I am so excited to share the second post in the BEAUTYfull™ series! Sorry for the delay but well… as excuses go, this one is pretty fair: I got married! More on that in a separate post, but turns out getting married (even when you do pretty much everything in a non-traditional way) is pretty all-consuming. But now I’m back to focusing on the site and series and have so much good stuff for you guys.
In case you’ve forgotten or never saw the first post, a quick refresher…
BEHIND THE CONCEPT: What is BEAUTYfull™
Spread beauty. It’s the diva way.™ It’s our mission. And the goal in spreading beauty, in our diva way, is that it reaches everyone. It is inclusive, not exclusive. The whole pie, so to speak, and not just the small slice that is consistently served up. We believe beauty comes in all ages, races, genders, facial features, sizes, shapes, body types… in all the unique elements that form each of our unique whole. There is a FULL spectrum of BEAUTY and we all exist in it. And with that thought, originated the concept of BEAUTYfull™.
It is just the beginning. But…. THIS IS THE FUTURE OF BEAUTY. THIS IS BEAUTYfull™. And we cover it on DIVAlicious.NYC.
So without further adieu, please meet our second subject….
THE SECOND SUBJECT: Sidrah Laldin
Our second subject is Sidrah Laldin, and she is a filmmaker, actress, and a scientist who studies digital media technologies. Sidrah is originally from Pakistan but after living in Saudi Arabia her family immigrated to Canada when she was an early teen. She considers herself Canadian for the most part, but still feels strongly connected to her roots through language, cultural and social identity.
Sidrah found out about the BEAUTYfull series and contacted us. “I really connected with its mandate to be inclusive of beauty and expand the idea of what beauty is, as compared to mostly western and mainstream ideas of what beauty entails. I liked the idea of thinking about beauty in a holistic and diverse way so people of different experiences, backgrounds, and abilities are able to feel that their experiences are mirrored in the media and they too have the right to look and feel beautiful.”
Upon seeing the final photos for this post, Sidrah shared, “I didn’t know I could look so beautiful, and almost didn’t recognize myself there!” And that is exactly our intention and greatest hope with the project. To tap into and spotlight the beauty that already exists. And to give all people permission and confidence to be look, feel and be awesome.
THE INTERVIEW: Sidrah and her perspective on Western Beauty and Self Care
Q: Who were your first beauty icons? Who do you see as a beauty icon now?
As a kid growing up in a Muslim-majority country (Saudi Arabia), I saw women mostly covered up in the public. However, in women-only spaces, I saw women take a lot of pride and care of their bodies and their looks. One such person was my mother who, for all intents and purposes, really lived like a diva as she took remarkable care of how she dressed up, looked, and presented herself. She always says that how you act and look in public is ultimately an extension of how you are feeling inside and vice versa. As a result, I would say that she was one of my first beauty icons.
Also, as a kid I grew up with a significant dose of Bollywood movies and many of the women in those movies also served as my beauty icons. Many years later, I am so grateful that I was used to seeing and being mirrored by women of my cultural background, as I feel having icons to connect with does affect one’s self-esteem and confidence and how — particularly girls and women of color — perceive themselves in white-dominated societies.
My icons today are women who are strong and full in their spirits and bodies along with the consciousness of how they take care of themselves and their image. I am still striving for that kind of consciousness.
Q: When did you first discover beauty and femininity? What were the beauty and feminine standards at the time? Did you feel you fit them?
I grew up in the Middle East where women mostly covered themselves but took a lot of care of their looks. I also felt I took a lot of pride and care of my body. Then, as a teenager, I moved to North America and found myself having the kind of body image issues I never had before. I felt that I didn’t at all fit the norms of beauty here and felt out of place. It was also during this time I felt more depressed and lost interest in taking care of myself as I had used to before. I began to feel that nothing I could do would ever make me beautiful or ‘acceptably’ beautiful compared to what I saw in the mainstream media.
Of course, this has changed quite a bit for me now as I have gotten more comfortable in my skin and who I am as a human being. So much of feeling beautiful has meant, for me, searching inside to feel beautiful and comfortable being in my body. However, I have also learned that it does make a difference of how one takes care of themselves externally and how good or bad one can feel by just wearing a particular kind of clothes or even makeup.
Q: How would you describe society’s perfect woman today in terms of what is served up by advertising, Hollywood, media and other industries?
I feel very disheartened by mainstream society’s expression of the perfect women. I feel women have made so many advances in different areas of professional and social life, but somehow the image of what is considered to be beautiful has gotten even more restrictive than before. I have often given workshops to teens and tweens on images of women in the media and I continue to be surprised by how these images affect young people. I feel that the box of the ‘beautiful’ woman has gotten tighter and tighter. For example, I was shocked to see videos and pictures of how Photoshopped images completely distort women’s bodies to make them look “perfect” when it is impossible to look that way. Even a beauty icon like Marilyn Monroe would not fit the beauty standards of today and that is definitely not an advancement on empowerment of women.
