Is beauty privilege a real thing?

by Thando Mgobhozi


A few weeks ago Pearl Thusi took to Twitter to talk about how hard she has worked to be where she is today and that it’s not fair that all the credit goes to how she looks. This is one of the tweets she posted in a series of tweets, “I’ve lost so many jobs to dark skinned women because I didn’t fit the mould of a real black woman for people. And other times because that woman was more beautiful or talented. Being light won’t get you there and keep you there, you need to work and work harder to prove a point.”

Many tweeps were upset because it wasn’t the first time that Pearl tweeted about this and I could not help but think and I gathered a few incidents that I have seen and experienced in the matter. I can’t really think of a time where I was favored because of the way I look but there’s no denying that people have beauty standards all over the world. I don’t exactly have a slim/sharp nose with a high bridge or the perfect lips. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

I have a big round nose and big thick lips which are not really the worlds attractive nose and lips according to the beauty standards set by society. Even makeup teaches us how to contour our nose and faces to make them look a certain way. I think as girls we are programmed from a young age on how to present ourselves to the world. We have been told to look or dress a certain way so that the other gender can take us seriously. Men approach women based on what they see on the outside before they get know a woman from the inside.

There’s a gentleman who once came looking for me at my home address. I remember this day so clearly. He came and knocked and when my mom answered the door he asked for me. I was surprised that my mom was so chilled about this and she called me to the door. What was even more surprising to me was the fact that I didn’t even know this man and I was more surprised that he had the audacity to come looking for me. I didn’t know his name and I had never had a conversation with him. He then introduced himself and asked to talk to me as if we had known each other for some time.

I was shocked and just looked at him silently the whole time. I was waiting for him to tell me where he knows me from and what it is that he actually wants from me. Finally, he mentions that he hangs out with the guys who live on the same street as mine from time to time and he has seen me once or twice. We started hanging out and I don’t know why I agreed to spend any more of my time with him because of his weird and strange behavior. I don’t remember what we were talking about when he said to me,

you have no right to act the way you’re acting right now because you’re not Kim Kardashian. You don’t have curves like her and you’re not that pretty.

It was something along those lines. There is no need for me to continue from there but it did make me feel insecure as you can imagine. I was very much still younger then and in high school.

Somewhere out there in the world, there’s a woman who is dark-skinned and thinks she is not beautiful because society praises light-skinned women more than dark-skinned women. There’s a woman who is chubby and wishes she was smaller because society judges her. There’s another woman who wants to enter a competition but is too afraid because she fears that won’t be able to compete with other women because of the way she looks.

Nikki Perkins who is a YouTuber together with her husband Jamie Perkins was asked why she quit modeling and she mentioned that she didn’t like how the industry treated dark-skinned models making them look like clowns with all the bright make up that doesn’t match their skin color. This is still evident today even with many beauty pageants.

My dark-skinned friend was telling me about an incident that happened to her one day when she was at the clinic. She was walking past a group of boys when they started calling her. She ignored them and continued with her walk when another man saw her and told her that they were calling her. When she ignored him too the man started saying “ohho ngikuyenzela ifavour lento emnyama” translated (I’m just doing you a favor you dark-skinned thing.) Cruel right?

Beauty or light-skinned privilege does exist and has existed for a long time. One of the reasons it exists is because of the beauty standards set by the world. It is very unfortunate that people get favored because of the way they look over what they can bring to the table. It has gotten better and love has been overflowing for our dark skinned sisters with melanin but it can still get better. It is quite unfortunate that this matter only affects women and men are never subject to any kind of beauty standards. This just goes to show that men still have power over women in so many ways.

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