Kardashian-Jenner family and social media influencers. Kylie Jenner has made a billion-dollar empire from her desire to have fuller-looking lips – a feature often associated with black women. Kim Kardashian is currently accused of blackface on a magazine cover where her skin appears much darker than usual. The question is, are they to blame for the normalization of cultural appropriation?

In the influencer world, blackfishing is prevalent. Blackfishing is when white women present themselves as a mixed-race or black to gain a bigger following. It seems that most of them, as well as many of their followers, do not understand why this is problematic. For example, take the case of Rachel Dolezal. Dolezal is a white woman who, over time, morphed her appearance into that of a black person, and later held a prominent position at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Other recent incidents include ELLE Germany referring to increased numbers of black models with an article headlined “Black is Back”, and accusations of multiple forms of appropriation in Ariana Grande’s 7 Rings music video. These cases demonstrate the extent to which many people just don’t get it. The fact that they profit from appropriating black culture is even more appalling.

The Rise of Diversity

For a long time, black and brown women have had Eurocentric beauty standards imposed upon them. I have previously used damaging products to make my thick and curly hair more ‘manageable’. Now it seems that mainstream media wants to control the beauty narrative of black and brown women with kinky or curly hair.

This is what we are born with. We had to learn to love it and embrace it as a means to survive in a world that was not meant for us. So stop asking why darker skinned women are taught to hate their skin. Do not ask why a woman decides to embrace her natural hair instead of a weave or wig.

And, like Solange says: Don’t Touch My Hair.

The rise of diversity in beauty is changing what we consider ‘beautiful’. African, Asian, European, Middle Eastern and everything in between can co-exist. All are beautiful. Some of us aspire to look a certain way because no one is fully comfortable and confident in the way they look 100% of the time.

Different sizes, different skin tones, different hair textures and different face shapes can exist without one dominating the others. Diversity and inclusivity in society are not trends, and they are definitely not threats.

The Conversation

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