Plus-size magazine SLiNK’s recent “Beauty Issue” asked a pretty hefty question: what is beauty? SLiNK may be geared toward women size 14 and up, but they’ve long been trying to tear apart this idea that plus-size models and their thin counterparts can’t mix. I’ve always thought of SLiNK as the plus-size magazine for all women, as opposed to just chunky chicks like me, because it does often try to blend all shapes, sizes, colors and cliques into the type of product that a size 2 grunge-chic gal could relate to just as much as a size 20 preppy princess.
So this is why I wasn’t surprised when they proposed this deceivingly small, three-word question — a question that despite looking tiny on paper is actually a huge, existential query that loads of people ask themselves at some point or another. I’ve both asked people this before and had it asked to me. I’ve spent misty spring mornings contemplating such a question while snuggled under the covers. I’ve talked to my best friend about it time and time again. But the answer isn’t simple. It’s not something any two people ever agree upon 100 percent. It can’t be, because perception of beauty is dependent on each individual. Yes, yes, all that “eye of the beholder” stuff.
What I think most people do agree on, at least when it comes to beauty of human beings, is the relationship between internal and external traits. We all know there is no shortage of those who focus predominantly on the external part — people who want to look like this and that, wear so and so’s designer line and usually be very, very thin. To those people, beauty is a white, spotless, Lysol-drenched, tile floor. Beauty is cliche perfection, which to me simply translates to boring and unoriginal. Then there are the opposites — those who believe beauty is purely an internal thing, one based on having a genuine, interesting, loving, caring, [insert adjective here] heart, soul and mind. A beautiful person is one who incites deep thought and emotion — one who loves and gives and never takes. Of course, both of these have many variations; like I said, there is no one solid answer.
If I were to try to explain my perception of beauty, it’s more an ability to translate something on the inside to the outside. In relation to people, those I think are most beautiful are the ones who are clever and lovely and interesting and soulful on an internal level, but at the right moments, are able to project these traits to the outside. I don’t mean being pretentious or loudly proclaiming that they’re awesome. In fact, it’s sort of the opposite, something subtle and unexpected. I’ve come across it in the people who don’t say much, but when they do, it reflects everything they are on the inside. This isn’t a rule or a concrete definition. I could never even try to create one of those for this loaded word. But it’s definitely something I’ve noticed.
My thoughts on finding beauty in people are much different than my thoughts on finding beauty anywhere else. I think it’s a lot easier to find things that are beautiful when it doesn’t have anything to do with Homo sapiens. It’s easier to find things that take your breath away, or make you smile, or incite giggles, or stop you mid-step. I’m not saying it’s so easy that it’ll happen all the time. But I think I’ve encountered much more beauty when I separate myself from humanity. Beauty out there could be the blue glow of a lunar eclipse, the feeling you get when you’re ill and your pet somehow knows and keeps you company, the smell in the air after it’s rained for a few days straight, the graffiti-covered walls on a random street, the pair of birds in your nest fighting playfully over a couple of seeds. The definition is still just as intangible to me when I’m thinking of it in terms of the outside world, but the feeling of it is so much more inclined to make itself known.
I don’t know what beauty is any more than anyone else does, but I can say that for me it’s far more emotional than aesthetic. It’s not something instantly perceivable by the eye, but rather inwardly digested by the soul. As far as SLiNK’s question goes, I obviously don’t have an answer. But I do know that thinking of the type of combination they are proposing, the kind where plus-size women and skinny women and all those in between are able to pose together and model together and be photographed together, does make me feel that six-letter word.