Real Talk: Body Image, Beauty & Hollywood

By: Chaviva Freedman  |  May 9, 2017

Hollywood beauty

I’m a huge fan of the entertainment industry. I love the concept of taking an idea off the top of your head and translating it into some form of media. Within recent years, the world of Hollywood has aimed to tackle an important issue for women—body image and the perception of beauty.

We all know what the “ideal woman” is supposed to be—tall, blonde, thin, athletic, perfect skin, etc. It’s something that women see in magazines or on a commercial while watching television. It’s something that many expect all women should strive for. But most women are not given those qualities through genetics. Some women are born as a brunette or redhead and feel that they need to dye their hair blonde to fit in with the crowd. Some are short—including me, the resident small person to most of my friends. Some struggle with their weight. Some have to go through numerous doctor’s appointments in order to achieve that clear skin.

And then you have the women who feel that in order to be the media-version of “beautiful,” they need to surgically enhance themselves. Left and right, women get nose jobs, body enhancements, Botox, fillers—all because they feel like they are not beautiful enough to reach the social standards. It saddens me to see that. Is this what our world has come to? It’s almost as if beauty has become robotic, with no way to be an individual or embrace your own natural features.

Hollywood has been both the driving force and the curse for body image issues. We are told that we either need to look like Marilyn Monroe, the ultimate blonde bombshell, or like the latest supermodel that has made it to the top for looking like a stick. Both sides are unrealistic and both sides can lead to an unhealthy obsession with your personal vanity. You either don’t fit in because you are not the stick-thin supermodel or you don’t fit in because you have too many curves to be deemed as beautiful.

I admit—as much as I have a love for Hollywood and its glamour, their idea of body image is a nasty side that I frequently struggle with. I don’t identify as the “perfect woman”— I’m a short brunette who struggles with her weight and the idea of beauty. I’d much rather be a little thicker and eat all the dark chocolate in the world than be thin and eat only a salad every day for lunch. I don’t fit the traditional mold, and every day I debate what the true meaning of beauty and a perfect woman really is.

We’re lucky that the perception of body image has changed in the 21st century. We have supermodels like Ashley Graham, who prove that you don’t need to be a size 0 or 2 to be at the top of the modeling world. We have actresses like Melissa McCarthy, who show that you can take your status as a plus-size woman and not only make a comedienne career out of it, but also come out with a clothing line made for all women. We have singers like the great Adele, who makes it very well known that she “never wanted to look like models on the cover of magazines.” She understands that “I represent a majority of women and I’m very proud of that.”

We also have the female celebrities who advocate for women’s issues. Take Emma Watson for example. The Harry Potter fan-favorite not only advocates for a healthy perception of body image for women, but she fights for gender equality with her United Nations organization HeForShe. (I recommend watching her September 2014 address to the UN on this issue—it’s really powerful and gives you fresh eyes on the subject). She advocates that she aspires to be “the person who feels great in her body and can say that she loves it.” If we didn’t have young women like her talking about it, would millennial women even think to care for equality as much as we do? I definitely didn’t know all the information about gender equality (and I still don’t), but I’m more aware because of my love for Hermione Granger. Former First Lady Michelle Obama even holds the opinion that “being a healthy woman isn’t about getting on a scale or measuring your waistline.” She insists that women “need to focus on what matters—on how we feel, and how we feel about ourselves.”

So where does that leave us, the millennial women, on this sensitive subject? We should choose to go against the grain on the perception of beauty. We should believe that we are good enough—emotionally and physically. We should believe that underneath the makeup and styled hair, there is a young woman who is confident enough to walk on the street, wearing absolutely no makeup and clothing that makes her feel like she is not a princess, but a queen. I’m not saying that there won’t be days where all you want to do is stay in bed in pajamas, and I’m not saying that there won’t be days where you want to wear a full face of makeup and the fanciest outfit you own in an attempt to fit in. But we should know that we have the power to change the world’s view of body image and beauty, and we all have the capability to become our own version of the perfect woman.

British YouTube star Carrie Hope Fletcher says it best: “Prove to the world you are worth something by treating yourself with the utmost respect and hope that other people will follow your example. And even if they don’t, at least one person in the world is treating you well: you.”

Isn’t that a good place to start?