This is part of an article that I had wrote last semester. I thought I would share the discoveries I found when I interviewed my sister. I find it very important to expose the effects of the media’s standards of beauty because everyone has the right to feel confident. Hope you enjoy!
It was like any other normal Thursday in 7th grade. I had on my Victoria’s Secret sweatshirt along with my matching yoga pants. These tight black athletic pants were a trend for a few years until the boot-cut pants switched to leggings. Beside the point, I was walking down the hallway to class when I heard whispers coming from behind. I turned around and discovered it was a group of 7th grade boys simultaneously chanting ‘pancake’ which continued until I got into the classroom. I was beyond confused until one of my friends confessed that the boys were making fun of me due to my lack of curves that failed to fill out my yoga pants. Even with my friend’s explanation of the harassment and bullying, I still remained perplexed. Didn’t boys want girls who were skinny? Due to my genetics, I was always naturally tall and thin, so quite honestly, I thought I would easily be accepted when it came to any expectations that regarded the concept of beauty. However, I soon recognized that my perception of beauty was deeply inaccurate. The girls that I saw on my Instagram feed weren’t only considered to be tall and skinny, but they were also curvy in all the ‘right’ places. In addition, they had perfect skin, hair, makeup, and even an impeccable smile. This concludes the moment when I identified that the media’s expectation of beauty was nearly impossible to achieve. That next Thursday, I didn’t show up to school in yoga pants, or even leggings- I wore loose fitted sweatpants. I decided I would rather take the animosity from my friends for not participating in our embarrassing tradition than be ridiculed once again for my absence of curves.
Giving this idea more thought and attention, I figured what better way to compare these different interpretations than to interview someone who has experienced them multiple places? Fortunately, I knew the perfect person-my beautifully intelligent sister, Hailey Tyler. is currently a 31-year-old Las Vegas resident who has now lived there for nine years and counting. Moving from Madison, Wisconsin out to Las Vegas at 22-years-old has given her two very contrasting perspectives, which I knew would help me better understand the various effects of this rising issue.
To start off, I wanted to get down to the basics of the topic by asking Hailey what she thought today’s definition of the media’s expectations of beauty consisted of?
Las Vegas it is not just skinny, it is fit and toned. The difference between being skinny and toned consisted of measurements and muscle mass. The standards of beauty goes beyond weight in which it is necessary to have abs, zero cellulite, makeup, no wrinkles, Botox, darker complexion (spray tan), long eyelashes, manicured nails, large breasts, curves (she refers to as ‘womanly shape’), etc. If I hit 120 lbs, I know I am considered fat. You can be skinny, yet still have cellulite. The standards have caused me a lot of anxiety which has resulted in me making attempts to change my appearance in various ways. Who the hell feels fat at 110 lbs?! The pressure here in Las Vegas almost causes body dysmorphia. There is nothing worse than feeling inadequate. I even find myself comparing my body to my boyfriend’s.
These anxieties have caused Hailey to stare at her reflection constantly, leading to unhappiness in her physical appearance which resulted in getting a breast augmentation, Botox, and she hopes eventually plastic surgery of the nose. She claims that she does these reconstructions for herself, but ultimately for jobs and auditions because it is a completely different world in Las Vegas being so ‘cut-throat.’ Not only does Hailey have her own opinions and self-esteem at stake, but also the possibility of not qualifying for a job if she doesn’t meet or exceed every little standard.
What have you learned from these expectations? Especially living in Las Vegas?
Living in Las Vegas has been life changing and eye opening. If I didn’t spend the money on reconstructions, a trainer every month, and other cosmetic services, I wouldn’t make it out here. It is scary aging, but you have no choice in Las Vegas but to ‘keep up’ because if you don’t you will become irrelevant in the job industry and be left behind. There will be no chance to make new connections to get better jobs in the future. I’m not sure when the competitiveness ends. My youthful body will only last so long. It is extremely hard to be proud and encourage, others even friends when they’re your competition and your job is at stake.”
The title of her occupation is ‘model cocktail server,’ which incorporates certain expectations that employees must meet in order to keep the job including their weight, which isn’t heard of in the Midwest. She explains that working at Hooters at eighteen where she would stuff her bra in order to make her breasts appear larger was the closest she got to the ‘Las Vegas feel.’ According to Hailey, the concept of beauty in the Midwest is very ‘girl next door’ where you can wear absolutely no makeup, throw on a baseball cap and/or a football jersey, and feel confident. Compared to the raised standards in Las Vegas, females need to be dressed up in order portray their beauty at its fullest potential.
