What's Actually Beautiful Though? A Look at Pretty Privilege

What's Actually Beautiful Though? A Look at Pretty Privilege


To celebrate the brilliance of Black beauty and all the ways we cultivate and honor it, is to acknowledge that it exists in a complex paradigm. Often desired and in many ways the standard for what we culturally embrace as the prototype, (and.we,should) the beauty of Blackness - from skin, to hair, to features and beyond, is a historically implied phenomenon.

And as with many things--often amplified by the clamoring voices on the internet and its obsession with aesthetics--there is an underside. The concept of pretty privilege, which is not exclusive to Black beauty alone, has been populating social conversations and is at the root of what some have identified as an unfair advantage and superficially driven divide. The idea is that people award significant societal advantages to individuals deemed conventionally attractive. The nuances of pretty privilege within the Black community are even more complex, as the tenets of what makes beauty - including the variety of skin shades, hair types, and body shapes, presents other divisive perceptions. Everybody has an opinion and a preference and the conversations around it can get dicey. We hear and see them, and admit, it has in some cases, gotten unsafe and…ugly.

What’s at the root of it all?

A 2021 study explored the stereotype that “beauty is good” and found that attractive individuals were perceived to have more moral traits than unattractive individuals. These assumptions stem from what is known as the “halo effect,” a notion that suggests that someone who is perceived positively in one aspect is assumed to possess other positive qualities as well. 

This doesn’t even account for the way social media has amplified the privilege of prettiness and the idolizing of attractiveness. The big-follower counts belong to the best bodies and fly features. The celebrated ones are those who set trends for what we aspire to. It’s a known thing and something we can’t deny.

The psychological factors defining what attractiveness is and can mean is a study that we aren’t attempting to cement here, but the idea behind how it shows up in current culture is a space we want to name, challenge and help bring some thought to. We understand that some women have had harmful experiences at the hands of others’ opinions--we’re not undermining that. We also know that our society is trend forward, and what is determined beautiful today might not be what’s ‘on’ in five years. We’re not saying that this is an easy or always-safe space to navigate. We get it; truly we do.

When we celebrate beauty, especially in the context of wellness, it is for the purpose of amplifying the autonomy to choose how we cultivate our beauty practices. We celebrate the concept and practice of beauty as a discipline to prioritize our care - inwardly and on the outside. We advocate and create for women who adopt the kind of care that says - my body, looks, and presence in the world matter and I owe it to myself to be the best I can, look as good as I can, and own the confidence that comes with both.

The conversation on the Betterness side of things isn’t about what makes beauty - there is no ranking of features or body types or particular presentations. The privilege of pretty, for us, is about how a well-maintained, rested, and relaxed woman is the preeminent figure of beauty and that exists beyond what she looks like. Is she fine? YES. Does she deserve to slay? ABSOLUTELY. But the pretty privilege for us is about the luxury of choosing, maintaining and defining what beauty is on your own terms. 

That's a privilege if ever there was one.

Leave a comment