“I think the answer to your question is pretty obvious,” I told her rather annoyed at the fact that she chose to ask that question to a tanned-skinned, curly-haired, and very obvious-looking Latina. “Women of color for centuries have been forced to adapt to Eurocentric beauty ideals.” The woman went on to assure me that times have changed and that she was certain that kind of pressure was no longer being placed on women of color today – because you know, she would know, right?
She then rolled her eyes as if to say – whatever – and completely changed the subject. But the conversation recently came back up for me after coming across a ridiculous and highly offensive GoFundMe account that was created by some idiot who feels that rapper Cardi B needs a nose job. This is especially hurtful because Cardi B already has a complex about her nose and has expressed how she feels it’s “too big.” Fortunately, no one has donated a penny to that stupid GoFundMe page, but I couldn’t help but take a second to think about noses – ethnic noses in particular.
When we think about Eurocentric beauty standards and colonial influences, we immediately think of the obvious – hair texture, skin tone, and even body type. These standards didn’t happen overnight. They are centuries old and date back as far as the European colonization wave of the early 1400s. Which means that for centuries, women of color from all around the world were conditioned to believe that the closer their features resembled white, the closer they were to being perceived as beautiful. It’s that deeply rooted.
We’ve been socially conditioned to believe that our features need to look “less ethnic” in order for us to have a closer proximity to beauty. This is why brown and black women alike have straightened their naturally textured strands with blow dryers, flat irons, hot combs – and in some cases chemical straighteners and relaxers. This is why skin-bleaching products are still so popular today in countries throughout Asia, Africa, and the West Indies.
In fact, according to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS), the percentage of Latinas, Asian Americans, and Black Americans getting plastic surgery went up by 10% in 2012, with the majority of these patients requesting what’s considered “ethnic plastic surgery.” These surgeries mainly included blepharoplasty (an eyelid surgery popular among Asians to remove the monolid) and rhinoplasty, a nose job intended to make the nose thinner, smaller – essentially more European looking. In Asia, women even get lip reductions done, a procedure that involves surgically cutting at the wet-dry line and pulled underneath the inside of the mouth, all in efforts to reduce the lip size. It’s especially ironic to see women have these kinds of procedures done today, considering how popular lip fillers have become here in the states.
In 2017, The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive surgery found that there has been a drastic rise in facial plastic surgery and injectables among millennials and young women, most likely due to social media and the pressure of looking perfect on Instagram.
There have been quite a few WOC social media influencers who have been open about getting rhinoplasty including Dulce Candy, AnchalMUA, and Julie G to name a few. We’ve seen multiple women of color on YouTube, Instagram, and other social media platforms open up about their obsession with nose contouring – which was highly promoted by Kim Kardashian – to give the illusion of a thinner, smaller nose. There’s even the famous Nose Secret tool everyone has been raving about. The product is inserted into the nose and forced in to take a narrower, thinner, and more pointed shape – all for just $35. It’s insane and celebrity influence doesn’t help.
If you look at before and after pictures of stars like Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Lil Kim, even Jennifer Lopez, you’ll notice how much smaller and thinner their noses have become over the years, most likely due to some sort of surgery or procedure.
Why so many ethnic nose jobs? Well, aside from being located right in the center of the face, the nose is also a feature that almost immediately reveals one’s ethnic heritage and it’s a part of the body that can’t be changed or manipulated like hair or one’s skin tone, without the help of surgery.
We’ve certainly made significant progress when it comes to beauty standards with stars like Lupita Nyong’o gracing the cover of Vogue, natural and curly hair being highly embraced, big butts and curvy figures now considered desirable, full lips (a.k.a ethnic lips) are in, and more and more women of color are becoming a part of mainstream beauty. But an ethnic nose – particularly a large or wide ethnic nose – is still not embraced and accepted as beautiful. It’s no wonder women keep getting nose jobs.
While it’s hard to judge any of these women for altering a part of their body they’ve been socially conditioned to believe needs improvement, it’s also a very sad reality. It’s especially sad because like Scaachi Koul pointed out for Buzzfeed, a nose job in many ways serves as a form of ethnic erasure since noses are so specific to our roots.
The good news is that today we have more power to trigger change than we have had in previous years. As women of color it is our responsibility to ourselves to believe that we are beautiful regardless of whatever our proximity is to white. It is our social responsibility to make a conscious effort to let other WOC – in particular young brown and black girls – know that they don’t have to change a damn thing about themselves – certainly not their beautiful ethnic noses – to be considered beautiful, desirable, and valuable in this world. We owe it to ourselves. As for the highly westernized beauty industry, they’re going to have no choice but to catch up with us eventually!