Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Marie Southard Ospina, an associate fashion and beauty editor with Bustle, decided to put beauty in the hand of the beholder, asking photo editors from around the world to Photoshop her profile picture and make her "beautiful." Ospina was inspired by journalists Esther Honig and Priscilla Yuki Wilson, both of whom conducted similar experiments earlier this year. While Honig focused on how culture and beauty pertain to women, Wilson examined how culture and beauty pertain to race; but Ospina, a 23-year-old, plus-size woman, focused on the cultural relationship between weight and beauty.
In her Bustle piece, Ospina writes:
Having grown up predominantly in the first world, I’m aware that in countries like the U.S. or the U.K. being fat is (although quite common) perceived as an inherently negative thing. Stereotypes include, but are not limited to: laziness, selfishness, stupidity, naiveté and even a lower socioeconomic class. But I’m also aware that the notion of “thin is the only beautiful” doesn’t permeate the entirety of the world.
Editors from 17 countries, of varying skill levels, were paid between $5 and $30 to "make me look beautiful, whilst keeping in mind the looks they see in the fashion/beauty mags of their countries."
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The results from her experiment proved surprising. Though Ospina thought most editors would digitally alter her bone structure and weight to make her look thinner, only three out of the 21 did just that.
"I was extremely positive about the results in the sense that I felt they showed just how different we all, as individuals, define and perceive beauty," she wrote in an email to The Huffington Post on Thursday. "The reality is that the 'beautiful' we’re often taught to aspire to is quite linear, and rooted in being thin. But that’s just one type of beauty. I don’t think the experiment served to show that all of a sudden we, as a species, fat shame any less. Or that all of a sudden we are perfectly accepting of diversity in size. But it did show that defining this six-letter word is nearly impossible. And that’s kind of as it should be. We should all be entitled to our perceptions and our attractions. I don’t ever expect everyone in the world to look a plus-size body and think, 'My god, he/she is stunning.' But I hope for a day when the fact that a lot of people do find that larger body attractive isn’t met with such surprise, shock and sometimes anger."
She said the response she has received from her experiment has been overwhelmingly positive, and she believes that is because people are "tired of being told there is only one kind of beauty."
"I want women to know that they don’t have to be thin to be beautiful or worthwhile or important or good," she wrote to HuffPost.
"We need to remember that beauty exists in all forms, styles, shapes, sizes, colors," she added. "We need to remember that the fact that beauty is actually undefinable is, in of itself, a beautiful thing."
Head over to Bustle to read more about Ospina's Photoshop experiment.