Christian Blog and Online Women's Ministry in South Africa - Cup of Faith

Pretty Girl Syndrome

When I was little, like most young girls one of the things we most desired was to wear makeup.  We wanted to have the darkest red or pink lips, painted nails and adorn the highest heels.  This was a combo ready to make us feel all grown up but above all else it made us feel and look pretty.  Pretty like Cinderella or a Bollywood queen.  Alas, for most of us living in a disciplined household this made makeup an unlikely reality for a 10-year-old (thankfully) until we were much older and possibly earning our own income.  Lucky for those who were born into the Tinkerbell era, “kiddie play lipstick was heaven sent.”  We breezed through primary school admiring our female teachers who wore perfect 80’s and 90’s makeup whilst we admired in silence.

Do you remember the first time you put on that Revlon matte Colour Stay lipstick?  This was all the rage back then and Revlon catered for darker-skinned complexions.  I loved grape and burgundy colours and felt so; ‘Rose’ like, onboard the, “Titanic” (If only I could have slapped my younger self). Fast forward to today and eons in between trying to find the right shade of foundation verses concealer coupled with which brand works better – it’s exhausting just to think about it.  Ladies far and wide can attest to those things that make us feel special and look pretty.  Makeup is like therapy for most, it really does make your face look, ‘perfect’, even if we do not necessarily feel like perfection. How can we hide away from this larger than life must-have? Makeup is everywhere, countless online tutorials, Hollywood, advertisements, magazines, television, billboards, you get the picture, it has become a part of our very mortal existence.  When we were younger, at some point in all our lives, we noticed that people tendered favour to the, ‘so-called pretty women’, who just happen to look like models, and it was there and then that some of us decided that makeup and pretty go hand in hand.

Ironically, my interpretation of the changing trends in fashion brought us different ways of applying makeup over the years.  From wearing too much makeup (80’s) to Goth early nighties, Cat eye, Racoon eye, Smokey eye to the Bare minimum of the Millennium to presently anything goes.  For me it’s much too complicated and I rather stick to the less is more routine (because it works for me).  I am in awe of those ladies who look like they have just stepped out of a Vogue cover shoot.

When I was 16, I had a crush on a boy that was four years older than me.  He was my, ‘Pacey’ from Dawson’s Creek.  It was mortifying to know that he did not recognise, ‘Plain Jane Me.’  I spent weeks planning my, ‘coming out party.’ Then on that fateful day it was time, ‘D’ day had arrived.  Hijacking the sister’s makeup, spending two hours to apply it, then throwing on jeans and a ribbed tank top (the imagery just made me a little sick – LOL) and add a dash of my sparkling personality, I was sure to reel in my crush.  Like with all major flops in life, this was epic.  I somehow knew where he would be and magically appeared, not much to my surprise when he greeted me and could not stop looking at me.  Here I was thinking it was a match made in heaven and for just a split second on Temple wood grounds, I could hear church bells ringing.  The ringing sound was indeed real and I could have easily mistaken his laughter out loud for bells.  Yes, he laughed out loud on my face and inquired, “Why do I resemble Casper?”  He then went on to ask,” Why where my lips bleeding?” and then to add major insult to injury, asked, “If I was on any medication?”  The entire situation left me baffled and honestly confused.  Okay, yes, I looked like a clown and should have asked for help with the makeup application or perhaps just not overdid it.  But as much as I laugh about it now and it should be duly noted that, ‘Pacey’ and I ended up been the best of buddies, I really wondered why us girls put ourselves through so much stress to look good for a boy?  Somewhere down the line, ‘someone or something,’ convinced me that, ‘Pretty’ meant that one changes or alters ‘something’ physically to enhance their own beauty and perception of beauty as told by, ‘others.’  I am sure that we darker skinned girls would be millionaires if we had a rand for every time someone complimented us for been pretty; wait for it, for a dark-skinned girl (that’s altogether another article).  Lingering with that same note, we bought into the whole idea that makeup made us pretty.  Surprisingly, my compliments have improved over the years, over the last five years I am told that I look awesome but would look so much better without my specs.  I wonder why, perhaps, “The nerdy look is not associated with been pretty.”  Luckily, I am not swayed that easily and therefore the specs shall remain at their current occupancy.

