How My Gap Tooth Smile Changed My Perception About My Insecurities
Today there is a big push, a revolution if you will, for women to accept their natural bodies and to no longer conform to beauty standards that were once the norm. Just recently, Kylie Jenner had the world in a frenzy when she announced on Instagram that she removed her lip fillers. Her lips alone catapulted her career in the beauty industry with her lip kits, making her a billionaire by the age of 20. Now I know we all have our feelings about the Kardashian/Jenner clan in regards to their exploitation of black features all the while playing up their racial ambiguity (that’s an argument for another day). But let’s face it, Kylie Jenner removing her lip fillers is a huge deal, and sends a strong message of self -love ultimately being the best love.
Kylie Jenner isn’t the only celebrity that is doing this; K. Michelle has been documenting her journey of removing her illegal butt injections on Instagram and though difficult, has been quoted as one of the best decisions of her life. In a recent Instagram post, she writes….
“ I made a decision to go all natural and embrace myself and choose a healthy life. The Gag is I look better!... Love yourself, I can't express it enough”.
Black women are constantly bombarded with images of what a black woman is “supposed to look like”. They include waist to hip ratios, hair textures, perfectly shaped and matching eyebrows and more. But as social media is getting more popular, unconventional standards of beauty are being showcased as the new norm. And is it really the new norm when it is simply just celebrating our God-given physical traits?
As a young girl, and into my teenage years, my views on how the ideal black woman looked were very linear: skinny, fairer skinned, long straight hair and an hourglass figure with a big butt to match. To me, most of these images were driven by pop and hip-hop culture. In music videos and the posters of my favorite celebrities on my bedroom walls, black women seemed to look the same. So as a young girl I always strived to look like them.
But in 2018, little black girls are seeing so many images of women embracing their bodies just as they are. Social media had been the driving force for this revolution, and I have seen a correlation between the growth of social media and the growth in women embracing their natural selves. Social media became one of the biggest platforms for women like Chidera Eggerue, a UK blogger who is proclaiming “saggy boobs matter”; Ericka Hart, a sex educator who is a breast cancer survivor who had a mastectomy and often showcases her eclectic fashion topless; and Winnie Harlow who isn’t letting vitiligo stop her from collecting these modeling coins.
One revolution that resonated with me was the emergence of body positivity in regards to plus size women. Plus sized women have taken to social media flaunting their curves and different body types showing that bigger bodies can be sexy too.
From Plus size modeling, to plus size fitness instructors, plus size influencers are showing that they too can flourish in spaces where skinny bodies once dominated. But even with the plethora of positive imaging I’m seeing towards being plus sized, I still find myself perplexed asking myself “how do these women do it? Exposing one of my deepest insecurities on the internet for the whole world to see?”
But then I think about another feature of mine that growing up wasn’t celebrated in American culture, and I understand how.
I have always had a gap in my teeth and despite America’s standard for a gapless smile, I have NEVER felt a way about my gap. Why is that?…because my parents let me know from the time I could remember that my gap was special and beautiful. Born to Cameroonian immigrants my mother would tell me all the time that she wished she had a gap like mine. My father would tell me how people in Cameroon used to try all types of things to pry their teeth open to create the organic smile that I inherited from him. I used to think it was a joke until other Cameroonians told me the exact same thing. So as a child, when I went to school and people called me “gap-toothed beaver” or told me they could kick a field goal in my mouth (I laugh at this now lol)…I never gave a damn, because I KNEW I was pretty. I smiled and laughed like everyone else, so much so that people other than Cameroonians complimented my smile as I got older. Years later, the gap has become a phenomenon. So much so that models with gaps are on the front cover of magazines.
Imagine if I took those horrible things that were said to me as a child from my peers and stopped showing off my smile, only to be praised for it now…I would have felt stupid.
Though I had a lot of positive reinforcements that helped shape my perspective in regards to my smile, I could have gone the other way and hated it. But because loved ones made me feel like my smile was unique and gorgeous, I truly believed it! And there isn’t really much to it. I literally just refuse to think anything else about my smile. So one day I asked myself
“why can’t I have the same attitude about all of my insecurities like I do with my gap?”.
All of the insecurities that I have are just on the surface and do not define me or my identity. It’s easier said than done, but when I see people like K. Michelle, who was known for her figure, a document on Instagram the medical emergencies she has had during the surgical removal of her illegal butt injections, it puts a lot into perspective. No matter what I will always be reminded of “better ways I should look” so I have to redirect my thinking.
I keep in the back of my mind that I am not anyone standards of beauty but my own.
So if K. Michele can love herself after removing her fake butt, I can surely love all of the 200 plus pounds of mine. They say women can never be satisfied with what they have, but I challenge all of us to not wait until Instagram tells us that we are beautiful and embrace our natural beauty. We ourselves need to be our own positive reinforcement.
It could mean saying out loud that whatever that insecurity is to you, is beautiful. Even if it means faking it until you make it, because eventually after saying it enough, you will make it. And instead of having conversations about how we can switch body parts ( Yes, we actually do this) give your friend a compliment and end it there. PERIOD!
And while you’re complimenting your friend, compliment yourself too.
These beauty standards aren’t so standard anymore sis…so celebrate yourself!
Have something unique about you that makes you feel beautiful that’s against the mold? Comment below!