The Importance in Finding the Right Style Icon + Why We Need More Realistic Role Models

April 6, 2017

When I was little, about seven or eight, I wanted to have straight blonde hair. Note: I have dark, nearly black hair that curls at the slightest touch of water. I would narrow my eyes and shoot back defensively when peers claimed that I had black hair.

“No, it's just very dark brown,” I said, furrowing my brow. To eleven-year-old me, this distinction between black and dark brown was very important. Having dark brown hair meant that, someday, I might achieve the light hair I had always wanted. But black hair meant there was no escape. I was stuck with the darkest of the dark, and would never be able to have my dream hair.

I have, after years of complaining, since accepted my dark, nearly black locks, but the wishing has turned elsewhere. A completely flat stomach. Freckles on my cheeks. A smaller chest. These are just a few of the traits I've yearned for, but there are countless others. There is always something.

I realized not too long ago that many of the celebrities and models I saw as a child echoed the traits that I wished I had. It really came as no surprise to me. The looks and sizes of models, actresses, and singers — women that were in the spotlight — did not reflect what I saw when I looked into the mirror. My role models, therefore, consisted of women that were beautiful in their own way, but no one that made me feel like I could be beautiful too. I saw blonde, thin women represented, therefore it was what I expected I should look like. It wasn't until I matured a little that I began noticing strong, beautiful women that looked like me.

Natalie Portman is a successful woman that's just a bit taller than five feet. Emma Watson's fashion sense reminded me that being fashionable and being smart could have an overlap. America Ferrara's ‘curvy’ figure helped me realize that attractiveness is not all about being as skinny as possible. Mila Kunis’ dark hair showed me that being brunette is beautiful. I haven't yet found my curly haired icon, but I'm still searching.

I wish I had seen and recognized these role models at a younger age. But more than that, I wish there were more for me to choose from. If I didn't spend so much time thinking my short yet curvy frame was so out of the ordinary, I might have been able to realize at an earlier age that I was, and am, beautiful.

Hollywood has made a lot of progress recently in representing a wider array of more realistic, diverse celebrities. Many magazines, fashion labels, and ad campaigns have also been making an effort to include more models of color and plus-sized (or, as we call it, normal sized) women. While it is nice to see some change, there is still a long way to go and many other problems that must be faced. Even with a move towards more representation, there is still perpetuation of “classic” beauty.

One problem for representation that I've found is the way society obsesses over trends and fads. Whatever style phenomenon is currently happening may not appeal to everyone, and even more, may not work with everyone's body types. I was endlessly frustrated a few years ago (and still a little bit now) when pastel, mermaid-colored hair was all the rage (peek at my attempt at purple ombre hair for a throwback). I had mostly overcome my disdain for my dark hair, however, this trend once again made me wish that I had light, easily dyeable hair. On that note, I've always wanted to try a fun, trendy haircut — like the currently popular shag cut — but am never really able to succeed because of my hair texture.

Additionally, bralettes and light, gauzy shirts seem to be an incredibly popular craze right now, and I just can't follow the crowd. My body size and shape doesn't work with that type of style. I often find it difficult to see people wearing gorgeous, lacy bralettes under a sheer shirt, and know that I can't really pull it off. I know that there are plenty of other styles that I look good in, but when it's not something currently considered trendy, I feel less fashionable.

I won't lie, there are many past and current trends that I love, especially if they work well for me. I'm all about the cold shoulder tops that everyone's wearing right now, and I support anyone that can pull off any of these fads. I do, however, wish it didn't feel so necessary to stay on top of these trends. If I feel like I can't pull it off, I don't want to feel like I'm unfashionable. And I see nearly every model looking fantastic in each trend, which naturally makes me want to try it.

I know it's also easy to argue that I should simply ignore what other people do and wear. Comparison is, after all, the thief of joy. But it's hard. It's hard to scroll through social media and see the most popular trends as something that don't work for you. Or to see models sporting makeup colors that don't suit your skin tone. All that can make you want to throw your hair up into a bun, toss on a sweatshirt, and head out the door without a further thought.

However, if we all saw role models in the spotlight that reminded us that we are beautiful because of our differences, we all might be a little more confident. 

I want celebrities and models with big thighs, short torsos, and muscular arms. I want to see that everyone gets their own style role model. Everyone needs someone to look up to that's successful and looks like them. It makes our dreams seem more achievable. It's not that we need someone else to show us that we are beautiful, but it sure helps to see our looks, our shapes, ourselves represented.

We should accept and appreciate everyone's unique, individual beauty. Yet, it is equally as important to find role models that look like you. Beauty may only be skin-deep, but it can certainly help give a little confidence boost. Therefore, young girls should be able to see successful women that look like them showcased in the spotlight. Let's have more realistic role models represented. Maybe then I'll be able to find my perfect curly-haired icon.

Who are some of your style role models? 

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