When we meet someone new, our first impression is often about looks; only later do things such as personality, brains, and character start to take on meaning.
Why is it that prettiness or attractiveness matter? Can it be empowering and inspiring and also limiting or demeaning? I interviewed a group of students at ARHS about what beauty really means to them.
Senior Noreen Swan thinks of herself when she hears the word “beautiful.” She thinks lots of people are beautiful, like her friends. Being told she’s beautiful feels good.
“There have been times where people [I didn’t know] called me beautiful, but I just felt weird about it. Like that was unsolicited please don’t do that again.” When Swan’s friends are feeling down, however, she tells them they’re beautiful.
“People have ideas about what beauty is supposed to be, so if it doesn’t fit the exact standards, they aren’t sure if it’s appropriate,” she said.
Swan grew up in a house with both negative and positive body image talk, depending on who she was around. As a result she tries to focus on the positive in herself.
“I try to be a person who I would respect if I met myself, someone who is genuine and authentic and all those great things,” said Swan.
Senior Ethan Luschen-Miskovsky said “nice hair, white skin, a good personality, and good taste in clothing are beautiful.” These are all sterotypical images associated with the word “beautiful” in our culture. Luschen-Miskovsky admits that he finds Olivia Wilde and Ronda Rousey beautiful.
Luschen-Miskovsky has been told that he’s handsome, which he likes. Luschen-Miskovsky has told people they’re beautiful too many times, even if he doesn’t “mean it all the time,” he said.
Sometimes he tells people they’re beautiful “to achieve a more intimate conversation,” but he thinks we should really only use the word when you mean it. “If you don’t mean it, then it has no meaning,” he said.
He doesn’t think he’s beautiful, though. He said his eyebrows are too dark for his liking and he doesn’t like his undefined chin. “Everyone has self-consciousness,” Luschen-Miskovsky said. Luschen-Miskovsky was told that he was handsome growing up, but he didn’t usually believe it.
Chris Franklin, a senior, thinks of Kylie Jenner when he thinks of beauty because of her hair, eyes, and nice physique. Rihanna and Selena Gomez are also who he defines as beautiful, in addition to his girlfriend.
He doesn’t think everyone has the potential to be beautiful. “That’s the biggest lie that society tells you to make you feel better about yourself,” he said.
He feels like a million bucks when someone calls him beautiful, or handsome. He calls people beautiful when they’re feeling down. “The word beautiful is the highest degree. It means you’re physically attractive, your personality is attractive, and your goals as a human being make you more attractive. There is feeling and meaning behind it,” Franklin said.
Franklin said he usually thinks of men as being labeled as handsome, not beautiful. He thinks he is beautiful inside but doesn’t agree that he is visually beautiful.
Still, Franklin grew up in a household with positive body talk. “My dad and my mom both ignore cultural stereotypes; my sister does too,” he said. If Franklin could change one thing about himself it would be his love handles, but otherwise he is content.
Christina Vasiliadis, an alumna of ARHS, thinks of a white, blonde, skinny girl as beautiful. “It’s what the media wants us to think,” she said. Vasiliadis thinks a lot of people are beautiful and she’s been told she’s beautiful also. Her parents and people she’s been in relationships with have called her beautiful and it made her feel good.
Vasiliadis tends to use the word beautiful to make people smile and make them feel better if they are having a bad day.
Vasiliadis doesn’t think she’s beautiful. “I’m not like the faces on the magazines,” she said.
Growing up, Vasiliadis was surrounded with a lot of negative body image influence. “My parents would always comment on my body and always call me fat. I felt like I had rules when it came to eating my food,” she said.
Senior Makayla Klimczyk thinks slightly differently when it comes to beauty. Klimczyk thinks of nice scenery, nice pictures, someone with a good heart, and someone who is presentable. She thinks of her own house and the places that her family has visited, like Nova Scotia.
She couldn’t recall the last time someone said she was beautiful but if more people told her, she would walk with more confidence. “It would be the highlight of my day if someone called me beautiful,” she said.
For Klimczyk, to be beautiful, a person needs to have a good heart and nice self-presentation. Klimczyk thinks people don’t use the word beautiful that much because sometimes it seems to be flirtatious and people are afraid to say it, but she thinks we should use it more.
She hopes she’s beautiful and that she has “all the qualities of a beautiful person.”
Klimczyk grew up around positive body talk with parents and friends who never said negative things towards her. Klimczyk also grew up in Shutesbury, a small town, where she said no one cared about looks much; most people were seen just for their personalities.
“But I don’t see anything wrong with telling someone they’re beautiful, it should be heard more,” she said.