Beauty at Any Cost

As a teenager with Hispanic roots, Victoria Banuelas has experienced first-hand the physical demands of a Hispanic female. Banuelas is a high school junior who feels that while in El Paso her “culture” focuses on the importance of being “religious and educated”, but soon found “that experience opened [her] eyes to reality” and that she was the minority in a society that is all about “appearance, brands, and other luxuries”.

In a recent report released by the Young Women’s Christian Association, also known as the YWCA, “Beauty At Any Cost” outlines the “narrow beauty standards” representative of beauty products, cosmetic surgery, and diet programs. These social beauty norms are adopted in one way or another by most young girls in our society.

The YWCA report stresses that “every woman in the United States participates in a daily beauty pageant, whether she likes it or not”. From the overwhelming advertisements (in magazines and on television) about the best mascaras or the most beautiful nail polish to reality shows such as “Dr. 90210”, which focuses on cosmetic changes like breast augmentation surgery, girls don’t stand a chance.

“Girls are taught that only one type of beauty is acceptable,” Dr. Ann Branan Horak, a Women in Literature and Religious Studies Professor at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), declares. Dr. Horak expresses that this superficial standard “creates incredible pressure to become the acceptable version of beautiful”, which also becomes “incredibly damaging” to how females feel and see themselves.

Dr. Horak stated that the image of beauty for most of society is “tall, white, and thin” and the outside of a girl is all that is seen and focused on. This shows how the idea of beauty is really shallow and wrong, especially for Hispanics and other minority girls whose physical features may not always fit the “normal” beauty standards.

Still, most beauty products, such as make-up, nail polish, and fragrant lotions, are no secret to females of any age. In fact, if we were to walk down the toy aisle of our local grocery store or shopping center there is sure to be several sets of play make-up and children’s vanity sets. How can this not send a powerful message to young and impressionable girls?

Banuelas believes that it is every female’s personal choice whether or not to buy or wear make-up. However, Banuelas states that while “society promotes it as important to be beautiful…beauty products are not necessary.”

The popular beauty industry represents an unrealistic view on life and the expectations put on girls. Solange Guillaume, a junior at UTEP, shares her satisfaction in wearing make-up almost daily and carrying a travel size bottle of her favorite fragrant lotion, Black Raspberry Vanilla.

Guillaume admits, “These things (beauty products) are not a necessity, but I like the way it makes me feel; pretty and girlie…The problem is really when girls overdue it,” says Guillaume about breast augmentations and other cosmetic surgeries.

It may be said that young girls and women feel the need to wear a certain “beauty mask” in an effort to gain (or keep) approval. But where is the line drawn? Will the popular phrase “no pain, no gain” continue to hold value in a world where beauty equals success, self-worth, or love?

Inter-racial Dating

Gloria Ortiz, age 19, has been in an inter-racial relationship for three years. “If strong feelings are mutual (then) ethnicity should not play a role in caring for a person,” says Gloria. “The key to any good relationship, inter-racial or otherwise, is communication.”

Until recently, not many people expressed what Desiree believes. In fact, about 60 years ago, America was confronted with what we may see now as the inevitable. In 1948, the state of California was confronted by a Mexican American woman named Andrea Perez and an African-American man named Sylvester Davis. They were the first couple that, after being refused a marriage license because of their ethnic differences, fought for their love and won. With this ruling, California became the first state to be confronted with racial discrimination within marriage and NOT give in to the ever-present social and political pressures.

While this was a historic moment for Perez and Davis, and even the state of California, it was not until 1967 that all anti-miscegenation (mixing of different racial groups) laws were put to an end throughout the U.S. The Loving v. Virginia case made this possible. In this case Mildred Jeter, an African American woman, and her husband Richard Loving, an Anglo-American man, were in fact arrested for having married and attempting to live together in the state of Virginia. Although it took 9 years for the Supreme Court to rule in their favor, this is what now gives us the freedom to date, live, or marry anyone we choose, regardless of skin color!

However, that is not always the case, especially with past generations. Myrna Smith, a 43-year-old Hispanic woman, has been married to an African-American for 18 years and her experience proved to be a common one ‘back in her day.’ When Myrna and her husband, Jesse, first started dating each other in 1990 they had to face their loved ones who were not comfortable with them dating because they did not understand. “They only focused on the physical (color),” shares Myrna. “The very people that I thought would not have a problem with it did! My brother would not accept it like I thought he would.”

What about other’s acceptance of a loved one’s inter-racial relationship? When asked about her parents’ reaction to her dating inter-racially, Gloria admitted that her parents had no problem with her dating her Anglo-American boyfriend because they liked his personality. Although it is obvious that inter-racial dating, and marriage, is more acceptable now than 20 or 30 years ago, it is still an issue that has not completely disappeared. Gloria continues to share how “some people are still close minded and have certain stereotypes about other ethnicities,” and that these very stereotypes are also “all over the media and everyday life.” “It should be (about) accepting a person as a whole, ethnicity included, “ adds Gloria.

Grace Munoz, a recent college graduate, believes that inter-racial dating “should be considered normal.” Grace explains that it is the connection between the two individuals dating that must be taken into account. We all grow up in different families and with different experiences; therefore no two people will ever be exactly the same, even if they are from the same ethnicity. The focus should be on finding two people that balance and compliment the relationship to each other’s liking. And when this is achieved with someone from another ethnicity Grace believes that some “assume that people who date out of their race have an issue with their own race.”

“When you focus on color you can miss out on extremely beautiful people.” These are the words of 24-year-old Desiree Monique Contreras, a single mother to Mia. Her bi-racial daughter is of mixed ethnic origins made up of Hispanic and African-American blood. Desiree is a Hispanic female who believes that relationships are “about personality and chemistry not skin color or ethnic background.”

January 2010