Movie star and activist, Yara Shahidi is schooling us on the true meaning of beauty and the revolutionary power of loving yourself.
Speaking to Allure magazine, the TV star recalls how she had been exposed to wearing makeup from a very young age, due to her celebrity status and what it took for her to unlearn and relearn what the true meaning of beauty is.
“I’ve been in this industry from a young age, and a side effect of that is getting used to seeing yourself in makeup early on. People say, “Oh, you’re going to be on camera, so here’s some concealer, here’s some this,” she says.
Yara Shahidi explains that it took her over a year to become comfortable with her own natural face, curly hair and body again, without the makeup, during which period she decided to grow out her eyebrows.
“When I was 14, Mommy had to take me through an undoing process of what had been built up in my head. Like being in the makeup trailer, and makeup artists would put my lashes on and say, “There you are,” like I wasn’t there before. I had been on HD cameras for so long, I felt I needed [makeup] to be pretty for the world. On my days off, I was still like, “Where’s my concealer, where’s my blender?” It didn’t feel enjoyable. It took a year-plus for me to learn to feel comfortable in my skin. Now when I want to use makeup, it’s because I feel like doing it, not because I feel like it’s a necessity.”
Yara also notes that loving oneself is a revolutionary act.
“Growing out my unibrow was also a turning point for me. It may sound trivial, but it goes back to the period of time when I would Nair my arms in secret. I remember coming out of the pool and seeing the black streaks on my arms. I naturally had a lot of hair and felt really insecure about that in that moment. This all came at about the same time. There was something about growing out my eyebrows and realizing how much I liked them. Even on a surface level, [it’s symbolic] of me appreciating my heritage, the two sides of my family that came together to make me right now. My family in Iran, family in Wisconsin, and family in Mississippi.
“Again, it may seem surface level, but one [symbolic] thing about my curly hair is that I can’t help but to take up space. There are times when I don’t feel like taking up space, but because my hair does, I match that. Those are the days I’m grateful for, those days I walk into a room and I have to choose to be present, have to choose to be okay with the amount of space or attention I take up.
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I was reading a philosophy paper about how our patriarchal society tells us [women] again and again to take up as little space as possible, to not use our full bodies, because that is unladylike.
“When you add on the layers of my identity of being a woman of color, or being in the LGBTQ community, or being an immigrant, a first-generation, or whatever the intersection is, it only gets more complicated. The idea [for so long has been] that your equity relates to how fast you can conform to mainstream culture or how fast you can disappear. We’ve been told to work backward: “Look conventionally pretty, and then you will feel confident.” So there’s something about just embracing your unique physical features that ends up meaning so much more than just “Oh, I like my face.” It means I like myself. And to like yourself can be a revolutionary act.”
By Oluwatoyin Adeleye