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Strong is the new pretty

Moving away from shallow standards of beauty.

black and white photo of a preteen female athlete in a swim suit, swim cap, goggles and a race number pinned to her suit.
“First Triathlon” Copyright Kate T. Parker

I came across the phrase “Strong is the new pretty” last week. It’s the book title of a photography series by Kate T. Parker, which captures girls in sporty, messy shows of power. From the blurb:

Real beauty isn’t about being a certain size, acting a certain way, wearing the right clothes, or having your hair done (or even brushed). Real beauty is about being your authentic self and owning it. Kate T. Parker is a professional photographer who finds the real beauty in girls, capturing it for all the world to see in candid and arresting images.

-Kate T. Parker Strong is the New Pretty
Picture of 70-something white female model with white short hair on the top of a building in a city with the skyline behind her.
Maye Musk

The book took off, probably fueled by such a great title. I myself have been looking for a new pretty. Beauty seems inextricably tied to youth in this culture, and I am no longer young. I search for role models like Maye Musk and Iris Apfel. Stunning grace and outrageous style, respectively, are their new pretties.

I want “strong” to be mine. I want to embrace the ugly and move on to being satisfied (enough) with my progress as a writer. While leaving the house in yoga pants (unless I’m going to yoga) may never be on the agenda, I have emerged sans makeup more times in the last 6 months than all times put together since my first corporate jobs in my 20s. (I rarely if ever wore makeup in college or in the academic research labs I worked in directly after.) It feels strange to be bare-faced but it helps to imagine I’m invisible like the older women told me I’d become. Instead of blending my makeup, I blend into the crowd.

People can’t see your inner strength just by looking at you. They can’t see your talent or your empathy or your capacity to love deeply. Strength and fortitude, confidence and creativity are the true beauty marks.