In addition, I think Hollywood and other industries still need to embrace diversity and project women who do not fit in the mold of white women as also beautiful. I want to see more brown and black women in the media to feel that lives and images of black and brown women also matter.
Q: Do you think that many women can relate to the narrow slice of beauty that is served up by these industries? Do you relate?
I do not at all feel mirrored or acknowledged within the narrow slice of beauty that is served up by these industries. That is why I am interested in media and exploring images of women that fall outside the mainstream. As a filmmaker, I am committed to women-centered stories, particularly around women of color. One of the reasons I feel so strongly about it is the fact that I have often felt that I, like many other women, fall outside the realm of what is considered beautiful and generally encompassing of women’s holistic experiences. I want to see women portrayed to be beautiful in their diversity whether it is through social, racial, age, body type, abilities, sexual orientation, etc. Very very often women’s bodies are hyper-sexualized in the name of “freedom” but I feel that true freedom is embracing women’s bodies in their diversity and experiences, without boxing them.
Q: When do you feel beautiful? What makes you feel beautiful? What doesn’t?
I feel the most beautiful when I take active care of myself whether it is through proper eating or exercising. A few years ago I started a site called www.socialappetizers.com to help me become a better cook. As I was working on the site, I came across close friends who were into a paleo diet. Although it was really challenging for me, I actually had a three month diet without any grains. I remember how much work adapting to that was and how beautiful and light I felt from inside once I took that much care of myself. Later, because of certain responsibilities and jobs, I ended up dropping the ball on that. I hope I can go back to that kind of eating because although it requires discipline, it was so worth it.
Things like this make me realize that self-care is also a discipline that we have to inculcate, whether it is taking care of your body or your looks, it takes time and we have to be able to give that time to ourselves. I want to take the time to try out different products and looks because I think that is also a form of art that would be fulfilling for me and make me feel beautiful about myself and the work I do.
I know that I feel the least beautiful when I don’t take the time to care for myself, whether it would be in choosing the clothes I want to wear for the day or just eating the kind of things that are not suited for my particular body. Over the years, my body has become more sensitive to what I take in and it reacts when I start eating unhealthy. In moments like that, I truly feel very un-beautiful. I know that I can’t always eliminate those moments entirely but I work at minimizing them.
Q: What is your beauty regimen? Has it always been the same? If not, how has it changed?
To be honest, other than the regular hygiene, I have not had much of a beauty regimen. A few years ago, I found a foundation that really worked for my skin and I was really happy about that, so I started using it more often than I normally used to. I have always been afraid that if I put on too much make up, somehow my skin will go bad, so I am super conscious of that. Also, I found that makeup, when not put on properly, can really irritate my skin so I have to take extra special care of how I put it on or put on less of it. I also love natural skin and hair care remedies. I often put henna and eggs on my hair and then wash it with natural homemade shampoos that my mother would get made from Pakistan. I often use yogurt to clean and wash my skin if I am ever feeling that my skin is drying out. It just really freshens it up for me. I use a lot of coconut oil and olive oil on my skin too, which also helps to moisturize my skin when it feels a bit icky. I am a big big fan of natural remedies.
Q: What is beautiful to you?
I think simplicity and natural things are beautiful to me. I think taking care of oneself is also an act of beauty as long as we are also aware of our communal responsibilities. I think doing small things can make one beautiful; for example, sometimes after taking a shower, I feel I am my most beautiful. Being comfortable in my skin and moving with comfort and ease is an incredibly beautiful thing for me – perhaps this is the actor speaking in me.
But then how we extend ourselves through clothing and external care is also a reflection of how beautiful we feel inside. There are days when I don’t take a lot of care of myself – and that is ok sometimes – but then I realize that if it becomes ok for too long, I become sloppy with myself and how I should care for myself. I have decided, after this project, that I will take a month and take care of one aspect of myself and see how I feel about it. I am very careless when it comes to my hair, so for the month of November, I have decided I will explore whatever I can about my hair and what I can do about it. Just thinking about it feels a little beautiful to me right now.
For this post we used the products featured below. Please note this post is not sponsored. All thoughts are unbiased and my own and the subject’s own. Products were provided for editorial consideration and/or my use as a professional makeup artist. All photos are property of DIVAlicious and Stephania Stanley Photography.
Note: Wonder if Sidrah even knew that two of the products we used on her were inspired by Marilyn Monroe, who she references in her interview!
The next BEAUTYfull™ is slated for late November. Stay tuned…
Lauren Cosenza is the creator and editor-in-chief of DIVAlicious, a trusted beauty/fashion expert, an on-camera personality and spokesperson, a leading NYC-based professional makeup artist, a published contributor and writer, a brand consultant, a product junkie and an insatiable style seeker — with a former life at Cosmopolitan and Shape magazines.
Serving up style with a side of attitude, her site DIVAlicious gives women (and men) the confidence and permission to be 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, wellbeing, men’s and unisex offerings.
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).