Megan Cozens July 22 2020

Beauty is Power


Over centuries of oppression, people of colour have been made to believe that the colour of their skin and nature of their hair are not acceptable; and so they inherently started to dislike and change their own physical traits to suit a more Western aesthetic. It is apparent that what we find beautiful today are proxies for wealth, class, and power and directly related to white supremacy.

If you are considered ‘beautiful’, it immediately grants you access to certain spaces and increases your power within them, therefore beauty is just another facet of power. So how do women of colour fit into this facet of beauty?  Everything they have ever known about beauty is centered around light skin, straight, silky hair, and slender bodies.

Too Many Curves Than Edges (by Dickson Oyiadjo)

This film is a compilation of poems in the setting of a therapist’s office centering the shame people feel about the shapes and sizes of their bodies.

Traditionally, in African cultures being voluptuous was a sign of abundance, fertility, and wealth, but because of Western intervention, today we see only thin, lean, and muscular people to be beautiful. In this film we see the inner battle these African people endure between what the world considers beautiful and who they truly are.  

Too Many Curves Than Edges (by Dickson Oyiadjo)

Exotique (by Soraya Milla)

In this film Philomène, a young girl of African descent, gets her first weave to impress a white boy at school. Philo believes she lacks the power of seduction with her African hair. As soon as she gets her new hair, she blossoms. She feels she is more beautiful just like all the other girls in her school with their silky, straight hair.  

The energy that runs through this film supports the notion that black hair is not beautiful, people touch her new weave without asking, they use micro-aggressions, and lack a general level of respect towards her beauty choices; a common act made towards black women.

There is a powerful moment just before Philo is about to go to the party to meet her crush, she shares an elevator with a woman of colour who embraces her hair in a way that makes Philo feel empowered. In the end she angrily cuts out her weave, realizing that there is power in embracing her natural beauty.

Exotique (by Soraya Milla)

The Bleaching Syndrome (by Eiman Mirghani)

Sudanese-Egyptian filmmaker, Eiman Mirghani, turns the camera on to herself after a failed attempt at making a documentary about a woman who bleaches her skin. Eiman is forced to then look at her own relationship with her ‘blackness’ and seeks to create awareness around the underlying racism that fuels women to bleach their skin.

Although she sees the problems in this beauty trend, this has not stopped her from using these products herself.  Throughout the film, we learn that these beauty habits are instilled into young girls by the women in their families. Slowly, they are convinced that it is just one of those many things we, as women, have to do to be beautiful.  

The Bleaching Syndrome (by Eiman Mirghani)

About the author

Megan, a young South African, recently left teaching English in South Korea and is now a travel enthusiast who is currently focusing on releasing an organic, vegan and zero-waste cosmetic brand.  She is interested in exploring environmental changes and how that influences humankind.  Her brand focuses on making as little waste as possible and tries to provide waste-free solutions for her customers. Megan is also a hand-poke tattoo artist in her spare time.