For the 19th BEAUTYfull post, we photographed and interviewed 20-year old Samantha Saroop for a peek inside Gen Z’s thinking on beauty. And it was far more positive than expected. Samantha’s perspective on beauty – influenced by her Caribbean culture, her mother, social media influencers, Hindi film actresses and more – is ultimately rooted in self-love and self-acceptance. And not in an Instagram inspo meme kind of way. Samantha speaks to us from a place of authenticity and personal power.
BEHIND THE CONCEPT: What is BEAUTYfull®
Well before our first post in 2015, we believed that beauty comes in all ages, races, genders, features, abilities, shapes, sizes, body types… in every unique element that forms a unique whole. Far beyond inclusivity, beauty is rooted in individuality. There is a full spectrum of beauty and we all exist in it. With our own personal experiences, stories and voices. And with that, originated the concept of BEAUTYfull®.
For our 19th feature, we introduce… Samantha Saroop.
THE 19th SUBJECT: Samantha Saroop
Born and raised in Queens, New York, Samantha’s family is originally from Trinidad, “a beautiful country that has impacted who I am.” Watching her mother “hustle to support her family made me mature a lot at a young age” but also shaped who she is at the core – “responsible, caring, respectful, and supportive.” Samantha is currently a pre-law college student, also working two part-time jobs. While she has a youthful spirit and appearance, she has wisdom beyond her years. With Samantha there is no posturing or people pleasing, just raw honesty, substance and character.
Beneath big, soulful, round eyes, there is depth.
When Samantha talks about being and loving yourself, it doesn’t come off as some grand or noble or radical aspiration but just a simple and obvious truth.
THE INTERVIEW: Samantha on today’s “thick” standard of beauty, seeing imperfection on social media, and why you just have to love yourself.
What appealed to you about the BEAUTYfull project? Why did you want to participate in the series?
This BEAUTYfull project appealed to me the moment Lauren told me about it. This project allows women to show who they really are and be themselves. I participated in this project because I believe in Lauren’s vision and I think that this project lets women be heard. During this project, I felt empowered and beautiful. It showed me that women can have it all. Beauty and brains are what need to be portrayed.
Where do you think you – or all women – get their cues about how they “should” look?
I believe that everyone’s look is chosen from different things. Most of these cues of what women “should” look like comes from celebrities. Everyone wants to look perfect like their favorite actress, but they don’t realize that the actress is two different people, on and off-screen.
Can you describe the idealized standard of beauty for women as you see it today. What does the “perfect” woman, as defined by entertainment, advertising and social media, look like?
The “perfect” woman is considered to be pretty in the face with a good body. Society has defined a good body as not too skinny but not too fat, a balance in the middle referred to as a woman being “thick”. This sexualizes their bodies which some women embrace, while others are more embarrassed.
How do you think most women compare to this standard, or feel about it? How do you personally?
Women who fit the category of being “thick” have embraced the love society gives them through social media. Others who don’t fit this category, and no one needs to intentionally fit this category, are insecure and self-conscious. There are women who are able to rise above and not worry about what others think or say. Other women are hurt by words because people like friends, family, and even strangers are telling women what they need to change about themselves.
I personally do not care what other people think of me. My mom always told me, “No matter what you do, people always find something to say about you.” Growing up I realized that I am not here to please others, my job is to be happy with myself and who I am as a person. Everything I do is for me and not for how others want to see me or how they want me to be.
Has it been important to you to see women in Hollywood or advertising or in music or the modeling world who looked like you? Is it important to you now?
It has been and still is important to me that more people who look like me are appreciated and accepted everywhere. The more they are accepted by the bigger parts of the world, the easier it will be for others to relate and connect to them. Culture plays a big part in this because not many brown skin girls who are from the Caribbean are seen as important.
Were there any other places you got cues on this?
One influencer has impacted my perspective. Monet McMichael is a TikTok and Instagram influencer. She graduated from nursing school and now is living her life as an influencer traveling the world and going on brand trips. Her content is full of things that are very realistic. She posts bloopers of her getting ready and content that is always so full of joy allows her audience to be filled with joy. Monet is so accepting and has opened me up to the modeling/makeup world.
How do you think social media plays in with both impossible – and in many instances, retouched to “perfection” – beauty standards on the one side and the democratization and diversification of beauty standards on the other, where you can follow a wide variety of “real” women and see them in “imperfect” ways?
Social media provides us with anything we want to hear or see. As viewers, we have to have control over what we wish to view. An algorithm on our social media platforms will then be created so we can view content based on what we believe. Social media provides beauty in perfect and imperfect ways, the idea of perfection has just attracted so much attention therefore it has caused people to believe that being beautiful means being perfect.
How does social media affect your views on beauty?
Social media has the ability to affect my views on beauty but I’m more into the imperfect side of it. Watching influencers discuss how they made a mistake and what they did to fix it, no matter how big or small, is the real definition of beauty to me. It is when one can be true to themselves and show that person to the world.
