I sat here in complete awe of how beautiful she was. I admired every feature, every curve, and thought to myself, “How is it possible that someone could be that stunning and how do I get like that?! These fashion magazines must have secret places where they breed perfect-looking people.” I went on for years thinking that I just wasn’t fortunate enough to have been born a hybrid beauty like these models were.
Growing up, I was always teased because my hair was too curly or my skin not clear enough, so I did everything I could to become like a model. I took modeling courses, learned how to walk the catwalk and seduce a camera. I wanted the latest and trendiest everything because, after all, one couldn’t live in the fashion capital of the world (New York City) and not be trendy! When I moved to Florida, I continued to go to casting calls and gain as much exposure as I could, but it was all to no avail.
Then, in college, I ran into a friend who made a living editing photography for high-end ads. My former state of admiration for these models ended abruptly after he disclosed that, in real life, these models didn’t look one bit as they did in the ads. He showed me how many alterations he made on their faces and bodies. He mentioned everything from airbrushing and teeth whitening to neck elongations, waist trimming and breast augmentations. I was appalled when he showed me before and after pictures of a “project” he was working on at the time. The images almost looked like two completely different people!
My naïve, 12 year-old mind would never have fathomed that the tantalizingly beautiful heroines I held in such high regard were no more than mere humans with countless alterations. Rather than market what is real and tangible, like natural beauty and women with some meat on their bones, the media is prone to creating this fantastical and surreal image of what women—and men—“should” look like. Oftentimes, if not always, this means abnormally thin people with tons of make-up to hide who they really are, wearing clothes they can’t afford to impress people who don’t matter.
Just to put things into perspective, the Health Wellness Connection states that the average American woman is 5’4” and 140 pounds, while the average American model is 5’11” and 117 pounds! If that isn’t enough to warp your brain, 8 million people in the US suffer from an eating disorder, 90% of which are women/girls.
Society has trained us so well into believing that we need to look a certain way to be deemed attractive. Who are we, though, to take what God has made so beautifully and perfectly and label it otherwise? Mankind has been distorting beauty for centuries with their fashion fads and varying cultural customs. The king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, exemplifies this vividly when he tells his court officials to bring him, “…young men without any physical defect, good-looking, suitable for instruction…” (Daniel 2:4). The emphasis was placed on things that would one day fade and not on righteousness, which is eternal. This happened in the past and continues to happen today.
Such a high priority has been placed on external beauty that we’ve basically dismissed the need for adorning our internal beauty. True beauty is about character. It’s about what’s underneath all the make-up and toned muscles. The point we seem to miss is that God has called us to embrace the character of his son Jesus. At no point did he say we needed to be “ripped” or “curvaceous” to glorify him.
Does this mean we shouldn’t take care of our bodies? Of course not! The bible tells us that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). So, yes, we take care of our physical bodies, but we are to sustain the holiness within us more than anything else. It’s when we begin to idolize physical appearances to meet the criteria of man and gain man’s acceptance that problems arise. Instead, we should focus on Christ who died on the cross for us and accepts us just as we are. Beloved, the Bible tells us that, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting” (Proverbs 31:30), so don’t be fooled.
There is a confidence we gain in knowing just how loved we are by God, and it shows! It stands out more than the latest trends, the best make-up or the strongest muscles because God is the very embodiment of beauty. When we live our lives seeking to become more like Jesus, his glory shines through us and our beauty is apparent. Our skin glows, our eyes light up, and our smiles are bigger and brighter because there is a genuine happiness that overflows from within. That’s something worldly beauty only wishes it could accomplish.