July 17, 2016 | life

I’m Not Pretty & I’m Fine With That

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This week, I was a speaker at an event for ELLE Magazine and Matches Fashion. I had that nervous excitement going on all day. After finishing my talk in the evening, I chatted with attendees who all shared how much they’d enjoyed my story, I listened to theirs and was riding high off the energy of being lucky enough to do what I love and be in a room full of like-minded people who appreciate it.

ELLE had live streamed the event. I got home, caught up with texts from friends congratulating me and asking how it went, then checked the videos on ELLE’s Facebook page. The first comment under a clip of me introducing myself?

‘She looks like a man.’

A bunch of people had agreed with the person who’d made that statement. Right underneath that were a bunch of comments saying I was beautiful, but that first one was a heavy hitter and you tend to not notice the rest.

My first reaction was ‘OK. And?’

I mean, this is relevant how? What does it matter? And even the people who were kind enough to leave a comment saying I’m beautiful, it just brought home to me how this is the first thing we’re judged on as women. No one was saying they were looking forward to what I had to say, everything seemed to be resting on how attractive people deem me to be.

Apparently nothing else mattered. My intelligence, my passion, my work ethic, how I treat those around me, who I am as a person – they weren’t interested in finding that out, because I don’t match up to the standard of prettiness they require from a woman.

I instantly thought of one of my favourite quotes from Erin McKay:

‘You do not have to be pretty. You do not owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your coworkers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilisation in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female’.’

I give this quote a standing ovation every time I read it.

Here’s the thing, the comment was from a woman and it was other women who were agreeing with her. The patriarchy has force fed us the standards of beauty we have to live up to since the beginning of time and we’ve bought into it so much that we’re willing to call out women who don’t live up to a standard we didn’t create in the first place.

It saddens me that there are women who are so caught up in the game, they’re scared to colour outside the lines.

Yup, sure, I’m not pretty. I’m not blonde and dainty. Or I don’t look like a Kardashian and since that seems to be the new beauty standard, willingly falling outside of that is an act of courage these days.

I’m not what one would deem a ‘traditional beauty’ no, but let’s not get it twisted: I look fucking fabulous.

I love my face. I love my body but most importantly, I love who I am as a person.

I don’t care that some stranger on the internet thinks I’m ugly. I care that that’s what my worth as a woman boils down to. And especially when it’s other women making that judgement.

Are we not tired of this bullshit yet? Do we not understand that our value is tied up in so much more?

That moment, giving that talk, for a magazine I’ve wanted to work for my whole life and am now the fitness columnist of – that was a huge moment for me. I spoke openly, honestly and passionately, I worked really hard to get this point in my career, only to have someone’s first comment about it be how ugly I am.

So yeah, you’re right, I’m not pretty. I have other concerns, other shit going on. I’m more worried about how smart I am, how passionate I am, if I’m being a good friend, daughter, sister, if I’m making a positive impact on those around me, how I can mentor young women to get where they want to be, how I can put good work and good vibes into the universe to counteract the veritable quagmire of bullshit we have to wade through every day.

My attractiveness isn’t my primary concern. Maybe I’m crazy for ranking ‘am I a good person?’ higher than ‘how can I look more like Kim K today?’, but hey, I’ll live with it.

I’m not pretty, but I’m fly as hell. I decide what attractive means for me, I don’t care about conforming to a standard I’m never gonna meet. Nothing seems to make people more uncomfortable than a girl who’s not deemed traditionally attractive, owning her looks, being totally cool with it and serving hot dishes of fabulous everywhere she goes.

Get used to it babes.

*flicks hair*

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18 Comments

Musa

Excellent post. Sorry you had to encounter that ignorance – what a waste of everyone’s time, including the clearly unhappy person who sent you abuse. More power to you, and stay well.

Reggie

Hi Million! The majority of the public (the 98%ers) have a given a pre-conceived idea of what beauty is.

In amongst those that are deemed as being beautiful as soon as think they are- powered by those that on first glance mention oh you’re pretty’

They to me are no longer attractive because
They walk around expecting those kind of comments

Brian Enot

I’m absolutely appalled by this. Yes, you may look like a man but there’s no need for people to point it out on social media. You are blessed with amazing writing skills

Helen

THANK YOU! Such a beautifully written, eloquent post about something that REALLY shouldn’t have to be said but does…still. I have a 2 year-old daughter and, should the time ever come (let’s hope not!) that she comes home worrying about how she looks because of something someone said to her (as happened to me countless times as a teen), I’ll pull this from the archives and make her read it. Wonderful. xxx

Helen

And…um…to Brian above…what the fuck?! Think you might need to read the article again, babes (although I hope you’re joking with that comment).

Claire

Love this!! Good on you! I’m sick of that shit too! You can mentor my girls any day of the week. Keep being fabulous!

Krab

Actually, Diana Vreeland did not write that. It actually doesn’t even sound like her.

Katie

I absolutely love this post – thank you so much for writing it. It’s a pure dose of inspiration and confidence.

I did just want to point out that the quote about ‘you don’t have to be pretty’ isn’t actually from Diana Vreeland – it’s from a post about Diana from Erin McKean, one of my favourite bloggers. You can read it at her ‘Dress a Day’ blog. It’s been misquoted all over the internet as being by Diana herself, unfortunately. It’s an amazing quote no matter who said it, and Erin’s full blog post on the topic is well worth reading, and great companion to this one.

Alex Thomson

Fantastic post – you are fucking fabulous and this just proves it x

Taylor Shift

Your face is your window. The Window to your soul.

If it’s dirty, no one can see inside the house. Your soul

So, if your face isn’t 100%, it’s ok. As long as the window is clean we can see your soul. I think your face is 1000%

God bless X

Noemi

I admit that beauty is important, for me. I mean beauty in every form. I also like beauty products with a cute packaging and books with beautiful covers!
But I totally loved your post. Women can be so mean, it’s sad that they judge other women in such a harsh and useless way.

Those words are beautiful, no matter who said them!

“My intelligence, my passion, my work ethic, how I treat those around me, who I am as a person” are things that define a person much more than her/his physical appearance, because they’re not deceitful as the physical appearance can be.

Isobel

I think I want a t shirt with ‘I’m not pretty but I’m fly as hell’ on it

biki

This is a great reflection.

But you fixed the attribution and misspelled her last name — it’s McKean.

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