The Beauty Myth & An Open Letter to Some Trinbagonians

In case you missed the awfulness surrounding the 2012 Miss Trinidad and Tobago World 2012 representative: Athaliah Samuel; the awful missology thread headline proclaiming how ugly she is; the Jay Blessed weigh in; the Miss Trinidad and Tobago Fans page’s awkward, painful, cringe-inducing retraction and the numerous Trinbagonians online bemoaning her as choice — the fact that she is a “non traditional beauty”, from Laventille, dark skinned or “not your cup of tea” are all bullshit explications for the classism, colourism, elitisim, racism and just all around, meanness of spirit that has been shown to this girl in too many places.

Many of the people who would allege that their assessment of her features have absolutely nothing to do with colour are talking crap. Everyone is carrying around internalized beauty ideals and deeply entrenched racial ideals (especially simultaneously) — especially us. Contextualize your notions of symmetry or whatever stupid yard stick you are using for cover over internalized, cultural mind fucks. The diaspora has been officially and thoroughly fucked over in that regard. (I have come to that sad conclusion). Some of us resist (and are resisting), and some of us are unlearning and have done so. Some of us still don’t know that we need to. Harriet Tubman knew what the hell she was talking about. Athaliah’s beauty (the perceptions surrounding it), her colour and class status are all blessedly intertwined, make no mistake around that. People didn’t think Wendy Fitzwilliam was beautiful once upon a time, either. Remember that? Then lo, and behold…

I am a Trini, but the self absorption and levels of superficiality of some of you are disgusting, almost on the verge of nauseating. This whole fantastical narrative of ‘some of the most beautiful women in the world’ has gotten to your heads and I want you to check yourselves on that, please and thank you. If you think a globally commodified “beauty” competition is the best platform to exemplify some cultural estimation of “beauty” — and you are personally offended when said choice/s don’t meet your own personal standards, you need to open your mind some more and get over your fucking self. A beautiful people don’t move that way. And your clearly unexamined biases and perceptions of East Port of Spain communities, its people and your narrow constructs of beauty are showing. Even if you don’t agree, the audacity of being affronted by her looks — her physicality and phenotype, style choices and saying so in terrible terms is still disgusting. You and your words disgust me. All this to a daughter of the soil who is young and undoubtedly a work in progress at 24 (aren’t we all in some ways?), trying to achieve her goals.

Athaliah, sistren, my hope for you is that you know that you are beauty, whether you win or lose, that crown doesn’t define you. Pretty is conventional, often stereotypical, fleeting, falls slack off the bones and finite. Beauty is inside and out. It scares and enthralls. And is sometimes elusive to pin down in exact words. It’s still there when your back bends and skin is weighed down by the extent of life’s journeys. Third-eyes often espy it. And spirits know it is there when your spirit takes to somebody and vice versa. Beauty, like love — is deliberate. The people that see it, mean to see it and it is for them (and you) to savor in those realizations. Everyone knows a pretty girl when they see her but everyone isn’t going to see beauty in you.  Not everyone can. Fuck the naysayers. May your journey be splendid and filled with growth and new experiences.

The echoes and reverberations of some folks’ voices about all of this, will say more about how we view our collective cultural selves than any of the other people and things we rush to rally around the red, white and black for.  And right now, those colours eh looking too nice. Not at all.

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5 Responses to “The Beauty Myth & An Open Letter to Some Trinbagonians”

  1. Two days late… but let’s pretend it’s Friday… « Add Fyah And Stir Says:

    […] I’m not sure if anyone has been following the reactions to Athalia Samuel, the woman selected to represent Trinidad and Tobago in the Miss World Pageant next month, but they’ve to a large extent been pretty messed up (save yourself the agony of reading the comments). Soyluv, as usual, wrote a well thought out response  addressing one of the root causes of the disapproval – our colonial beauty standards/myths. […]

  2. trini vybzz (@SoCaBaDdEsS) Says:

    When I read those comments my fellow trinbagonians made about this beautiful African woman I felt my heart dropped to the ground. Like Athalia, I am very dark in complexion and I come from a depressed community which is quite similar to Laventille. It is really hard and tiring for a young Afro-Trinbagonian like myself to reach the top when society expects you to be a “babymama”, cepep worker, criminal, vagrant, drug addict, “piper aka spranga”, or some other societal misfit. Sometimes I find it really hard to stand tall and sing my country’s anthem when the fact is that every creed and race do not have an equal place. Like the old saying goes “if you’re white then you are alright, if you’re brown then stay around but if you are black then you must stay back”. Mind you I started secondary school in the junior secondary system (though the system is differerent today but the stigma remains) and now I am in medical school hoping to get my MD.

    • soyluv Says:

      Girl, you are a walking refutation right there, of everything “they” like to say some people cannot be — some people doh like to see that, you know. Good luck on your journey. I am grateful for the people who are working to disengage from the classism, who challenge their assumptions and thinking daily and those who even recognize we have those problems! Too many Trinis seem to be in denial which doesn’t help anything change. :-/

  3. Brown Girl Says:

    “Everyone knows a pretty girl when they see her but everyone isn’t going to see beauty in you. Not everyone can. ” Love this comment.

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