Hey there collegiettes! What comes to mind when you picture beauty? Chances are, you probably think of what is considered beautiful here in the United States: A tall, thin woman with perfect features, a beautiful smile, and excellent fashion sense. Every year in December, our own domestic ideals of beauty are exemplified in the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Just a few minutes of watching the Angels strut down the runway in their elaborate lingerie and six-inch heels has most girls hiding the Oreo’s in the back of the pantry and looking for celery to nibble on while doing sit-ups. But while tan, thin, and tall might be the perfect recipe for beauty here in the United States, it might have women from other parts of the world shaking their heads and thinking that our American models and celebrities would not be considered very desirable in their country. So if beauty is different in every corner of the world, what exactly defines it?
The United States
Here in the U.S. we look to models and celebrities for our standards of beauty. They are usually tall, thin, and elegant. Of course, because so many different kinds of people live in the United States, we find beauty in all types. From Bar Refaeli to Kim Kardashian, and Tyra Banks to Jennifer Lopez, beauty in this country is found in all colors and sizes. But they all have some things in common—they are beautiful, fit, and have perfect features. Though it exists in other countries as well, a common thread in American thinking is that if you weren’t born with beauty, it can be created.
In the middle-eastern country of Iran, nose-jobs are the ultimate route to beauty—and the ultimate status symbol. Both men and women wear their bandages with pride; in the so-called “nose-job capital of the world” over 70,000 people in this past year alone went under the knife to get a nose-job. Because of the strict dress code in Iran and other similar countries, women want what they can actually show off to look perfect. Because of this, other beauty trends seem to focus on kohl-lined eyes and perfectly threaded brows.
In Thailand, and much of Southeast Asia, for that matter, it is difficult to find a beauty product that does not contain some kind of skin-whitening agent. In Southeast Asia, pale skin is associated with wealth, status, and beauty. Another much different view of beauty in Thailand from the Kayan tribe focuses on neck-elongation. From the time they are young, female members of the Kayan tribe add shiny brass hoops onto their necks one at a time until they become beautiful “long-necks”.
For the Masai women of Kenya, it’s all about the earlobes—they pierce them and then stretch them out, using materials like slices of elephant tusk. Sometimes, they even remove the two middle teeth from their bottom jaw and shave their heads.
The Maori people of New Zealand have been decorating their faces with swirling blue tattoos called “moko” for centuries. Originally a sign of wealth for their ancestors, today most Maori people have moko. For women, the ultimate sign of beauty is full, blue lips and tattoos on the chin.
In this West African country, being overweight is a sign of wealth and status—a fact so important that women will often force-feed their daughters up to 16,000 calories per day, mostly consisting of gallons of whole camel’s milk and butter. Women are also seen as most attractive when they have plump ankles, stretch marks, and have been divorced. To Mauritanian men, a divorced woman means that she is desirable, and therefore a better catch.
In South Korea, the trend is to have wide, round eyes, and many people are going under the knife to achieve them. One in ten women, and even some children, are having an eye-lift to make their eyes more Western and appealing.
In France, and other parts of Europe, the desired look is natural beauty. French women are known to be graceful and glamorous at every age, without being too flashy, and often don’t understand the American tendency to use lots of makeup.
In the Karo tribe in Ethiopia, young girls have scars cut on their bodies in intricate, swirling patterns to create a beautiful design to attract a husband. Once a girl is finished receiving the scars, she is old enough to be married and start a family.
So what is beauty? It is impossible to define because it differs from place to place. What is considered attractive in one country may be undesirable in another. So thin or chunky, smooth or scarred skin, and everything in between, beauty is unique everywhere you look.