Growing up in the United States made me accustomed to the Westernized standard of feminine beauty: thin, tall, of fair skin and straight hair. It never once occurred to me that my body type, skin tone and even hair could be considered the epitome of beauty someplace else. That surprise came when I traveled to Jamaica, W.I. back in 2013 for a conference.
Ironically, my workshop dealt with being single and I had started by telling the women stories of my unsuccessful dating life. One of the mature ladies at one point asked why my last relationship didn’t work out and I responded by saying that the young man had a particular type and I didn’t fit it due to my weight. I followed that by explaining that the unfortunate reality is that most of the men I am/have been attracted to just aren’t interested in women that look like me. At saying that the entire group of 60 women fell silent.
Once the workshop was over I was approached by two of the ladies (who were thin, curvy and model-status beautiful) said that I should not be so hung out for not being “the perfect size 8” because on the island men preferred women that looked like me over them. I was stunned. Of course the idea that beauty standards were not the same around the world was something that had been suggested to me prior to this trip when I was a teenager back in 2006, via a film, but I figured it was just a fantasy created for the sole purpose of giving the story of a plus size protagonist a happy ending. That film of course was Phat Girlz.