As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.
This is Stephanie's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.
So, before I open up this conversation, let me say that I don't think I am an unattractive girl. I know I am attractive in some ways, and I understand as a Black woman, that we are all beautiful. I am not discussing this for pity. And I am not discussing this to be dismissed. I simply want to have a conversation about what it means to have pretty privilege. This conversation has been swirling around the social media-sphere for much of 2021, and I have always had opposing experiences from those who usually actually have the conversation—or those who are pretty.
Celebrities such as Saweetie have opened up about her experiences with whether she does or doesn't benefit from this type of leverage, and there's a multitude of videos on TikTok floating around on the subject of pretty privilege as well.
But this is my story, and what my mental health has personally struggled with for some time. And, well, I want to be honest about it. I just want to be honest. That's all. Please don't dilute my story with yours. This is my truth about the difficulties of not having pretty privilege in an image-based society.
OK. Here we go. *sigh*
Growing up, I always knew that 'pretty privilege' existed. I always knew people, specifically women, could use their looks as a form of currency as they move through a patriarchal society and that they could use it to get better mates, or they can use it to get better jobs that "regular-looking" women couldn't get. I was aware that this type of privilege is out there.
And I also knew that I didn't have it.
For anyone who doesn't know the concept of pretty privilege, it's when you basically get treated better in life due to how attractive you are. It never really bothered me until I got a little older and began to take stock of different things I didn't have in my life, which honestly, is natural as we all often compare ourselves to other people.
I started to just think about all the things in my life that probably would have been a little bit easier if I had some pretty privilege. But pretty privilege is not something that you, yourself, can decide that you have. It's something that society just gives you based on what the systems of society already are.
I began noticing subtle changes in behavior toward me and then toward my girlfriends. For example, for my most recent birthday, a few friends and I decided to go out and celebrate, which was a huge deal for me. It was monumental. I was never that girl who went out or that participated in the stereotypical rituals of partying, dressing up, or anything that most young, millennial women take part in. And sadly, this was because at a very young age, I realized I was the girl at the bar paying for my own drinks or never being approached by any men. I created a defense mechanism to where I would only go to places where I knew no one there would be anyone I was attracted to. I was roughly 22 years old.
But anyway, for whatever reason, this particular birthday, I decided, "You know what, sis, you've been watching YouTube tutorials, you are poppin' AF, go out and have a good time." I felt so pretty that night and I remember walking into the restaurant like I was a star. I felt like I was on top of the world and if anyone was going to notice me, it was going to be tonight!
But I walked in, and not a single person made eye contact with me. No one even budged, actually.
And what's wild, is my friend walks in to meet me, and the entire place shifts towards her beautiful light skin and effortless aura that I just do not possess. I went home, after such an amazing night out with friends, hurt. I felt I did all the things that women are supposed to do, and most importantly, I was confident. I was happy. But it just wasn't good enough.
I realized I will always be invisible, even if I try.
Another time, I was at the airport and crossed paths with a guy a few times as we were on the same flight. We stood near each other much of the boarding process, and didn't speak, no eye contact or engagement at all. We were offered to sit near each other but he chose to sit elsewhere (which in hindsight, it didn’t dawn on me why he chose the other seat until we sat down) so when we began to board, I went to my seat, and he went to his. He was near another woman, who was Indian or Latina. And within two minutes, she knew his name, where he worked, they connected on social media, and she was invited to a party in the Hollywood Hills.
And it sucks because for me, the guys that usually approach me are those who have minimal ambition or aren't equally yolked career-wise (not that I make a million dollars), therefore my dating experiences are limited. Like, I always make sure I'm even employed before I begin to date. Let's just say this is never the case for me, as successful men often look for a certain “type" of woman.
This is why women like Lori Harvey, or Ciara, or Cassie aren't role models for me, and never were. Women often ask Ciara what was her prayer for her husband and this conversation isn't even in the scope of my life as I can sit up here all day in a convent and pray and it won't work like that for me.
Ciara is not a regular, degular, smegular girl. She is beautiful, talented, and has a career all her own. No matter how much people try to dress it up, Russell Wilson was attracted to her because of that first. This is how pretty privilege works.
And it's the same with work. I have to work for people to think of me positively. Be more, have better, or seem stronger. It's exhausting.
But ladies, I say all of this to say, as superficial as this all may sound, it's real. The thing that hurts the most about not having pretty privilege is that I feel like I get left out of the amazing, beautiful things about being a woman.
Something did dawn on me, however: even without pretty privilege, I won't look like this forever. I thought to myself, 'You're missing out on the parade of life.' I may not be a pageant queen on a float, but I'm still here. And it's my job to adorn myself, the way I see fit.
Even though traffic may never stop when I go outside or I may have to pay for my own drinks at a bar, I can still make an effort to make myself be a reflection of how I feel about myself. And even if no one ever turns their head when you walk in the room, or if they never buy you a drink, when a picture is taken, and you go back and look at it years later and think, 'Wow, I can tell she loved herself,' that is all that matters.
Society may not feel that you have pretty privilege, but if you feel you have it, then you're going to reflect that back into the world.
And at the end of the day, that's all that matters too.
Feature image courtesy of Instagram/ohstephco
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This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Russell and Nina Westbrook are one of those low-key, unproblematic couples we don’t talk about enough. They met in college and got married in 2015. They also have a beautiful family with three kids. While Russell is an NBA star, Nina is a licensed family and marriage therapist and a mental health advocate.
She recently launched the podcast The Relationship Chronicles with Nina Westbrook, and in the latest episode, she had none other than her husband on as a guest. The college sweethearts dived into important topics from marriage to children and how they navigate it all.
One of the topics they touched on was dealing with resentment in your relationship. The former MVP highlighted the sacrifices his wife has had to make in order for him to pursue a career in the NBA, and that’s why it’s also important for him to support his wife whenever he can.
“For me is respecting and understanding what your partner do and the time it takes,” Russell said. “Not kind of downplaying what they do, understanding the time and energy and effort they're doing to make sure whether it’s their job or making sure home is taken care of, and understanding that, I think that is the challenge of not being resentful.”
Nina agreed and also shared her thoughts on resentment. According to her, one of the best things couples should do is have their own identity and passions outside of the relationship in an effort to be fulfilled.
“I also think that when you’re in a relationship, that’s why it’s so important that each individual kinda pursue their own passions and follow their own dreams as I feel like it only becomes or leads to resentment when one person is not feeling fulfilled in what they're doing in their lives,” she explained.
“And so, they will start to look at the other partner who’s happy or excelling or promoting or moving along in their journey, then they’re left feeling stuck like they sacrificed themselves, their happiness, their career, their future and have not pursued it in the name of the relationship or their partner. So, it’s so much easier to avoid those feelings of resentment when you’re each equally pursuing your passions.”
The couple has many passions that they work on together and separately. Outside of basketball and his family, Russell has become known for his eclectic style and started the fashion brand Honor The Gift. Nina has her podcast, and she also started the mental health website Bene. Together, they run the Why Not? Foundation, which works with kids in underserved communities.
“I’m a firm believer that one person can’t be everything to you, so you have to sort of seek out those different friendships or groups or hobbies or activities that help to fulfill you,” Nina concluded.
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Feature image by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Religion of Sports