vəˈräɡō/: a woman of strength or spirit; a female warrior.
Pink and Alessia Cara At The VMAS
Pink and Alessia Cara At The VMAS

How Pink And Alessia Cara Are Shifting Beauty Standards In The Music Industry

I can’t remember the last time I watched an awards show where I wasn’t at least 70 percent disappointed by lack of substance. Let’s face it, awards shows, especially of late, haven’t been noted for using their platforms to elucidate political issues.

But in this era of post political Trumpism, were are media saturated. All of the ugly forces are coming to light. You say you wanna revolution? Well, yeah. This is not an easy time and change never comes easy. EVER. It’s a very ugly and beautiful time. I’ve seen folks converge equally for both hate and love and I think the majority of us are hanging on to those tiny acts of love for dear life. And yet, some of those acts of love have evolved into HUGE acts of resistance, like the counter-protest in Boston which I had the honor to be a part of.

That said, we still have SO much work to do. Chief Cheeto isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

And after all the bullshit that’s transpired lately and all of the false information that’s been disseminated, I try not to get my hopes up TOO high, especially after Charlottesville (never in my life have I ever been so grateful to live in a blue state with strict gun laws). No doubt, there is a war waging, and we’re all trying to stay aware while simultaneously keeping our heads high. No simple feat.

So after a very interesting and productive week, I headed home on Sunday night to catch the VMAs because someone had tweeted that the night was getting fairly political. I mean VMA-political–my expectations weren’t too high. I knew Cardi B (I love me some Cardi!) was performing and the regular squad–Nicki, Miley and Taylor, which I could take or leave at this point honestly.

But then I turned on the television and amidst a sea of dye jobs and couture-smooshed-fake breasts was Alessia Cara rubbing her make-up off on stage and stripping down from a Red Carpet dress to a black tank top and creepers. YASSSS GIRL! YASSS!!!

Let me say this clearly though, so I’m not misquoted. There is absolutely nothing wrong with glitz and glamour. I happen to love it. Make up is one of my truest obsessions. LEGIT. But it was so refreshing to see different tones coming through at the VMAs this year. Here was Cara proudly proclaiming, “Hey, I’m not perfect and I love me. You can love you too.” The message from the prolific 21 year old was crystal-clear as she belted out the chorus of “Scars to Your Beautiful”–she was just as beautiful makeup-free in casual clothes as she was in her dress. Thanks to Alicia Keyes for paving the way for this new shift in beauty standards.

But the message of self-acceptance did not end there as Pink, receiving the Vanguard award said she decided to make her daughter a PowerPoint presentation of famous androgynous artists celebrated for their boldness— from Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury and Prince to Annie Lennox and Janis Joplin. Pink told her daughter that she too had been told by people “she looked like a boy” — that her body was “too strong” — but that she didn’t listen to such criticism.

“Do you see me growing my hair?” Pink told her daughter, repeating it at the VMAs to applause. “Do you see me changing my body? … Do you see me changing the way I present myself to the world? … Do you see me selling out arenas all over the world?”

We don’t change [for other people],” Pink said, wrapping up her talk with her daughter and ending the night on a fierce note. “We take the gravel in the shell and we make a pearl, and we help other people to change so that they can see more kinds of beauty.”

It was in the moment that I felt like we are inching forward, slowly but surely. Yes, we still have an ass-hat for a president who continues to goad violence and hatred in it’s purest forms, but for a moment, it felt safe to be a non-confirming female. I have never conformed and I’m not going to start now. That was the message I got from Pink and Cara and that was all I needed to be reminded of how good it feels to be myself.

About Kristen Demesilda

Kristen Demesilda
Writer and Photographer for Virago Magazine, Kristen grew up listening to vinyl and highlighting the dictionary. Her work has appeared in IrockJazz.com, The East Harlem Journal, Boston's Culturehive, the Ithacan and other publications. Her love of music cannot be eclipsed by her love of words. She's been coined the "Akira Kurosawa of Blogs" by such people as herself. An aspiring musician, she has a serious penchant for peach-flavored anything, multi-tasking, slow-paced thrillers and dreams of going back to South America, laying on the beach, and drinking from a coconut.
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