Pour your cup of tea and let us muse on Beauty. Let me propose the all too familiar saying “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and ask you to contemplate its merit, its place in your vernacular, and your own relationship to Beauty.
My relationship with beauty started with my mother. When my mother left Iran in the ’80s, beauty & fashion had taken a sharp turn from platform heels to black chadors. The previously present western influences had been suppressed to make room for a new conservative look imposed by the Iranian government. For my mother, beauty was colour; it was avant-garde. It was not obligatory veiling. Fashion was a form of expression she no longer had. Her freedom & rights were taken away from her. Thus, she left and went on her way to Canada.
Canada, in the ’80s, exemplified “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” From tutus to rainbows, everything was camp, and anything was in style. Here, my mother experienced beauty as a form of self-expression, and it was gorgeous. Although, like many immigrants, she did not have the luxury of buying from high-end fashion brands, so she got creative. She taught me the key to style on a budget is a statement piece - get one nice pair of pants you can pair with any old t-shirt. Fashion is about focus; pick where your audience looks. Make people believe those pants are the most elegant ones they’ve ever seen.
One thing my mom never got on board with is second-hand clothing; however, I swear by it. The industrial revolution introduced mass-produced clothing. Although initially a good idea, people’s closets were being filled season after season and clothes were being thrown out by the masses. As a solution, people started selling their clothes. By the time my mother arrived, many thrift stores had been established. Many looked at these stores as cheap, but on the other hand, many found treasures inside. The art of thrifting is in time. You won’t find anything if you browse. You have to spend time looking through each item of clothing. Think about which clothes best express your personality.
Notably, the best example of self-expression is drag. By 1980, police protected drag queens and their audience from homophobia and harassment at Toronto’s Hallowe'en show at St. Charles Tavern. However, it was only in the ’50s when drag culture began solidifying thanks to the numerous gay bars opening around Canada & the US. The art of drag has attracted innumerable audiences worldwide, as their beauty is rooted in elegance and extravagance. Drag beauty is unconventional and does not adhere to social standards. It is a form of art.
My mother and I have always been keen on art and fashion. In Farsi, beauty is زیبا “ziba.” When I was younger, she brushed and braided my wild curls. My knotted hair caused the worst pain I had ever experienced. When I looked in the mirror, my two pigtail braids made me cringe. At that age, beauty was no longer like the ’80s. Beauty followed the tabloids. She was standard - blonde, thin and blue-eyed. She didn’t look like me. Notably, beauty became what the media and advertisement companies wanted. Beauty looked like Barbie so that they could sell their dolls. She was hairless so that razors could be sold. Beauty was propaganda. For young girls and boys, looking at anything but this standard is hard, myself included. However, as I grew older, I realized beauty is objective. In my eyes, she is different from everyone. She does not adhere to any rules. She is unique. She is 2018.
2018 was my first year of university and my first (and last) attempt at eyeliner. This was also the year for natural beauty. Curves, curls and unapologetic beauty were in style. The 80’s mentality was in. She could look like me, or it could look like you, or anyone for that matter. Women started embracing what Drag Queens had been pushing the whole time - uniqueness. My ziba could be chaotic, it could be calm, or it could be wacky. This was the year I deviated from the norm. Through many phases, I transformed and adopted many different styles. However, my beauty was simple. She was brown-eyed, with curly brown hair. She is curvy and is painted with stretch marks.
As observers and spectators of the world, we judge beauty based on our own experiences. There is no universal definition of beauty, and it would be stupid to assume otherwise.