March Slice of Life Challenge: March 4, 2014: Lupita Nyong’o and the concept of beauty


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The March Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers .  


This was shared on Facebook last night, and I have watched it many times already…and I can’t stop thinking about it:

 There were so many lines that resonated, so many ideas that pierced my heart and soul.  I spend so much of my day with young women, sixth graders most often, who already feel “the seduction of inadequacy.”  I can hear it in their conversations:

“I feel so fat today.”

“Why do I have such gross hair?”

“I wish I were as skinny as you.”

And I can see it in the way the glance at each other – that quick, ruthlessly calculating glance that they have already perfected when looking in the mirror, seeing extra weight, bad skin, impossible hair….inadequacy.

Yesterday afternoon, I learned that one of our middle school students had just returned to school.  She had been hospitalized for an eating disorder. She seemed “kinda better”.  Another student remarked that there was someone else who always talked about her weight – she weighed herself many times a day, and was always in a panic about gaining too much.  Talk turned to a student’s weekend Bat Mitzvah, and these very students began to remark on outfits they’d seen, and were critical of some of their friends’ outfits.  Shocked by some of the labels being bandied around, I began questioning these girls: why does everyone have to dress the same way? who gets to decide what’s “cool” and “the look”?

These were smart kids, kind kids.  But it was so clear that their idea of beauty was so narrowly defined.  The color of skin, the shape of a body, the “correct weight” – so many impossible  rules to follow!  I want them to hear Lupita’s lines:

“You can’t eat beauty. It doesn’t feed you. You can’t rely on how you look to sustain you.” 

“What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul.”

“You will feel the validation of  your external beauty, but also get to the business of being beautiful inside. There is no shade in that beauty.”

“I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be.”

Wise, wise words.  And we have to find ways to share them with our girls…every day.



23 thoughts on “March Slice of Life Challenge: March 4, 2014: Lupita Nyong’o and the concept of beauty

  1. I didn’t watch the oscars because it usually goes soooo long and the best part is at the beginning when the stars arrive. But….now I want to watch this clip as it has so many wonderful messages. Being a mother of 2 girls and a teacher of many, this is such an important topic to delve into and discuss. Thanks Tara for this slice of the Oscars in a condensed version of the important parts. 🙂

  2. You captured the uncertainty of life as a teenage girl clearly in these paragraphs and provided certainty with some inspiring words. Thank you for sharing the link to the speech! I seem to miss out on some of the best stuff because I’m in another time zone.

  3. If I could crawl inside your mind,
    I would be gentle with you.
    I would remind you that
    the color of skin,
    the shape of a body,
    the spark of imagination
    is what makes us whole
    each and every day
    and how our eyes see ourselves
    is much more important
    than how others eyes see us.

    — Kevin

  4. Wow! thank you for sharing this speech here! Lupita is such a strong role model for young women today. I am sad that most of the conversations surrounding her Oscar win centered on the blue of her gorgeous dress and not the power of the words of her heartfelt acceptance speech.

  5. Thank you so much for this post! I also teach grade six and presently many are struggling with their place in school. I will definitely share Lupita’s and your wise words with them. Her words on compassion are indeed food for our souls.

  6. I didn’t see the Oscars, so I thank you for sharing these wonderful words. When I was in high school, a friend was obsessed with her weight and I tried and tried to convince her that she looked good. She ended up becoming bulimic and being hospitalized — the whole thing made a big impression on me regarding the limits of how much you can help when someone is struggling with their demons.

  7. Wow, Tara! You captured exactly how I felt after hearing her speech. I LOVE this line: “the seduction of inadequacy.” It is so true! They feel so inadequate and I wonder how to support them through this time. I know I didn’t see myself as beautiful or good enough until late in life and I so desperately want them to avoid this trap. I don’t want it to be something that teenagers go through but I have no answers to stop it.

  8. Such wise words. It reminds me of a lesson I used to do with my 8th graders about the unrealistic portrayals of beauty in the media. Years ago Jamie Lee Curtis did a magazine interview (with photographs) that pulled the curtain on how stars look like they do. As I told my students, “If we all had three hours and twenty-seven people working on us,” we would look like that, too. Not even the models look like the magazine spreads in real life.

  9. What an inspiring message! I know you work with 6th graders, but sadly these same sentiments are happening with younger girls! Thank for sharing her words through yours.

  10. Tara, I got so caught up in the video this am (you shared on FB) that I forgot I hadn’t seen your post. How heartbreaking to hear about your middle school young woman. Have you read WinterGirls-so scary. If we look at the ads, look at the stores, I still think the culture is not helping. Those cutesy ads with little, little girls posing-argh! Thank you for sharing, her words are so wise, wish everyone could hear them, & believe them.

  11. You are so right. I love the examination of beauty that you wrote about. I have heard good things about Athena’s Path by which is a program to promote self confidence and determination in middle school girls. I thought of it when I read your post. I heard the program founder of Athena’s Path (for girls) and Hero’s Pursuit (for boys) speak two years ago and attended a workshop of hers last summer with my daughter. She developed a Social Leadership Curriculum for Schools and has excellent parenting advice. I learned how to have the “Botox Brow” which means to not furrow my brow when my daughter tells me some middle school news. It helps her to know that I am processing and not flying off the handle which models appropriate problem solving skills. Just wanted to share an example of a way she has helped me. I have not seen her Athena’s Path curriculum but wonder if it would be helpful in setting up girls for success who are all consumed with outward looks.

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