On Being Pretty: Lupita Nyong’o

Lupita Nyong'o in her stunning Prada gown at the 2014 Academy Awards Red Carpet.

Lupita Nyong’o in her stunning Prada gown at the 2014 Academy Awards Red Carpet.

A friend and her husband are fascinated by my rejection of the word “pretty.” It isn’t that I reject it; I feel strangely off put by it.

“Pretty” and I have a long history. It’s complicated.

When I was a little girl, it occurred to me to tell my mother I was a “boy-girl” because I didn’t feel I looked like a girl and that if someone were to look at me, I would be confused with a boy.

In other words, I didn’t feel I was pretty enough to be a girl.

Fast forward some 16 years when I get hit on for the first time in my life…by lesbians. This, sadly, did not reassure me that I was pretty and only confirmed my original childhood suspicion.

Fast forward some years afterwards, when I find myself in Mexico, where no one has ever seen an Asian, except for in the movies and the TV. I was stared at constantly and felt I understood what it felt like to be famous. Strangely, it was then when I started getting hit on by random men who would drive by and ask if I wanted a lift or run up to me in the street and say I was “pretty and I like you. Do you want to go out?”

I never accepted that as signs of beauty or attraction and more a signal of degrees of male horniness.

I only realized I actually started to accept the notion of prettiness when I began to understand the connection between how I felt and how I looked. It became a state of mind and an expression of what I liked about me. Who I was to me.

It is the color of my spirit for the day.

So when Lupita Nyong’o, Academy Award winner for her debut feature film performance in “12 Years a Slave” and a beautifully elegant siren, talked about beauty and how she felt in part seduced by the inadequacies of herself, I knew what she meant.

I knew about the self-loathing because I knew that as I child, I refused to play the game: I could not abide by boys who only liked girls who were pretty. So I supposedly refused to play by trying to like a person for what they were on the inside. All I ended up doing was liking boys who were cute and justifying their not liking me in my head by reeling off some spiel that now, I can’t even be bothered to recall.

I was a complicated little fuck.

And by all accounts, I still am.

The only difference being that, aside from my insane Beethoven morning hair, I really like how I look now.

I love my long wavy hair that cascades. I love the awkward luxation of my radius (the product of a 200lb cow, a right cross and a surgery), making my right wrist the center of discreet stares. I even love the mole in my middle of my very wide foot.

It is strange but I have come to love the differences because I see them as a reflection of the very odd person I’ve become. And to hate those things would be to hate myself. I also understand that it is a given that a person to be physically pleasing to you in order to be with them.

My mother has remarked, however, how some of the men I have come to care about look like (in her words) Godzilla, which tells me that I must still hold some of my original principles to heart. And the fact that Lupita’s words resonates with me reveals that though we may look different, she embodies everything a role model could be to a woman like me.

I am not the epitome of beauty. I am merely my own universe. And if others think that I am honestly pretty, bring it.

The ones who are only horny bastards can just turn the fuck around right now and go on home.

Have a good trip.


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