How would you describe Gen Z beauty?
To me, the beauty standards in today’s world have changed. Acceptance is the new approach. A lot of influencers on Instagram and TikTok are promoting makeup brands not because of popularity but more because of affordability and purposefulness. Influencers want to be able to connect with their audience, followers, supporters, and friends. Gen Z beauty has taken a turn towards greatness and acceptance.
Who were your first beauty icons? Who do you see as a beauty icon now?
My first beauty icons growing were two Indian actresses, Kajol and Rani. Kajol was known for her very teeny unibrow, which is very common in Indians, but she never let what the media said affect her looks. She is considered very old school. Rani has always been appreciated for her sense of style. Indian movies are traditional, so everyone wears the same thing over and over. Rani always finds a way to spice her outfits up so they are still traditional yet different. They are still my beauty icons.
What do you love about yourself physically? Why?
Physically, I love my hair and my eyebrows. Girls in my culture are known for having thick and gorgeous long hair. I was one of those girls until I decided to cut it without telling anyone. I try to maintain very healthy hair, mostly because of my culture. My eyebrows are what most girls wished they had. They are very thick and amazingly shaped.
What have you felt pressure to change or alter, or have you otherwise struggled with or felt insecure about?
I am very insecure about my weight. As a child I was very sick and the medicine I took increased my appetite so I would over-eat. Due to the medicine I was very plump growing up. I was never made fun of as a kid, not sure why, but I still felt like everyone was quietly judging me. As soon as I could, I lost the weight.
When do you feel beautiful? What makes you feel beautiful?
I feel beautiful mostly after a shower and a nice skincare routine. Clean skin just makes my day. The thing that makes me feel beautiful is sleep. Enough rest and I am pleased with my appearance. When I don’t sleep enough, it shows a lot through my face.
When don’t you feel beautiful? What makes you feel not beautiful?
I don’t feel beautiful after a long day. I do deal with kids all day and they are not always easy. After having over 10 kids cry and blow their noses on me, I definitely do not feel beautiful. But I make them feel better, that’s all that matters.
What is your beauty regimen?
I am very basic when it comes to my beauty regimen. Skincare is a must for me at least twice a day. Makeup is more of an occasional thing, and I do the least amount of makeup possible. I see using makeup as a way to enhance your beauty, not change it. Body care is also a must. Body scrubs, lotions, butters, oil are all a must. Now I do a little less for hair. I have never dyed my hair and I want to keep the thickness and length. I try not to use any products except for a heat protectant when styling. Other than that, I do a hot oil treatment every 2 to 3 weeks just to restore my hairs’ beauty. Beauty is about being the best version of yourself, not changing yourself.
Has your beauty regimen changed over your life?
Since I got off my medicine, my beauty regimen has been the same. If I want to see good results I have to put good things into my body in order for good things to come out of it.
Any beauty advice you’ve been given that you particularly appreciated? Any that you particularly did not?
Advice that I appreciated is that people like you for you. Stop trying to change yourself because you think others will like you more. In order to feel love, you need to love yourself.
Who is beautiful to you?
Everyone is beautiful to me in their own way. Beauty isn’t just looks.
What is beautiful to you?
Beautiful to me means to love. Obviously, if someone loves you, there is a beautiful part of you that they appreciate. This could be looks, smarts, the way you think, your dance moves. Beautiful means to be you.
Lauren Cosenza is the creator and owner of DIVAlicious® and BEAUTYfull®, a brand consultant and ambassador, a creative director and strategist, a published contributor and writer, an on-camera personality and spokesperson, a trusted beauty/fashion expert, a product junkie and an insatiable style seeker — with a past life at Cosmopolitan and Shape and more recently serving as Creative Director, Beauty for Bustle.com / BDG brands.
Serving up style with a side of attitude, Lauren’s site gives women (and men) the confidence and permission to be unapologetically fabulous. The site, with a goal to SPREAD BEAUTY, is filled with must-have products, pro tips and tricks, how-to DIY tutorials, makeovers, style inspiration and insider access. Topics range from beauty, fashion, culture, career, fitness, motherhood and wellbeing.
Stephanie Stanley (or Stephania, as her Greek family calls her) is a New York City-based advertising and editorial photographer who specializes in fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. Her work can be found on ELLE, Harper’s BAZAAR, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Marie Claire, TODAY, DailyCandy, and TeenVogue. Her client list includes Levi’s, JCPenney, Clean & Clear, Microsoft, Olay, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Garnier, TRESemmé, Estée Lauder, Nexxus, GAP, Secret, and more.
Stephanie holds an MFA in Photography from Parsons and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and puppy, Ophelia, where she can be found running along Brooklyn Bridge Park and enjoying chocolate croissants from the local Italian bakery (typically in that exact order).