On Beauty, Why Change What You Don’t Want To?

This isn’t a radical idea, but it seems so. Just hear me out. After having my appearance commented on a few times in the last few weeks, I felt it was necessary to bring attention to this topic on Instagram. It is one thing to think something, and it is another to say something. After my Instagram story I recieved so many messages from other women–over 150 and counting, actually. And while I appreciate all the encouragement and support, something has stuck out to me. So many of you have struggled with the influx of what is shown to be normal / expected and what feels perfectly normal and ordinary in your own lives and bodies. The comments range from, “We all are intentionally and wonderfully made.” to “Preach!” and “THANK YOU SO MUCH, I NEEDED THIS TODAY.” and a woman saying it took her 71 years to get where I am now. I am just blown away.

Here’s what I said on my stories for context:

“not pregnant

I stand with my pelvis out, naturally–likely because of my big butt.

this is a leather dress belted on top of my mid-section, so of course it’ll push out.

looking back, idk.

but also, whether it has been my teeth or my body, I’ve been discussed in a pretty mean or fleshy-y manner so much lately, and I just want to encourage folks that it’s okay to look like you. And choose not to get things fixed or not to be bothered because of any one thing.

idk part of me wish I cared? like if I was the kind of person that felt certain things were worth changing, hiding etc.. but I’m not. I worte an entire chapter on being bullied about vitiligo. the part of me that would care died a very long time ago.

I wear natural hair, no bra. I don’t shave, will keep my gaps (my very fancy dentist tells me it makes my face, btw), I won’t ever get botox or go on a diet or or or..

What if we stopped normalizing what inherently isn’t normal? And that way we without a doubt raised some radical, normal, respectful young women? “

Here’s the thing, I don’t have an issue with fixing your teeth, getting botox, or even finding an eating habit that works for your body and that is healthy. I just am against women feeling like if they choose to not change this, then they are somehow not normal? Like fixing or altering has somehow become ordinary and expected. It seems to be that women often feel like they have to change things about themselves they don’t really want to change. They do because of this sort of false standard of accesible beauty. If you want work done, more power to you. And if you don’t, power to you. Women shouldn’t be questioned, made fun of, or commented on for choosing to remain as they are.

Why are we so comfortable making comments about someone’s appearance? And why are we expected to change what we don’t want to?

Illustration by Ashley Seil Smith

17 thoughts on “On Beauty, Why Change What You Don’t Want To?

  • Reply Grace October 2, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing! I am a preschool teacher and I don’t shave my legs or armpits. Whenever a child comments, usually something like “you have legs like a daddy!” I get down on their level and let them touch my leg hair. Then I tell them that when they get older, they will probably have hair on their legs and arms and maybe their face, and they’ll get to make the choice about what hair they want to cut and what hair they want to keep! I really try to instill in them the idea that they are in charge of their own bodies and should think about what makes them comfortable above all.

    • Reply latonya October 2, 2019 at 10:20 pm

      Oh Grace, I love this so much! Thank you for sharing. You are instilling real lessons and power in autonomy already that will give them such good ground to work with in the future.


  • Reply Tiffanie October 2, 2019 at 9:36 pm

    Three things come to my mind about this post:

    One, LaTonya, thank you for saying this so well! It really makes me think about why so many of us feel this pressure to notice, conform or buy into these arbitrary and/or sexist standards about our own and each other’s bodies.

    Two, Grace, I’m a preschool teacher too—thank you for offering your children this lovely way of thinking about their bodies and those of the people around them.

    Three, this illustration is just beautiful!

    Thanks again LaTonya, you have such a thoughtful and wise way of expressing things, that’s open and curious, while being so strong and clear about your boundaries and values.

    • Reply latonya October 2, 2019 at 10:31 pm

      Thank you so much Tiffanie for reading and for your support. I really appreciate it when we talk about topics like this. And thank you for being a pre-school teacher!! ❤️❤️

  • Reply Jenna October 2, 2019 at 11:53 pm

    Lately, I’ve been seeing SO MANY invisible teeth aligner ads in my feeds full of all the before and after shots you’d expect. I see all these images of people with their crowding or gaps and nearly always think they look so much better and more fun than the homogenous after smiles. You do you, people—you all look great!

    • Reply latonya October 3, 2019 at 6:25 pm

      Hi Jenna, yeah, the ads are so catered, its odd. The funny thing is that I am totally into and on board with the liners – and have considered them for my teeth in the back (not front gap) from said fancy dentist to prevent future cavities that love gaps. If you want it, go for it!!! You do you boo is my favorite saying btw.


      • Reply Emma October 7, 2019 at 8:12 am

        Water pressure “toothbrush” is your friend if the alignement of you teeth make them at risk of cavities because they are too close or too wide. I have slightly overlapping down teeth, with high risk of cavities, ans this kind of tooth high pressure water toothbrush was a god send, a great advice from the dentist. So maybe it could be a path to explore for you.
        Yes you are so right, I’ve been told so many times as a teen that my A cup chest could be improved !! Nonsense, and it never stopped my from dating the guys I was attracted to, and I would say that it was a great way to repellants stupid macho guys. And not that peri menopausal hormonal mess gave me a C cup, I don’t really enjoy it, too complicated to dress, blazers, tomboy shirts… don’t fit anymore

        • Reply latonya October 7, 2019 at 9:24 am

          Hi Emma! Thank you for sharing. I have that toothbrush actually, has been a life saver for many years!


