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Who Are You Being Beautiful For?

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corynne corbett

About two weeks ago, I went to get a pair of new eyeglasses. I primarily wear contact lenses, but I do love a pair of funky frames on those days when I am giving my eyes a rest. Since I was seeing a new optometrist, I knew he would ask, “Do you know that one of your eyes is larger than the other?” To which I always reply, “Yes, I was born this way.”

After having every discipline of doctor under the sun query me about my eyes, I am aware that they are trying to rule out a potential neurological issue. That’s a good thing, so I appreciate their thoroughness. What is less thrilling is this follow up. “Do you know you can have that fixed?” Yes I do, thanks. I’ve had similar conversations about the mole underneath my bottom lip with aestheticians and dermatologists. I’m not interested in removing it for cosmetics reasons. The truth is, I actually like it. I have heard lots of suggestions about things I should do about my appearance and I am sure you have too.

When I had long hair I was told it wouldn’t look good short. Those who met me when I wore my tresses short and blond said I should grow it out. I’ve also been told that I look better with natural makeup and conversely that I should always wear a red lip. This list is endless. But by far my most memorable suggestion comes from my lunch with the legendary skin care expert Georgette Klinger in the early years of my career. I was wearing my glasses (and she was too) and she proclaimed that my frames were way too small. Her hands gestured in a grand way when she proclaimed I needed “big, dramatic eyeglasses” sort of like the ones she was wearing. Thinking back on that it makes me smile because, although I consider myself an intrepid beauty adventurer and just about fearless in the pursuit of information about all things “pretty,” the way I look is my choice. I will slather, swipe and spritz things on because I love the thrill of the hunt, but I am not doing any of it to measure up to anyone else’s standards of beauty. That’s simply exhausting and it lacks authenticity.

Every time I see stories about the ideal beautiful woman I think the researchers miss the point. I don’t believe true beauty can be measured by the symmetry of our face or the distance between our eyes. It’s a reflection of who we are on the inside. Sure we see women who are attractive to look at, but we’ve also met those who are truly beautiful and it’s obvious that they’re reflecting something much deeper. Beauty is a living, breathing extension of our souls and it has power. And within that lies the power to choose our own beauty standard.

Do you wear makeup? Do you go grey? Do you wear your hair in its natural texture? You make the choice. But whatever you choose, make sure that it reflects who you want the world to see. Does it make you smile? When it does, you’ll know you’re choosing beauty for yourself.

Corynne Corbett is the Beauty Director of ESSENCE.  Catch her during a special guest appearance on The Katie Couric Show on January 22.

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