Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Fall 2019

Department 1

Africana Studies


This paper explores the impact of racist beauty ideals on black women through a survey of personal testimonies and an examination of media’s role in perpetrating white beauty. Without sufficient black representation in media, Western beauty standards have excluded black women from defining beauty, which inflicts psychological, physical, and even economic harm on women of color. Companies make profits off of black women’s insecurity from products such as skin lightening cream, chemical straighteners, and hair dye, all of which are an economic burden on black women at best and are life-threatening at worst. Often, black women are forced to turn to conforming to these harmful white beauty standards in order to be taken seriously at the workplace, as whites have controlled the narrative over “professional” hairstyles and clothes. Much of these ideals stem from media, and in a world where media is largely produced for the white heterosexual male gaze, the solution is to ensure that black women have a creative space in filmmaking and other media production; however, with systemic biases plaguing the industry, black women are rarely in directorial positions with creative control.


Written for AFS 130: Introduction to African-American Studies

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.