How are the expectations of beauty different in Las Vegas compared to the Midwest? How are they similar?
When I come back home to Madison, I feel like I am being judged for my reconstructions, even from family members. Whereas in Las Vegas it is too common to even question. I would estimate that 95% of the women I interact with has at least one reconstruction done to their body-mostly being breast augmentations. It is not normal to be thicker or out of shape in Vegas and honestly, it was nice feeling like I fit in for once. My genetics have made me to be naturally slim my entire life, which I was bullied constantly for back in the Midwest. So, it was kind of a relief when I moved to Vegas. Don’t get me wrong, people are still rude about my weight occasionally but not nearly as judgmental back in Madison.
As her sister, I was aware that she was bullied when she was younger. However, for some reason this made me feel less alone for my experiences in middle school as I dealt with the harassment. Conversing about the differences between regions, Hailey shared an experience about the time she auditioned for Wet Republic (one of the hotspot pools on the Las Vegas Strip)
One of the most intimidating experiences I have ever encountered was standing in line with about 5000 girls in tiny bikinis as we all stared at each other. Stating your name and age in front of the judges while a spot light is directed onto you is your only impression and you’re done. This audition was the time that I began my addictions to laxatives and diuretics to make sure the weight was off. It was when I realized I was not capable of using the restroom normally that I had a problem. I am extremely thankful that I did not develop an extreme eating disorder due to the pressure like some of my friends.
As previously mentioned, currently skinny is not good enough and being fit is the expectation. Hailey jokingly expressed that someday girls may have to emulate the physique of a bodybuilder to be considered beautiful. On a more serious note, she explained,
I’m terrified to raise my kids here with taking that reality into consideration.
As her sister, this thought made me scared for her. This is the turning point where our conversation went a little deeper and it was the first time that I truly wrapped my head around and understood what she was encountering in Las Vegas. Like any other typical sibling relationship, I have always admired Hailey for not only her beauty on the outside (trust me, I have always been envious of her perfect body and a maybe little insecure that I have given her my hand-me-down clothes when it should be the other way around) but she is also stunning on the inside. Along with many others, in my eyes, she radiates confidence, happiness, and intelligence. Therefore, when I had asked if she thought she had met the media’s expectations of beauty I thought I would receive a confident “yes!” for a response. However, surprisingly, this answer was far from my prediction.
Many people would see you as a woman who meets the standards of beauty that the media has created. Do you feel that you do or ever will?
“I still do not feel satisfied with my body. I don’t look at myself as skinny. Instead, I am constantly critiquing myself and pointing out the places where I could lose weight or gain muscle. It is quite sad that back in the Midwest I was never this hard on myself- it is much more emotional here. Sometimes I question if I’m truly happy anymore. Either way, it is hard to walk away from the money-it’s addicting. But without the looks you don’t have a job which means no money. I spend close to $16,000 per year keeping up with these standards, not including plastic surgeries. Luckily, in Las Vegas we are able to write off some of the costs in our taxes.”
By the end of the conversation, I had so many mixed emotions. I was worried, sad, yet so proud of my sister to see how far she has come. I knew that her life was very demanding while living on the West Coast, but I had no idea that this is what it took to obtain any confidence there. After a few years of her living in Las Vegas, my family and I noticed many changes in Hailey-good and bad. Some, including myself, were upset when she first got her breast augmentation as she was constantly worried about her body. Now, after conducting the interview I finally understand her viewpoint. Like she said previously, she really does not have a choice but to try to keep up if she wants to remain employed in Las Vegas. Similar to any other female I have my own issues regarding the standards and same with Hailey. However, this interview proved that due to our individual demographics there is a great difference between our perspectives and how we experience effects of the standards of beauty.
Yes, many believe and agree that beauty is found within the eye of the beholder, but what if the eye’s beholder is the media? I hope to live in a world someday that encourages women of all shapes and sizes to have confidence and that truly expands the meaning of beauty. After researching the effects, I have concluded that most if not all of the issues originate from the media which then alter our society. Therefore, in order to decrease the amounts of pressure society (especially millennial women) needs to attempt to reject the standards and try to embrace everyone for who they are and not what the media tells them to be. Whether your yoga pants are stretched out from your curviness, or they’re a bit loose due to your slimness, every fit should be seen as beautiful.
Thanks for reading!
It is so important that we all come together to resist these unrealistic expectations. Yes, living a healthy lifestyle is something that we should focus on, but that shouldn’t affect our mental health or how we see ourselves. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL! Please don’t let anyone tell you or make you feel less!
Empowered Women, Empower Women!
Admire other’s beauty without questioning your own