Twenty years ago, I cried in my childhood bedroom after watching the video to Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful.” I’d always considered myself more of a Britney fan, but Aguilera’s sophomore album, Stripped, had a hold on me.
The original video, which features a Black girl poring over beauty magazines among other clips of people with insecurities, touched on all of my self-doubt as an awkward 15-year-old Black girl obsessed with teen magazines.
This was before the #BlackGirlMagic era. Before Beyoncé was BEYONCÉ. Before Michelle was FLOTUS. It was just me, my magazines and a desire to be well, beautiful. Or at least blonde with blue eyes and big breasts like the skinny pop stars on the cover of my beloved magazines.
That was 20 years ago—before social media really took off and became an everyday part of life. I was comparing myself to pop stars and supermodels while kids nowadays are comparing themselves to their peers and influencers. It’s part of the reason I imagine Aguilera created a remake of the video depicting this new reality.
“The original ‘’Beautiful’ video set out to bring awareness and a sense of compassion in the face of criticism,” the singer tweeted on Wednesday. “It still carries an important message to remember our core values outside of what’s being fed to us…to find a sense of balance and accepting ourselves for who we are.”
The new version, which features young girls filming themselves doing their makeup, a young boy lifting weights; and a group of kids in the waiting room marked up for plastic surgery, has a poignant message at the end, which reads: “In the last 20 years, since Stripped was first released, social media has transformed our relationship with our bodies, and in turn, our mental health. Research suggests that time spent on social networking sites is associated with body image issues, self-harm and disordered eating in children and teens. This needs to change.”
A recent poll revealed nearly two-thirds of parents say their child is self-conscious about their appearance. Among the top areas of insecurities? Weight, along with hair and skin conditions, such as acne. The poll also found that nearly one in five parents of girls said their child was self-conscious about their breasts.
The potentially traumatizing impact of social media on body image was a fear that came to mind when I gave birth to my daughter last year. Granted, her library is currently full of books celebrating Black girls and natural hair. And we watch animated YouTube hit Gracie’s Corner, particularly the “I Love My Hair” song, on a near daily basis.
But there will come a day when she will notice differences and inevitably compare herself to somebody—whether it’s her classmates, celebrities or models in a magazine. And my prayer is that she remains bold, confident and sure of herself. My wish is that she’ll be able to drown out the noise and shatter self-doubt. My hope is that she will always believe she is beautiful, no matter what they say.
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