In celebration of Women's History Month, Drexel University’s Office of Equality and Diversity recently shed light on the topic, “Diversity of Appearance Among Women.”

The lunch and chat discussion addressed how the standards of beauty are established and their effect on various cultures.  

Students from Drexel’s Couples and Family Therapy Ph.D. program, Misbah Qureshi and Renata Carneiro, facilitated the open and honest dialogue and presentation with approximately 50 attendees last Tuesday at the James E. Marks Intercultural Center.

Women and men of varying ages, races, religions and disabilities united in celebration of famous and everyday women who defy current beauty standards.

Attendees’ perception of beauty also spanned the gamut of traits and features included flawless skin, good hair, confidence, fair skin and youthfulness.

“I have come a long way to accepting the person that I am today. In the past I did not see myself as pretty or beautiful,” said Drexel’s iSchool Academic Advisor Nirva LaFortune.

“I actually hated myself.  I wanted my nose to be smaller or to have a more rounded physique and straighter hair. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college when I decided to cut my hair that I first felt beautiful. I saw someone completely different and I realize that I did not have to be the image that was constantly portrayed as beautiful through the media.”

LaFortune lives her life with confidence, but is still working on the issue of feeling beautiful.

“I learned that this issue of beauty is far broader than what I expected,” she said. “I also learned that every person, culture, society, gender and sexual orientation has their own interpretation of beauty.”

Nicole Newman, president of Newman Networks, has struggled with her weight for most of her life.  

“I had a poor self-image and would not even look at myself in the mirror,” she said. “I did not worry about society's image of a woman because I lived in mainly a male-dominated world of computer analysts. It was all about brain power and productivity.”

Newman lost 30 pounds in 2007 and has maintained a health weight and lifestyle ever since.

"I feel most beautiful after a workout, whether it is a three mile run or 500 jumping jacks,” she said. “When the endorphins hit, I feel a sense of accomplishment for which I am proud.”

As a Muslim, Newman wears hijabs to cover her hair and long shirts and dresses to cover her body.

“What makes me proud is that my daughter wants to cover because she sees me modeling the behavior of a woman who cares about herself and her religion,” she said.

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