Well, our male counterparts definitely play a significant part of the, ‘Pretty girl syndrome’ saga.  I mean amidst the 101 reasons why men are attracted to women, one of them is clearly superficial beauty.  Now, I am not saying that women are not superficial but I am stressing that society has influenced our ideas and answer to, “What is pretty?”  Every cover girl from Vogue to a MNET TV guide had girls that did not look like a ‘Plain Jane,’ but more like,’ Barbie at the beach.’  So, in keeping with fairness, some of our brothers did not have a proper framework to help them comprehend that, ‘Pretty’ meant more than just a, ‘well-brushed face.’

We toil in labour as we pluck, iron, tweeze, shave, pull, tuck, shape, straighten, laser, tan, moisturise, glue, cut, stitch and all and all, all in the name of, ‘Pretty.’  Ah, to be pretty is the notion and how to be is the question?

So, what if we imagined a world where pretty meant individualism, changing the whole narrative on the concept of beauty.  Yes, we all have heard and seen the plus-sized models, the dark-skinned women gracing the covers of fashion magazines, natural hair versus wigs and so on and thankfully trends are changing the way we view women and beauty.  One may ask, is it enough to convince us or is it just enough for large corporations to tap into markets that are lucrative?  Why do we still see images of photoshopped models on the covers of magazines? Why must there be a plus-size model category? Why should we be told we need a series of products to apply daily to our skin so that we could look like a better version of ourselves?  Is the original that God created not good enough?  Aren’t we women tired of been dictated and told what we should look like?  Society has really played a number on us.  We should be exhausted by having to explain why ‘eyebrows are not done’ or ‘nails not painted,’ maybe as mothers, time plays a factor, or one’s priority is placed on other things, then there are the monetary concerns as well, keeping up with, ‘maintenance,’ can tally up.  Not adhering to these tasks, in no way makes any woman any less of a woman.

Perhaps we can push the agenda on having good skin as opposed to, ‘covering up’ or teaching our little girls that it is okay to have blemishes or acne (whilst the bad skin gets healthy) so that when they do go to school or campus and work, they have the confidence to walk into a room without second-guessing themselves.  More so, that if they are rejected purely based on their looks, they have the confidence to understand that it is not because of who they are but the fault of the awful and fickle system in which they were born into.  However, change is on the horizon and there are women out there that are making significant strides to these very changes.

I ask myself these questions to help alleviate the pressures that society has directly and indirectly placed on us females.  My gripe is not at all aimed at makeup, I love lipstick and eyeliner but I am sensitive to the fact that some of us feel it is a must to cover up daily because we feel we have too.  This is no fault of ours, somehow, we have been conditioned into thinking that we need too.  “Maybe it’s Maybelline, maybe it’s me?” But I would like to think, “It’s because I’m worth it.”

It is said that “Confidence is 99% and 1% lip gloss.”  We should take a few lines out of the all-girl group from the late ’90s, TLC and their major hit, “Unpretty.”   “You can buy your hair if it won’t grow. You can fix your nose if you say so, you can buy all the makeup that M.A.C. can make, but if you can look inside you, find out who am I to be in a position to make me feel so damn unpretty.”

If we look to the bible for wisdom, we see in scripture that God’s definition of beauty is the complete opposite of what the world has taught us.

… Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. – Acts 13:22

Never let anyone make you feel unpretty including yourself, never succumb to drastic lengths to make the outer appearances shine whilst there is dullness on the inside.  Feeling confident about who you are is a key to a happier life so when you wear your eyeshadow or your favourite lipstick you do so because YOU are PRETTY.

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6 Comments
  • Lance Naidoo
    Posted at 13:30h, 23 March Reply

    What a beautiful piece. Amazing!💖

  • Avania Govindasami
    Posted at 13:48h, 23 March Reply

    Beautiful story Hazel..

  • Marissa Muthulingum
    Posted at 23:41h, 24 March Reply

    That’s real, Hazel.

  • Lisa Sukdev
    Posted at 07:41h, 26 March Reply

    I love this. Pretty girl syndrome is real. I love your style of writing and the authenticity of your thoughts.

  • melissa naidu
    Posted at 10:23h, 26 March Reply

    Awesome read !!

  • Warren Naidoo
    Posted at 03:41h, 27 March Reply

    Well done Hazel.

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