Ever since Jamaica was introduced to cable television and I had an opportunity to see entertainment from the Western culture, I became a fan. However, I always thought women from the Caribbean were never enough to be seen among the most beautiful in the world. I always thought we were just average girls who played outside with no shoes and tried our best to ‘come first’ in class. So,when Lisa Hanna won Miss World in 1993, it was as if someone yelled ‘Plot Twist’. For the first time, I understood that there was a possibility that I could be anything I wanted to be regardless of where I grew up. Here was this Jamaican girl on the world’s stage, winning a crown and holding a title that confirmed her beauty.
My mother was, and still is, an avid reader so our house was always filled with magazines and novels. It was difficult at the time to find women in the magazines that looked like me. Even with Lisa Hanna’s win in the back of my mind and my mother’s constant reminders of how beautiful I am and that the size of my body had nothing to do with my potential, I still questioned my own beauty and self worth.
Sounds strange, right? Well, I grew up in a small community, where beauty was taboo. It was never mentioned because it was seen as an unattainable goal. The women in my community are mainly of dark complexion with nappy or kinky hair so with the media perpetuating this one look of beauty, which is the Caucasian woman with blonde hair and blue eyes, I just thought I would never be seen as beautiful because I never looked like the women on TV. However, I did whatever I could to feel beautiful and I had my moments when I actually felt beautiful. Some of these moments were: my high school graduation and my senior prom.
When I started university at 15 years old (yes! I started at a very young age), I felt another kind of pressure…the pressure to find my space in the in-crowd. The pressure to fit in, to be accepted and to be desired became daily struggles. I began to see myself through different eyes and it was difficult to accept. After I graduated and began working, my independence became my strongest point. It was that independence and drive that led me to migrate to Canada to further my education and find better opportunities for myself.
As an immigrant, I found that it was my differences that made me stand out…differences such as my culture, my beliefs and especially my accent. It was at this moment that I realised my beauty is so much more than my physical features. It is what I have to contribute to the world. Now, I find joy in helping other women see that they are beautiful regardless of what society perpetuates. I use my story, as an immigrant from a small community, to inspire women to believe that they are beautiful because of their differences and they are beautiful because they serve a purpose and that their circumstances should neither determine nor limit their potential.