Now that the hot summer is now in front of us, you may be dieting in order to show off your skinny legs. Why is it that thin is better? Who decided fat women weren’t beautiful? In ancient Greece, plump full-bodied ladies were considered beautiful like Milo-Venus, who was considered as the standard of beauty at that time unlike the idea of today. The standards of beauty differs according to age, but also according to nationality. The Sookmyung Times asked three foreign students at Sookmyung Women’s University to detail the idea of beauty in their home country.
Alexandra Berthelot (France)
School of Communication &Media / Exchange Student
A Trend Decides Beauty in France
Although there is no specific fixed standard for beauty in France, the French like women who have long bright hair colors, especially blond hair. Therefore, many women dye their hair a brighter color. Although tall women are favored, shorter women are also considered cute. In France, when people meet someone for the first time, the most important thing they judge a person by is trendiness. Therefore, a woman who is trendy is considered beautiful. “If someone does not following the trend of the time, he/ she faces a hard time getting a job or making friends. Following trends is really important.” said Alex. Hearing the name Marion Cotillard, the epitome of a beautiful woman in France, Alex said, “She is a very famous and beautiful woman. Even though she is older and follows past trends, she is considered a representative of beauty because she has natural beauty.” In the past, the French loved women who had white pale skin, were thin and tall, had red lips, and short curly hair like Marion Cotillard. At that time, natural beauty was trendy.
However, these days, women who have a healthy body shape and a darker complexion are preferred. When society started to pursue overly thin bodies, the French government campaigned to improve the health of the country, so people started to view beauty as not being overtly thin, but to have a proper body proportion of fat and muscle. To help speed up this trend, the government banned explicitly thin models from appearing on television. “If you try to access a French weight loss site, you will see preventative warnings to avoid excessive weight loss,” said Alex. Due to the effort by the French government, French citizens now favor a body that looks healthy. When asked to provide other examples of beautiful women, Alex said, “Brigitte Bardot, famous French actress, had a childish charm. She made men think women have to be protected because she had tenderness appearance.” Unlike in Korea, in France, women who have high cheekbones are popular, so Charlotte Gainsbourg, another famous French actress, was popular due to her high cheekbones.
In France, cosmetic surgery is not looked up positively. Women who have had cosmetic surgery for beauty purposes only are shunned by others. “If someone tells her/his family that he/she underwent cosmetic surgery, the family would become extremely upset,” explained Alex. She went on to say that natural beauty is more important in France than reconstructive facial or body surgery.
Bich Tran (Vietnam)
Department of Political Science & International Relations / Exchange Student
Great Influence of Hanllyu, ‘The Korean Wave’
The idea of beauty in Vietnam can be separated into two time eras. Before the economy reform, one was considered beautiful if his/her character was pure. At that period in history, women were responsible for rearing children and doing their housework, so people were not really concerned with one’s outer appearance. A woman who fulfilled her duty as a mother was seen to be beautiful. However, after the economic reform, people were more financially stable and the standard of living became higher, so they started to be cautious of their outside appearance. Then the spread of western ideals of beauty and the influence of Hollywood movies came. Vietnamese started to view skinny and white women as beautiful. Gradually, the concept beauty in Vietnam changed from virtue to appearance, and people paid close attention to their outer look. At the moment, there are two trends in Vietnam. The first is to follow the West, and the second is to follow Korea. The younger generations are looking to Korea, so young males and females dress and wear make-up like celebrities in Korea. Still, people tend to believe Western concepts are higher. Having a white complexion is advantageous in Vietnam. “If you have a darker complexion, it is assumed you are from the countryside tanned by the sun, so many people try to have whiter and fairer skin,” said Bich. The most important thing in Vietnam is one’s skin colouring, so they care about their skin a lot. She also added, “When you visit Vietnam, you will see almost every woman wearing a facial mask, gloves, and long socks to protect their skin from sun. You might not even see their faces because they wear sunglasses, too. The whole body is covered, from top to toes.” Vietnamese do not like to expose any part of their body, even a small part, to the sun.
Nowadays, it’s also becoming more and more common to have had cosmetic surgery in Vietnam. People have come to accept it. Bich claims that when she first arrived in Korea she was surprised that every girl looked exactly the same and was so trendy. She was taken in by the programme, Let me in and how if candidates were selected from a panel of doctors, they were transformed. She concluded by saying, “The best combination is to look good and be good, and the worst is to look good, but have a bad personality. Vietnamese seem to prefer a balance between appearance and character.”
Tabatha Vasconez (Ecuador)
Department of Public Relations and Advertising / Exchange Student
Colonization by Spain Influences Beauty
“Ecuadorian beauty pageant winners have darker complexions, brunet hair, big pretty smiles and skinny figures. Ecuadorians feel darker skin is attractive and even buy skin darkening creams unlike Koreans, who purchase whitening creams. Because Ecuador is located in South America and Ecuadorians are a multi-cultured race, Ecuadorians don’t have any preference for “white” beauty. Nevertheless, Western style has had an effect on us,” said Tabatha with a smile on her face.
Ecuador was once colonized by Spain in the 1500s, so Western ideals have had a huge effect on their lifestyle. One of them is beauty. Before colonization, Ecuador was populated solely by its native population, and each tribe had its own idea of style and standard of beauty. However, after colonization, most tribes were influenced by Western concepts. As a result, most local people want to have skinny figures and more curvy shapes. However, despite that influence, some Ecuadorians still maintain their own concept of beauty. For example, one native tribe in Ecuador, Otavalenos, has managed to maintain their unique culture by continuing to usetraditional clothing instead of embracing Western styles.
Typically, women all over the world desire beautification, and those in Ecuador are no different. As the technology of science has developed and western styles have influenced to the beauty of Ecuador, some ladies have cosmetic surgery, and the most popular operation is nose reconstruction. Unlike Korea where cosmetic surgery is quite common, in Ecuador, it is not an open practise. According to Tabatha, roughly 4 in 10 people around her have some form of cosmetic surgery. Even some patients have died because of the surgery. In fact, one winner of a beauty pageant who was only in her teens died due to excessive liposuction incited by the sponsor of the beauty contest. Even though she was considered beautiful, she did the surgery and unfortunately died. The prize for the contest was a gift certificate for plastic surgery, and under great pressure, even from the surgeon, she had the surgery. Tavatha’s final comment on Ecuadorian beauty was “Ecuadorian society generally dictates the idea of beauty and pressure from media makes people conform to that ideal; however, beauty does not come from one’s figure, but from one’s confidence, despite social pressure.”