Woolworth’s is one of my favorite places in Bakersfield. The quiet diner, glimmering sapphire and amethyst brooches behind glass cases, vintage Powerpuff Girls tin lunch boxes rusting on a shelf next to a fat, studded belt buckle featuring a bald eagle. I love getting lost in a confusing maze of old things clinging to dust until someone pulls them from a shelf and reinstates them into relevancy. The last time I visited the place, I wandered into an alcove that seemed like a semi-shrine to Marilyn Monroe.
There was a giant, framed black-and-white print of Marilyn in a glimmering white dress, smiling mischievously. Then, a shelf of smaller prints featuring Marilyn in different poses, her blonde hair coiffed perfectly, her smile sublime. There she was, everywhere, staring at me.
The thing is, her place isn’t only in the deep corners of Woolworth’s vintage supply. She’s on T-shirts printed at Forever 21 and in remake movies and hanging up in museums as Warhol’s muse. She’s ever present in our lives as this symbol of American beauty and sexuality that we just can’t get away from.
My mind drifts to the title of one of my favorite John Green books—An Abundance of Katherines—to the awareness of the dilemma that has recently struck me: An Abundance of Blondes. God, they’re everywhere. And as a girl who purchases Nylon and Vogue on the regular, I couldn’t help but notice their overwhelming presence in fashion magazines. Gigi and Karlie and Cara and Natalia and every other (beautiful, yes), but blonde, skinny piece of gorgeous that continue to echo Marilyn in so many frustrating ways. Years and years of progress and diversity and improved tolerance and still the symbol of beauty in our country is thought of as a Barbie-esque beauty queen.
Vogue’s October issue heralded Reese Witherspoon as the icon for American beauty. Funny, though, that their January 2015 cover girl was a blonde (lovely Sienna Miller), June cover was a blonde (Amanda Seyfried), and the most recent August cover girl is also a blonde (Nicole Kidman). Now, before you say that’s not too many blondes, the others this year so far were all brunettes (save for a lovely appearance by Serena Williams on the cover of the April issue).
Buzzfeed recently featured a lovely article on beauty icons that weren’t Marilyn Monroe—thank the Lord. But isn’t also sad that someone has to remind us that beautiful comes in many more forms than the Monroe aesthetic? It’s not enough for us to know that there are other kinds of beautiful. We need to do something about it.
Where do I start? By putting some value in myself. By not doubting my own beauty because the girls who have been on the cover of Vogue for the past months have looked absolutely nothing like me. By reminding my little sisters every day that they are stunning, empowered, beautiful girls.
Featured image: stylenews.peoplestylewatch.com