Over the weekend, this meme began circulating on social media. It pictures a black woman — mid contour — reflecting on her actions. The caption says:
“When you’re contouring and highlighting and realize that you’re trying to get more eurocentric features.”
Contouring is a makeup technique that defines and reshapes areas of the face using pencils, creams or powders.
My first reaction to this meme was confusion. I proudly wear makeup and contour on special occasions for an extra glam look, but I’ve never tried to look like anything other than myself. To blanketly state that contouring is about looking more European is gross generalization.
For decades we’ve been conditioned to think that a nose with narrow bridge and small nostrils is exclusive to white women. It isn’t. In fact, Ethiopian and Eritrean women dispel this myth entirely. I admit, some black women do narrow their noses in an attempt to downplay the size. But we have to balance that with an understanding that women of African descent are incredibly diverse in appearance.
Ethiopian woman. Photo: Niall Crotty
Furthermore this meme implies that high cheek bones, a narrow face and full lips — in addition to a slim nose — are Eurocentric features that black women desire. But many already have high cheek bones and full lips, which are a sign of beauty in both African and black American culture. Just look at Sudanese model Alek Wek, Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o or actress Kerry Washington. If anything, there are a million tutorials directing non-black women on how to get these features.
Alek Wek in 2007. Photo: Caroline Torem CRAIG/LFIANA
Lupita Nyong’o (Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)
Sometimes I think people forget what contouring actually does. Like makeup in general, it is a way to enhance what is already on your face. Do some take it overboard? Of course. But contouring is a way to add dimension and balance to your face. Like wigs, weaves, and clothing trends,it’s fun and a way for women to temporarily try different looks. And while a lot of attention is paid to nose narrowing, a lot of contouring focuses on the shape of one’s eyes, chin, cheeks, lips and face.
In my opinion, it’s not a form of self-hate and a this meme seems to lump all black women who contour into that category.
Check out these fierce black girl contours. Eurocentric who?