Woman & Beauty

How 6 Black Women From Around the World Define Beauty

This story is a part of The Melanin Edit, a platform in which Allure will explore every facet of a melanin-rich life — from the most innovative treatments for hyperpigmentation to the social and emotional realities — all while spreading Black pride.

The Black diaspora is a powerful entity. Whether it be highways and bridges or entire oceans between us, Black folk are connected across both miles and time by elements of culture — our values, customs, art, language, food, beauty.

Through the lens of beauty, Afro-diasporic women share countless threads of connection and experiences. In efforts to revere and explore the diaspora, Allure spoke to six Black women from around the world about their ideas on beauty and their beauty traditions.

There was both positive overlap — collective resourcefulness, shea butter — and negative commonalities — shame, colorism, fatphobia, respectability politics — that seemed to be inescapable, no matter where one places a finger on the globe.

Beauty is currency. As Black women, our currency is constantly in jeopardy of being converted and exchanged, with our culture’s beauty norms frequently being co-opted and denigrated within the same breath. And in spite of it all, as Black women, we continue to display a dedication to ourselves that is nothing less than centuries of staying power, celebrating our skin, hair, bodies, sexuality, and personalities through our expressions of beauty.

It is these beauty practices and traditions that honor our ancestors, empower ourselves, and offer versions of freedom to those who come after us.

Age: 25

Cultural heritage: Haitian

Located in: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Since immigrating to the United States at age 10, Anaëlle has lived in many places — New York, Madrid, Buenos Aires, and now Cambridge — but Port-au-Prince will always be home. Anaëlle describes Haitian beauty as both an external and internal value, with emphasis on the natural. In Haitian Creole, the women of her family grace her with compliments on her real beauty or liken her smooth, brown complexion to a type of tree with a rich brown trunk. “When I think of how beauty’s viewed in Haiti, I think of nature,” Anaëlle tells Allure. “Because the comparisons and the compliments always have to do with nature.”