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Ugly: Giving us back our beauty standards

Anita Bhagwandas

9 May 2024 All day

Where did the word ‘pretty’ come from? Why do we shave our armpits? When did cosmetic surgery move from being functional to aesthetic? When did tanned skin become idealised? When did ‘anti-ageing’ slogans make us fear getting older?

After years of feeling ‘ugly’ despite a successful career in the beauty industry, journalist Anita Bhagwandas grew tired of a world where it is desirable to be skinny but curvy, light-skinned but not too pale, and glamorous but natural. As beauty trends fluctuate and self-care becomes expensive, it’s increasingly hard to keep up. Social media preaches ‘you do you’ and ‘love yourself first’, but unattainable dominant beauty standards continue to reign. The reality remains true: on most days, it can be hard to feel beautiful. Or even just ‘not ugly.’

So what is beauty, exactly? Where did it come from? And, most importantly, who gets to define it?

Ugly is a compelling exposé and a campaign against the ideals that are sold to us daily so we never feel enough. Because it’s only when we really interrogate the origins of ‘ugly’, that we can truly begin to break free.

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