Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Stylish looks dependent on self-expression

I recently made the mistake of watching a few episodes of Lifetime’s “Girlfriend Intervention,” a show in which four sassy women find a “basic woman” and attempt to bring out her “inner black woman.”

In the episode, the girlfriends were making over a white woman who was obsessed with anime and comic books. They obviously knew nothing about cosplay culture and made broad generalizations, insinuating that cosplaying is immature. One girlfriend even went so far as to say comic books are “not a black person thing.” So does that mean black people who do like larping, cosplaying and anime aren’t really black?

They categorized almost everything on the show as either a “white person thing” (body image issues are a white person thing) or a “black person thing” (bright neon clothing are a black person thing). In another episode a girlfriend says to a white woman, “No self-respecting black woman would ever hide herself in this if she wants to keep her black card,” as if what you wear could alter your ethnicity.

Watching this reminded me why I never liked makeover shows. They all depend on a rigid, simplified standard of beauty and try to shove this standard onto their contestants, regardless of her (or his) personal interests and personality.

When I was in middle school, my younger cousin was obsessed with these makeover shows. Every time she was at my house we would watch them. At the time, I thought it was a great idea for a show. But as I got older, I realized how absurd the premise was.

I was especially bothered by the way the hosts treated members of subcultures. Women who partook in Goth, Lolita, Steampunk or Neovictorian fashion were always treated as if their clothing choices were childish. If you know anything about alternative lifestyle and fashion, you know this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Dressing in an “alternative” manner simply means that you prefer that style. It has no weight on your intelligence or maturity. And the hosts were always uninformed about the alternative lifestyle being roasted, so how could they accurately critique it?

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe when you’re dressed in clothing that makes you feel beautiful, you feel better about yourself and that positivity carries over in daily activities, but no one (even experts on TV) can tell you what makes you feel beautiful. Only you know that. And the best way to find clothing you love is to experiment with looks you like, regardless of others’ opinions on them.

In the words of Doe Deere, founder of cosmetic company Lime Crime, “Sometimes it’s not about what looks natural, or even looks best…it’s what feels right at that moment.”

Email Cardinal Points at cp@cardinalpointsonline.com.

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