Mirror Image

Ashley Westbrook is a senior journalism major and staff writer for The Journal

Growing up, I probably wasn’t the only black child that heard the phrase, “Black don’t crack, honey.” Time and time again I was told that we were lucky, because black women don’t get wrinkles. So, I thought I wouldn’t develop wrinkles until I was 100. In the black community, big noses, big lips and thicker thighs are valued and appreciated. As with any culture line, there is a much different definition of beauty for black folks. In this day and age the idea has shifted.

In 2005 African Americans accounted for more than 760,000 cosmetic procedures performed, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. In the years since, cosmetic surgery has increased among blacks at a rate of six to nine percent a year, according to the ASPS. And in 2007 an ethnic plastic surgery office called Cultura Medical Spa opened, targeting minorities in plastic surgery and calling it, “ethnic plastic surgery.”

Lucille Clifton, a black poet, wrote a poem called “Homage to my Hips” and it voices the “Black is beautiful” lessons I’ve learned my entire life. She says, “[These hips] they don’t like to be held back. These hips have never been enslaved; they go where they want to go. They do what they want to do. These hips are mighty hips. These hips are magic hips.” Clifton knew what too few women seem to identify: my hips, my body isn’t ordinary to those around me and I shouldn’t have a problem with that. But if this is true, why is it so prevalent among African Americans to suddenly go under the knife? Look no further than celebrities now. We stalk them daily. Alicia Keys, Tyra Banks, Keyshia Cole and Kelly Rowland all changed their noses. Beautiful black women getting nose jobs to mimic the slender, tiny features of white America. Gabrielle Union updated her lips. In music videos, movies, and even in magazines we see things about curvy women or bodacious bods.

But skinny jeans and tiny waists still seem to rule the glossy world of magazine covers. Do I agree with this shift? In 2009 California Surgical Institute’s blog said their statistics for Hispanics increased by 9 percent, 6 percent for blacks, and Asians come in at 4 percent. A year later in 2010 a woman named Tyra Whittaker said she didn’t like her nose and decided to change it before her wedding. Debra Beasley, a 57-year-old woman, received work done and stated that black women are reluctant to use the resources around them and is happy she did it. I will say I never thought I’d have to fight wrinkles until my 100th birthday by getting Botox or give myself a rounder derriere for Christmas. My face is mine and it is the cards I was dealt. I have a little weight to my bones and the saying goes, “if you don’t like it change it.” But I only applied that to getting in the gym and eating healthier, not getting a consultation by a doctor about a fat-sucking procedure. My mother admits the dark circles under her eyes would be gone if she had a little dough in her pocket.

The aging process? Can’t catch her, shot please! But she drones to me that I am beautiful the way I am and shouldn’t change a thing. Will my self-image change as my age does? Will I lose my self-confidence when I look at my 50-year-old self in the mirror? The constant trend lately is natural. From the earth to our bodie,s every food label shouts “natural.” Organic, another fancy word for natural, is snatched up on the shelves by people looking for a better option. Table and window cleaners have a green label for earth-friendly chemicals. Facial creams have “new technology” involving simple ingredients such as fruits, not beefed up on chemicals.

Yoga classes are stampeded by millions of Americans looking for an inner solution to fixing their stress versus popping pills or paying out of pocket for a solution. So, there is another shift taking place besides the plastic models that we are presented with. That solution is accept what was given, live with it, and just be happy.

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