What does it mean to be beautiful?

(Photo: Luisa Migon)

At the seventh annual Essence Black Women in Hollywood ceremony, Academy Award winning actress and star of the moment Lupita Nyong'o read a small segment of a letter she received from a young fan. It read: "Dear Lupita, I think you are really lucky to be this black, but yet, this successful in Hollywood overnight. I was just about to buy Dencia's 'whitenicious' cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me."

It is upsetting to hear about individuals who are dissatisfied with the skin they're in. God made everybody unique and to go and find ways and means of drastically altering your complexion or your body is basically saying to Him you detest His wonderful creation. Items on the market such as whitening creams and pills actually scare me. The sheer thought of watching my skin go three shades lighter is horrific. There's something rather discomforting about messing around with skin pigment. Even once you've achieved a lighter skin tone, it won't last. Slowly but surely, the blotches of your natural hue begin to re-appear.

Lupita went on to share that there was a time in her life when she didn't feel she was beautiful. She was teased and taunted about her 'night shade' skin. Her one prayer to God, she told the guests, was that she would wake up lighter skinned. My immediate thought was, 'why would God respond to such a prayer and change one of His many masterpieces? She's beautiful!' She is indeed, inside and out.

So what does godly beauty look like? My answer would be that it is everlasting. Such beauty is not tangible. Camera lenses cannot capture it. An individual who is truly beautiful draws people in long after their looks fade and can still make people smile years after their time on earth. The sheer mention of their name brings joy. Beautiful is not a certain height, weight, waist size, eye colour, hair colour or skin colour. Our worth is not measured by the shade of our skin.

Lupita's mother would tell her, "You can't eat beauty, it doesn't feed you." She went on to say that beauty is not something one can "acquire or consume", it is something that she just had to be. She's right. Yes, there are thousands of cosmetic products (and procedures) out there to make the exterior physically appealing, but at the end of the day it is who you are as a person that people remember you for. Outer beauty will not sustain us in life.

In the eyes of the media, I may not be beautiful. I am tall (but not supermodel height), I'm not a size 10, I don't have hair of spun gold or a complexion that is anywhere close to Caucasian but these things do not matter to me. I am often complimented on my physical beauty but I don't let that inflate my head because it is merely my outer shell. I choose to work on my character, more so as I mature in my faith because God sees our hearts and there is where you will find real beauty.