Last Wednesday, People Magazine unveiled their 2011 list of “The 50 Most Beautiful,” with Ms. Jennifer Lopez topping that list, newly relevant since her start as judge on American Idol. This is the first time a Latina has topped the list as so far as I know, and I went through People Magazine’s “Most Beautiful” covers through time. It has also for the first time in my going-on 29 years of life brought me my “Aha” moment.
As a child, I had a hard time fitting in with my peers for many reasons, though no reason stuck out more than because of my looks. I vividly remember being in the sixth grade and being told by my crush a year ahead of me that I was inconspicuous. In high school, my outspoken nature along with my boy style haircut and being a size 14 kept me inconspicuous to the opposite sex who, it seemed were more interested with my long-haired and small waisted classmates. I was a Latina alienated.
Even after meeting my husband, I still in some ways felt unattractive. I’d lost some weight and grew my hair long but, I still felt incomplete. I would study my face and my body in the mirror looking at young woman who looked just as inconspicuous at this point as when I’d been first told. And, no matter how many times my husband would tell me just how attractive I looked, I’d fight him on it, rejecting the compliment and would quickly put myself down before I could allow myself to believe him.
So, why does Jennifer Lopez’s title of the most beautiful affect me? It’s not the first time she’s been on a magazine cover, certainly not the first time she’s ever been called beautiful. But it affects me because she is a beautiful woman at the top of a list no other Latina has been. It’s empowering as a Latina to have a role model who knows she is beautiful in how she lives her life and is modest about it. She is in a place where she can appreciate her experiences and the lessons life has taught her. I too have reached a place where I am no longer haunted by my middle-school brand. I now understand that being beautiful is not all about how I look. It’s sad that a lot of people still think that way and it would be great if every person who came to this realization could tell those young girls and boys the answer they too will probably spend a good deal of their lives trying to figure out. But they can’t. That’s why people come into their own. Just like Jennifer Lopez has. And now, I have too.
Since marrying I gained my weight back and the long hair is lightly peppered with grays. I feel wiser than I did as a sixth grader and high school student. I grew up and became a writer with a voice that can be soft or loud but sting just as much. And, my husband has never stopped telling me how beautiful he thinks I am.