Culture:

  • NY Times: Globalization of Beauty Makes Slimness Trendy
      . . . “The judges had always looked for a local queen, someone they considered a beautiful African woman,” Mr. Murray-Bruce, 38, said. “So I told the judges not to look for a local queen, but someone to represent us internationally.”

      The new strategy’s success was immediate. The Most Beautiful Girl of 2001, Agbani Darego, went on to clinch the Miss World title in Sun City, South Africa, last October. She became the first African winner in the contest’s 51-year history.

      Her victory stunned Nigerians, whose country had earned a worldwide reputation for corruption and fraud. Now, all of a sudden, Nigeria was No. 1 in beautiful women. Ms. Darego, who was 18 at the time, instantly became a national heroine.

      But soon pride gave way to puzzlement. In a culture where Coca-Cola-bottle voluptuousness is celebrated and ample backsides and bosoms are considered ideals of female beauty, the new Miss World shared none of those attributes. She was 6 feet tall, stately and so, so skinny. She was, some said uncharitably, a white girl in black skin.

      The perverse reality was that most Nigerians, especially those over 40, did not find the new Miss World particularly beautiful.

      The story does not end there, though. In the year since her victory, a social transformation has begun to take hold across this nation, Africa’s most populous.

      The change is an example of the power of Western culture on a continent caught between tradition and modernity. Older Nigerians’ views of beauty have not changed. But among young, fashionable Nigerians, voluptuousness is out and thin is in. . .

    Such a sad story in my book. This sentence says it all: The judges had always looked for a local queen, someone they considered a beautiful African woman…” What is wrong with picking a beautiful African woman? Why do we Westerners think our values are so superior that we convince other people adopt them?

    I hate to see a culture disregard its own views of beauty (which are supported by thousands of years of tradition and culture in their society) to adopt a Western view which is unhealthy and will lead to serious self-esteem issues for future generations of Nigerian women.

    Furthermore, our so-called Western values of beauty are rather recent. Go back 100-200 years (or for that matter even 20 years) and see what women were looked up as beautiful. They would not even get a second glance by the folks who seem to decide these things today.

    I for one don’t buy it. I’ll tell you what makes a woman beautiful in my book… being herself. I think about last weekend at the Austin City Limits festival. I saw thousands of beautiful women. Some voluptious, some slender, some tall, some short, every body shape imaginable. The ones that I thought were most beautiful though, seemed to be at home in their own skin, to be happy with who they were.

    And most of all, if they play an instrument (!) ahh… I am smitten. The two women who wowed me most were Gillian Welch (she has the prettiest and genuinenest smile I have seen in my life) and of course Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek. I could so fall in love with her!

    Ok, while I’m talking about her, here is a picture of her. (from www.nickelcreek.com)

  • NY Times: War, Murder and Suicide: A Year’s Toll Is 1.6 Million