Beauty Around the World: Part 1 Peru

My dear friend and blog idol Colleen (https://prekrasno.wordpress.com/) suggested this idea for my blog when I was in a bit of a creative slump.  Talk to Peace Corps volunteers around the world about beauty and how they feel beautiful at site and different beauty standards where they live.  So I did.  My first entry in the series is with my friend Brittany White who is serving in Peru and is also blog goals (https://siyahenperu.wordpress.com/) we became obsessed with Britt when we discovered her blog during the Blog It Home contest and because Colleen and I are both shameless we stalked the shit out of her and followed her on all social media platforms possible and declared that we would all be friends.  Her blog is amazingly beautiful and she always posts gorgeous photos on her Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/basileiabrittany/) of her community. So lets get down to it.
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I’m Brittany and I’m a Youth Development Volunteer serving in Northern Peru. Youth Development is kind of an ambiguous term but unfortunately my region has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS transmission in Peru and so for me it means working with my local hospital on sexual health education initiatives for teenagers. I’m currently serving a regional representative on our Diversity Task Force which we love to immaturely call DTF. The committee seeks to enhance knowledge and encourage understanding of diversity and inclusion through volunteer led trainings. I’ve been out on my own and host family-less for about 6 months now and God, I couldn’t be happier about that!

1) What does feeling beautiful in Peace Corps mean to you?

Over the course of my time here in Peace Corps, I’ve expressed what beauty has meant to me in two different ways. When I first arrived in Peru for our three month Pre-Service Training, it was through clothing! I wasn’t one of those volunteers who brought all rain resistant pants and hiking boots – I packed cute jeans and blouses, sun dresses, jumpers and a couple business casual outfits.  I seriously made sure every day that my outfit was on point during those three months and I really enjoyed it.

However, when I moved to my site, I made a conscious decision to change how I made myself feel beautiful. To be 100% real, because I’m Black in a region where a lot of people have never seen a Black person before, I deal with a ridiculous amount of staring and gawking every day and the clothes I would wear during PST, although completely professional, were really different from the types of clothes people wore in my town and it made the unwanted attention that I already loathed so much sky rocket. I learned really quickly that if I wanted to minimize my unwanted attention, I should switch to a more casual jeans and t-shirt routine.

On top of that, my site is extremely hot and some days I sweat so much I could water the empty grass lot across the street from my house so for me, putting on makeup is just a sad, futile mission. Instead, I just try to take really great care of my skin so that I have a smooth, clean complexion. I’ve had all my favorite face washes, lotions, and masks sent over from the States and I really take pride in my skin routine. I have the awful curse of adult acne, but honestly, my skin has never been in better condition because here, I really take the time to make sure that I’m taking care of my skin. Every time I look in the mirror and I just see clear skin, it really does make me feel extremely beautiful and with that confidence boost I’m ready to leave my apartment and face whatever Peru is going to throw my way that day.

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2)What are some of the cultural beauty standards at your site? Do you find yourself trying to meet those standards or not?

The beauty standards at my site are very similar to the beauty standards that most Peruvians subscribe too and that’s the lighter the skin, the straighter and blonder the hair the the more beautiful you are. It breaks my heart really because most Peruvians don’t even come close to looking like that. Once, I told a class of students that I loved my skin, my lips, my nose, and my hair and they told me they were surprised to hear me say that because they thought everybody would want to be “mas blanco” or more white. Needless to say positive self image is a struggle bus here.

3)What are some beauty tricks that you’ve learned in Peace Corps?

One thing I was so super big on in the States was always making sure my eyebrows were threaded to perfection. Let me tell you, I never, ever missed an appointment with my threading lady! So when I came to Peace Corps, I knew I would need to figure out how to do my own. So I bought me some tweezers in Lima and I spent all day watching “How to Tweeze Your Eyebrows” videos on YouTube. Now, I’m not saying my eyebrows are as shapely as they are when they’re threaded, but definitely way better than if I just let them be.

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4)Have you found it harder to meet American Beauty Standards or the Standards at your site?

Although I think things are definitely changing when it comes to what Americans generally find beautiful, I still don’t think I necessarily fit into the American Standard of Beauty either. People with darker skin tones, kinkier hair, etc have historically been underrepresented in the world of beauty but every day I see more an more products that come out that are marketed to people who look like me – different make up lines, hair products, and nude color products for people with darker skin.

Even though America still has some work to do in terms of having a more inclusive standard of beauty it’s still WAY, WAY, WAY, easier to find products for my hair or make up for my skin tone. In Peru you can’t find those things anywhere really unless you’re at a MAC counter in Lima.

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5)What do you wish you could have told yourself before your service that you know now?

I guess this is not so much what I would have told my self but more what I would tell future volunteers… But I would say that lots of people think that Peace Corps means you have to go 27 months sacrificing what makes you feel beautiful and looking raggedy 24/7 and that’s simply not true! There will be volunteers who will try to shame you into thinking you shouldn’t wear makeup or a cute outfit but who cares? Peace Corps is mentally and emotionally stressful and you should feel free to do what you need to do in order to make yourself feel good in service. I always say just because Peace Corps is the poster child for altruism doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat yourself right!    (PREACH ME TOO GIRL)
A huge thank you to Brittany for letting me interview her and generally being the coolest.  If you are currently serving in the Peace Corps and would like to participate in my series or know of someone who does please let me know! (sjackson12@elmira.edu)
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2 thoughts on “Beauty Around the World: Part 1 Peru

  1. Reblogged this on Prekrasno and commented:
    My friend and fellow Kyrgyzstan PCV Steph writes a beauty blog, and based on my recommendation started a series that explores how PCVs around the world stay beautiful. The first interview is with friend-crush and PCV Brittany from Peru — check out the beauty blog, check out Brittany’s blog, check out all the blogs.

    Like

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