Recently, Cara Delevingne has been taking an extra loud stand about beauty ideals. Not only did she shave off her hair, she also took to Instagram with a caption that might make you question your stance on physical appearance, I know it certainly did for me.
“Its [sic] exhausting to be told what beauty should look like. I am tired of society defining beauty for us. Strip away the clothes, wipe off the makeup, cut off the hair. Remove all the material possessions. Who are we? How are we defining beauty? What do we see as beautiful?,” she captioned an Instagram photo of her bald, shaven head.
Who are we? How are we defining beauty? These aren’t questions that haven’t been brought up before, but you can tell these are questions Delevingne actually ponders on the regular. She’s not afraid to follow her own advice and “cut off the hair,” for example, and I so admire her for that. I truly believe that when you can let go of society's narrowly defined beauty standards, that's when you begin to live for yourself and no one else. Delevingne’s showcasing her own sense of beauty here, and that’s beautiful to me.
What Delevingne has to say isn't groundbreaking, but it it is well-said. Her words were powerful, and the fact that she paired these words with an image of her shaved head made them even more so. I write about fashion and beauty almost daily, so "How am I defining beauty?" is a question I ponder quite often. But, seeing Delevingne pose the question made me think about these words again. What does it mean to be beautiful to me?
I feel my most beautiful when I do whatever I want. If I feel like wearing lipstick, I wear it. Sometimes, I stand in front of the mirror for an hour perfecting my look, knowing good and well that when my boyfriend asks, "How much longer are you going to be," it'll be longer than the five minutes I say I'll need.
If I feel like going to Target un-showered, wearing leggings and buying a pint of Ben & Jerry's that I'm fully intending on finishing all by myself (and in one setting), I do it.
Then of course, there are the days (perhaps my most treasured) where I go to bed looking exactly the same as I woke up. Hair down and messy, wearing the same pajamas I wore the night before. The only thing I really took the time to do during the day was wash my face.
The bottom line is: I do what I want, what feels good for me. And I hope the same for everybody. It's not something that necessarily comes easily, but something you work towards. And when you truly allow yourself to not GAF, it's freeing AF, believe me.
I let how I feel define beauty. Of course, I was curious about the actual definition of beauty, so I took some time sifting through that giant red book of synonyms I was forced to buy in college called The Synonym Finder (which in cases like these come in handy), scrolling past words such as "loveliness," "comeliness," "fairness."
In case you're also curious, Merriam-Webster defines "beauty" as "the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit." An "aggregate of qualities" can go way beyond physical appearance, to some place deeper, where we begin to consider personality traits, beliefs and actions, too.
The idea of an "aggregate of qualities" also requires us to think about what's called the "Gestalt Theory" in art which states, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." This asks you to look at a painting, for example, as a whole, rather than seeing its individual portions. Whether it's a person or a painting, it's important to look at everything, more than just physical attributes, when considering beauty.
I first learned of the Gestalt Theory in my undergraduate art school program, but it didn't immediately come to me that this could also be applied to people. That idea came later when I began writing about fashion and beauty.
I started thinking about the importance about what I was doing. In a time when I needed to be concerned with paying off student loans, affording health care — you know, that kind of thing — how could I really justify making a career out of writing about beauty?
But, really, it's all too easy for me to justify what I do, not for anyone else, but for myself. Because the way you feel and the way you present yourself to the world matters. And if in some small way I can help promote doing whatever makes you feel good, then I'd like to help in that effort. Because when you feel confident, that's when you start to do freeing things such as not caring what others think about you, asking for raises, standing up for what you believe in. Yes, I believe that all stems from how much (or how little) time we spend in the mirror.
Clearly, the idea of looking beyond the surface is something Delevingne can get behind. I really appreciate that she let her actions speak louder than her words. In fact, when she showed up at the Met Gala with a shaved head, she was praised for it. Of course, you also have to consider that she is the gorgeous, thin, blonde supermodel Cara Delevingne. If it had been someone else, perhaps it wouldn't have been as widely accepted.
Delevingne posted a photo of her Met Gala look writing, "The more we embrace who we are as people and rely less on our physical attributes, the more empowered we become. Beauty shouldn't be so easily defined. It is limitless." Limitless, huh? I like the sounds of that.
Regardless of the privilege that comes along with being Delevingne, you've got to admire what she was aiming for here. The action of shaving her head resonated with me. The fact that she actually shaved her head is an awesome display of showing instead of telling. Actions speak louder than words, after all.
And while her actions is what made this post so powerful to me, you don't have to take her words literally. Shaving your head isn't a guaranteed way to find your beauty truth. I know I'm certainly not going to get rid of my hair any time soon. But, the idea of "stripping away" everything you thought you knew about the concept of beauty and redefining it for yourself can be a valuable exercise.
When you do define it for yourself, you can truly begin to let your actions speak louder than your words, than your appearance. Carrying yourself with confidence is the loudest action of all. However you feel confident: bald, with a face full of makeup, under the florescent lights in Target — figure out what it is for you, and then do that.
What Delevingne is saying isn't some foreign concept none of us have heard before. But, it is an idea that needs to continue to be reiterated and brought up as a topic of conversation.
Who are we? How are we defining beauty? You must first answer those questions for yourself and no one else.