Beauty: More than Faces and Bodies

I was supposed to be in church. I was in church. Sermon had ended. Church had ended as far as I was concerned. I turned my head. I saw her. Light-skinned, large eyes set in a tiny head like a character in a manga. This description is not working. Just take my word for it; she was beautiful. How often do I notice physical beauty in this manner?

My best friend in secondary school used to wonder if something was wrong with me. A girl strolls by. “Ife, did you see that girl? She’s so fine.”

“Ehn ehn? So?”

A car zooms past us. I shout, “Did you see that beauty?”

I can spend minutes staring at the stars at night, I can wax lyrical about the sleek body and lovely features of a gadget.  But I did not download the plug-in that enables men to become poets at the sight of a woman.

I don’t believe in beauty lying in the eye of the beholder—at least not physical comeliness. It lies in the genes, in the bone structure, in the symmetrical arrangement of facial features and a life free from accidents that disfigure the body. This is why we have beauty contests: certain people have been blessed with beautiful faces and bodies. I’m not one of them. I don’t know about you.


Lupita Nyong'o at the Toronto International film festival 2013 by Gordon Correll via flickr
Lupita Nyong’o at the Toronto International film festival 2013 by Gordon Correll via flickr

Lupita nyong’o was recently named the most beautiful woman in the world by People magazine. Take a look at her picture and tell me you don’t know black women with more appealing physical features. But she’s the one who graces the cover of Vogue. There are a few reasons why she’s up there: a masters degree from Yale, an Oscar and the need for black representation in magazines. Place her face and body in a different context and she won’t make the qualifying stages of my village’s beauty pageant. Perhaps, this is why I find it difficult to get knocked over by physical beauty.

Phones, cars, inanimate objects can be beautiful on their own. They need no context. But the world is a place where people don’t become popular just because they have a beautiful face.  We all need something extra—intellect, industry, skill, empathy—that would compel us to people beyond our bodies. I know that sounds like fallacy of hasty generalization, so let me rephrase it. Women who become popular for nothing beyond a sex-tape and a large derriere do not abound in Nigeria. Beyond magazine covers and webpages, we have to be more than our faces and bodies. Carving the hairline and beard, and shaping the eyelashes to perfection is good. It would be terrible if you become defined by those things. We have to continue to strive to be more.

Let it not be said that I’m advocating that less attention be paid to our bodies and faces. Who am I to spit such rubbish? I’m only saying what you’ve always known. When you refer to people as beautiful, you rarely refer just their faces or bodies. Okay, maybe those who say beauty is in the eyes of a beholder are right after all. This is why people like me have hope of being attractive to anyone (if you’re like me and needed an ego boost, I suggest you make good use of the one I just offered).

I mentioned my sighting of the pretty lady to a group of friends on Whatsapp. One of them advised me to go talk to her. I didn’t. I had my reasons, but they sounded like the kind grandmothers give to their children about beautiful light-skinned women. I have a lot of beautiful friends. Many of them have the ability to make Shakespeares out of stammerers. But they are more than their faces and bodies—so much more.


8 Replies to “Beauty: More than Faces and Bodies”

  1. Reminds me of an (arbitrary?) assessment scale guys place ladies on – inside and outside respectively (which I reasoned with in some regard). Now, is “She’s an 8 on the inside” (on a scale of 1 to 10) an adequate atonement for a “1” on the outside?

    In and out, I feel – but with a premium on the inside.

    Wittily delivered, IfeOluwa (while I can’t seem to locate the ‘razzness’ you gave a caveat about).

    1. Where did you find that kind of scale? As far as I’m concerned, the inside is all that matters. When the inside is as good as it should be, the outside will be alright.
      I’ve lost that razz feel to my writing ooo Bunmi. I also don’t express the kind of anger I used to in my rants too. But I’m not too worried, anytime I want to get angry, I can always blog about Nigeria.

  2. I don’t see the ‘razzness’ either o. Beauty would always be subjective and contextual for me. In certain parlance, The Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria wouldn’t get a second look. on the pageant train however, She’s queen! Place her in another setting and You’ll be asking “Wetin Fine for this one body now? ”

    So for me, It’s Contextual and very subjective!

    Well written sir!

    1. Funny thing is, I discovered that voting opened for MBGN after posting this. I’ve been following the reaction of folks on Twitter and it shows how subjective it can be. One of them will be a winner and that is supposed to be an objective choice. But take those ladies outside of the MBGN contest and you’ll immediately begin access them based on things apart from their bodies.

      Thanks for the kind words sir.

  3. The outward beauty can be compelling but the fact is, if the inner beauty sucks then what is the outward beauty for. Like the old saying. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder but its better to behold the inner beauty because it last longer than the outward beauty which is subject to pervading physical and psychological situations and changes like ; boko haram, insecurity, acid from a boyfriend rival. Etcetera

  4. As a woman, I know that beauty can open many doors (yes, beauty can be subjective- cultural and all that), but I also know beauty fades. It is better to draw confidence and worth from something more long-lasting, in my view.

    1. I’ve always found the reaction of folks to the question “What if something happens to the face” funny. It’s always “God forbid”.

      Your comment reminds me of Proverbs 31: Charm can fool you. Beauty fades.


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