Defining Beauty: ‘Everything I have gotten is because of my looks’

1960114_10205054149259424_5125135457055806163_nMaria-Paula with a few months growth after shaving her head.

Maria-Paula Ponce, a former hairdresser and now a student, shares her views on what beauty is.

Lauren Rudy: What is your perception of beauty?

Maria-Paula Ponce: My own perception of beauty is very hindered. You see, it goes all back to high school. The fact in high school I thought I was completely gorgeous but then the label I was given was that I was desperate. So now when I look in the mirror and I think I look good, there’s also always that insecurity.

LR: And what do you find beautiful in other people?

MP: In other people, for physical appearance it would be dainty features. I’ve always hated my bigger features, so definitely dainty.

LR: When you were working as a hairdresser, how did the beauty industry affect your views?

MP: It completely destroyed any shallow aspect of myself. I hated how insecure you could see people are. It made me question my own insecurities. Why should I be insecure if I don’t have long hair or why should I be insecure if I’m not skinny enough, like magazine models. It made me question other people’s insecurities as well. There’s these beautiful people going to their hairdresser to get highlights or haircuts when they look beautiful to me. Why should they be feeling so insecure when in my perception I believe I am uglier than them?

LR: So when you were working as a hairdresser you shaved your head bald. What made you do that?

MP: The reason why I was in hairdressing was the fact that I was the girl who always had the extensions, I was the girl the felt prettier with long hair just because of what you see in media. I wanted to detach myself from that perception, from those insecurities that other girls have. If I can do it for myself and think, you know what society doesn’t have a hold on what I think is beautiful then you will become more confident.

LR: How did other people react to you having a bald head?

MP: My boss didn’t take it too well. He completely belittled me. My co-workers were supportive but I know some were doubtful of my decision. My parents thought I was going through a mental breakdown. My boss asked when I did I come out of the closet and when did I decide to become a lesbian because I was never going to find a guy that would find me beautiful because I had no hair. One of my classmates was going to set me up with one of her guy friends when I had long hair but told another girl she did not want to anymore because now I was ugly and unattractive.

Taken by Maria-Paula Ponce

Maria-Paula today.

LR: You are working in a bank now. How do you think they would react there?

MP: I wouldn’t have got the job the to begin with. Plain and simple. But if I did it while working there, I think there would have been even worse reactions. With being a hairdresser I could have pulled it off as self-statement. At a bank, I think there would of been a lot of laughter, I don’t know why but almost mocking me. They would see me as not good enough to be in that environment. Ultimately, I would have been told to put a wig on or lose my job, but that’s just how I feel they would react.

LR: Do you think your friends have the same view on beauty as you do?

MP: No. Because lately I’ve started working out and getting into strength training, so I see beauty more as a health state. Your mental stability is more beautiful to me than being skinny. I was recently talking to my friends about perception of beauty and they feel inadequate because their perception of beauty is the skinny, blonde, bombshell-looking girl, which is beautiful, but I see maybe a bigger girl more beautiful in their own way. Their personality is more important than looks. My friends are so stuck in that mindset that you have to be skinny.

LR: When you moved here from Columbia as child did you notice a contrast of what was considered beautiful?

MP: Absolutely. For starters I would be beautiful there. I am like drop-dead gorgeous over there. But the Spanish culture is very sexualized almost. It is in a different way than in the Western Hemisphere. Over there, you start dating while you’re eight. As a parent, you are proud when your children are dating. You can’t even go grocery shopping without putting make-up on. People in Columbia are very judgemental. So if you don’t look good enough, they’ll tell you straight to your face. Their perception of beauty is skewered because you always have to present yourself a certain way.

LR: Is there anything else you wanted to add?

MP: I think perception of beauty is more what you’re taught to think is beautiful. It starts from a young age being told what to think. For example do you think I would be able to have gotten any of my jobs if I was not good looking? No. Everything I have gotten is because of my looks.

Lauren Rudy

A journalism student hoping to explore the world.


  • Avatar
    Reply October 12, 2014

    Lesley Salazar Ayquipa

    Interesting how she says ‘everything i have gotten is because of my looks”. I don’t agree with her i think her personality would have to play a role some way. I also think looks can influence the way you act such as give you more or less confidence.

  • Taylor Lima
    Reply October 13, 2014

    Taylor Lima

    I like how she talks a lot about re-defining beauty standards, which are very monotone particularly in mass media. Like she said, it’s very common for people to associate women with longer hair as being more “attractive,” but that doesn’t that’s the only way things can be. It’s very brave to shave your entire head, I don’t think I’d be able to do something like that!

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