Teri Vance: Looking for real beauty
June 22, 2018
I was asked to be a judge for the Miss Rockabilly Riot pin-up girl contest this weekend.
I paused when the organizer asked me — I'm a firm believer other people's bodies aren't my business.
He assured me, "It's not just about looks."
And I've seen the contest, I don't think it's exploitative. It's fun and can be empowering, I think. It's about capturing the essence of a time period and way of life.
But it did get me thinking about what constitutes beauty anyway. As I often do when contemplating the big questions of life, I turned to crowdsourcing, looking to social media for insight to help determine "beauty" in other humans.
As I suspected, most people suggested beauty comes from the inside.
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"You can be really pretty on the outside, but if you can't treat people with love and kindness, you really aren't that pretty at all," said Kaeleigh Fowler.
Janette Dabel used this example: "Audrey Hepburn was a beautiful and enchanting actress, but seeing photos of her in her older years working with poor and needy children, she was radiant."
The responses I wasn't really ready for, although I should have been, were women almost unilaterally struggling with their own body image. I guess I was less surprised as I was dismayed. I wasn't disappointed in them, as I understand the struggle, having faced many of the same issues myself.
I was dismayed by these women who I consider to be strong, smart and lovely not seeing those same traits in themselves.
It was interesting how one friend can see how gorgeous her daughter is, not recognizing the girl is nearly the spitting image of her mother.
Many women have done work to drown out that voice — both internal and external — that tells them they aren't pretty enough, or good enough.
Marie Walter was bullied as a child for her looks, but fought past the negative comments.
"It took me a long time to be comfortable with who I was and how I looked," she said. "I think that was when I was a junior or senior in high school. That's when I finally came to the realization that everyone is beautiful in their own unique way and that attitude had a lot to do with one's beauty as well. As soon as I grasped that realization and began actually living it, I was comfortable with myself and my own beauty."
Another message I heard was the power other people had to help raise a person's self-image.
Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi was invited while in grad school to be a model for an art exhibition.
"I told him no way, because I was fluffy and didn't want people to see my body," she recalled. "He said that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and that I was beautiful just the way I was. I still didn't do it, but I will always appreciate his comments."
So I agreed to judge Miss Rockabilly Riot on Saturday night (It's 5 p.m. in the Marv Teixeira Pavilion of Mills Park). And I will take these messages to heart. For many of us, it's a lifelong battle to recognize our own beauty — but we also have the option of making it our lifelong mission to help others do the same.
Teri Vance is a journalist, freelance writer and native Nevadan. Contact her with column ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.