  • Reply Jen October 3, 2019 at 7:00 am

    I think you are gorgeous! I have list. From my weight to the gap at the bottom Of my teeth. From my boobs being too large to my thigh rubbing. My personality because I’m a genuinely nice person until u r annoying and my Bronx come out lol. My open minded nature my education I have too many degrees to be under employed that’s another story for another day. None of it seems to bother me. When you don’t run with the grain they don’t like it. I have learned to stop and catch people who is slowly trying to change you and when it doesn’t work out they are mad. I wasted time knowing this but I’m okay better later than never.

    • Reply latonya October 4, 2019 at 9:59 am

      Hi Jen!

      Oh my goodness, your list made me laugh because I totally get it, even though all of your list isn’t my list. There are so many of my friends who face the same. I really love what you sasid about people who slowly try and change you. I think that’s one of the hardest things to see–especially when it is slow.


  • Reply monica mulhern October 3, 2019 at 6:26 pm

    Just ditto! I like me and I like you, just that.

  • Reply Jeanine October 3, 2019 at 8:30 pm

    Thank you for this. I have a gap in between my teeth that I learned to embrace many years ago and even wrote an essay about it that was published in Essence Magazine. We all must learn to embrace our bodies in totality, only changing what we truly need to change for health reasons, or want to change without feeling pressured to do so thinking it fits a certain standard of beauty in this society. Women are beautiful. You are beautiful. Period.

  • Reply Megan October 3, 2019 at 11:18 pm

    Now that I have a baby, I feel more confident and comfortable in my body. It’s odd, almost as if because of the transformation I’m allowed to look however I look. Crazy how being pregnant made me realize how messed up my views toward myself and my body were. I’d love for my kid to grow up with out any body issues. So I’m embracing the way I look that makes me feel my best. Feel like I started rambling Do you

    • Reply latonya October 4, 2019 at 10:14 am

      Love this megan, thank you for sharing. I agree, when I think about what my children see in me or what I want them to see around me helps with my own level of acceptance.


  • Reply Shawntavia October 4, 2019 at 2:54 am

    Wow… this is a heavy topic for me. It’s crazy because although I’ve fully accepted myself, I still hide lots of things about me and it’s solely and primarily because I know without a doubt that people would look at me as not normal. I was born with amniotic band syndrome and I’ve always thought and still think that it isn’t fair. I have a permanent ring around my ankle that looks like a rubber band was tied around it for a while & finally let go after…. years (just want to give a good visual). Two of my toes are stuck together and don’t have nails, and lastly 5 of my fingers are disfigured and also without nails. I hide my legs all summer, usually keep my hands in my pockets, and always make sure to slide my foot a little further back on my right foot. It hurts me that I feel like I have to hide this side of myself and it’s the main reason why I haven’t accomplished anything I wanted to. Modeling, I get too scared that my flaws will be noticed and I’ll be shunned, ridiculed or turned away. Writing, maybe I’ll be interviewed one day and the question about what happened will come up and then the world will know and again, I’d be ridiculed or made fun of. I’m never 100% comfortable when I choose to show my skin and my relationships suffer. My situation is a bit more intense so my thoughts on this are constricting at its best. I’d rather women not alter their bodies and get work done and I wouldn’t do it either, IF I didn’t these types of flaws. I can deal with droopy boobs tbh lol and a big or small butt (I have a big butt and I love it) but feet, hands, and legs that look different than 98% of the world is just too much of a burden. Happy you shared this because I’ve never really talked or wrote about this publicly and for some reason decided to just now. Thanks for leaving the space and opportunity!

    • Reply latonya October 4, 2019 at 10:20 am

      Hey Shawntavia!

      Oh my goodness, I’m so happy you are sharig, and maybe this is the door where you start to feel comfortable to. Sometimes it just like starts like this.

      I was thinking that, like how I see you as so stunningly beautiful, but also maybe that is also in part because you carry this crazy awareness about yourself?

      I hear you on feeling like it isn’t fair, i can’t imagine how difficult it is to move through things with amniotic band syndrome. It’s also a for life, every situation thing-so it’s not like saggy breasts or something-which also pale in comparison of comfort. I think about that with my vitiligo a lot. Which is basically invisible to most now, but i lived with my entire childhood and young adult hood and like would hide my hands, legs, cross and cover my elbows. And even though folks can’t see it, the fear that it could reverse and come back with a vengeance and I would have to potentially navigate it as an adult in a way freaks me out. So i hear you. Also, if it did come back, if there was an oppurtunity to do something to “fix it,” I’m not sure I wouldn’t!

      With all of that said, I also never thought to comment on your hands or anything.. but maybe that was the same awareness? Who knows.


  • Reply Ser October 9, 2019 at 1:43 am

    My 14 year old is so inspiring like this. Her teeth are straight and have a large gap . She likes it. She doesn’t shave . She says “ why would I ? It’s hair. It’s natural”. Zero coaching from me , she just accepts her natural self .

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