Pretty As, Pretty Does……

I was asked by a photographer friend to provide my description of beauty.  He would use it as text to accompany the pictures he would take of me to promote his work. His goal was to encourage women to embrace their unique style and beauty.


What would be more difficult taking the pictures or composing the text? Both would arouse strong feelings in my very core. Each exercise would engage me in conversations with myself that have been uncomfortable in my best moments and painful in my worst ones.

Starting at the beginning, I have never thought of myself as physically beautiful. Typing the preceding sentence was uncomfortable – that’s how deep it is folks. I have gotten to a place where I think am a beautiful person because I have worked hard at that. And for some reason that is easy for my mind to receive.

I grew up feeling many good things.

I felt I was loved. I felt I was smart. I felt I was witty. I felt I was funny. Beautiful? Never.

An early memory I have, one that is very poignant and visual in my mind, is coming into my mother and father’s bedroom and demanding my mother’s undivided attention. “Why”, I demanded to know – tears streaming down my face, “was I so UGLY?!?!”

My mother, as mother’s do, comforted me and assured me that I was not ugly. I was “just as God had made me, just as He intended me to be”, she explained. “And furthermore, pretty as, pretty does”, she always said. She explained that she believed, as her mother had taught her, that a person is as pretty or as ugly as their actions.  Hmpf! If it were only that simple…..

This was of NO comfort. She didn’t understand. How could she? She had light skin. I had dark skin. She had long hair. I had short hair.  She had ‘good’ hair. I had ‘nappy’ hair. She was pretty. I was not.

My mother called as I began writing this piece. I asked her if she remembered this exchange. She said “No, but you always thought you were ugly”, very matter-of-factly. It was obvious that the conversation made her uncomfortable as well. I suspect this was for two reasons. One, she has always had her own struggle with her biracial appearance. Secondly, she always seemed pained and at a loss when her consolation fell on deaf ears on this particular issue.

When I said I was going to write a blog on this topic, she asked me why. She sounded a little perturbed, as if to say, ‘are we still on THAT?!?’

What we ended up discussing is probably the root of my discomforture. We spoke about how we live in a society where women almost NEVER feel beautiful.  We almost NEVER accept ourselves as God made us. We buy whatever line of bull (or cosmetics, or clothing, or procedures) men, other women, the media, the beauty industry or anyone sells us to make us feel less than. Never enough. Ultimately, through it all, many of us become our worst critic.

And, as in my case, become unable to accept our beauty.

Even as it stares us in the face……BruceTurnerPhotographySneakPeekSH


10 thoughts on “Pretty As, Pretty Does……

  1. Great piece Sonni! That is so true of many of us. I work daily to help my daughters develop a love for themselves and belief they are beautiful.

    1. Thank you Rashidah! ❤

      My daughters are the reasons I continue to work on myself. I truly feel that their self-worth is derived in part from my own. I owe it to them to get it together 🙂

    1. I know how you feel, Cuz. But know that you ARE beautiful. I still have to make a conscious effort to just say ‘thank you’ for a compliment and not add some self-deprecating comment on the end…..but that’s a start… ❤

    2. Practice looking at yourself and complimenting something about you. Perhaps you don’t see what others do. Clearly someone believes you deserve it; just receive it 🙌😃

  2. This piece is representative of what most women feel. I was reflecting on how the women in my family live on the full spectrum of beauty yet if asked I’m sure none would openly say “I think I’m beautiful.” Beauty is not always pretty as you quite eloquently point out. Beauty is bold and fierce and outrageous and quiet and subtle and smart and sexy and ‘oh my god’. And you lovely, have it in spades.

    Keep writing.

    1. Thank you Ms. Wanda. What a gift that the women in your family live on the full spectrum of beauty. I sensed that at your son’s party. And when I read your piece about beauty, it was right around the time Bruce asked me to write one, and it really got me thinking. I thought about how even though the reality is that we don’t NEED fixing, I really admired that you felt fixable. I never really did. I always thought I had to ‘overcompensate’ so no one would notice I was irreparably broken. Self-concept is a monster isn’t it?

      I have decided I WILL continue to write. And that whatever I write is good enough (which is why I was on the fence, you know the never good enough thing).

      Always know that you are one of my inspirations ❤

  3. great piece. it’s amazing that this is such a challenge for us as women, yet we haven’t changed our society enough to stop perpetuating it. i find having a daughter such a gift in some ways because it gives me an opportunity to try to build up in her what took me years to achieve. also, your new photo is beautiful. thanks for sharing.

  4. I found myself looking for the “Yes, but…” option for the survey 🙂

    I can say that I’ve always felt pretty. I always thought that I had nice hair. But for most of my life I’ve been unhappy with my weight. I can clearly remember, even as far back as eighth grade, that I thought I could stand to lose a few pounds. Over the years, various family members would say, “If you eat that, it’s gonna go straight to your hips” or “You’re so pretty…if you could just lose a little weight you’d be a knockout.” Mind you, I’ve never been larger than a 14/16…

    I know where my issues come from. My mother has been on one diet or another for as long as I can remember, and to this day my grandmother will say, “Are you gonna eat THAT?” As my daughter gets older, I have to make sure not to pass down negative body image issues.

  5. Sonni, I truly enjoyed your piece. I felt and have experienced the same thoughts and feelings. I think what you’re doing is good therapy. Sometimes it takes time to grow into ourselves and accept ourselves for what we are and what we have to offer, because we are too busy noticing what we perceive to be or are led to believe is beautiful. One thing I’ve learned to be true is: Beauty is an opinion, everyone doesn’t like the same thing. And just so you know I always thought you were a pretty young lady with intelligence to boot. The pictures Bruce took are beautiful. Looking forward to hearing more from you!!

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