Omomah Ilamosi Abebe’s paper Cultural Difference: Its Effect on the Perceptions of Beauty and Initial Relations between African and African American Women, analyzes the relationship between African American and immigrant African women, specifically from Nigeria and Ethiopia, within the United States. It looks at how their initial relationships and first impressions of one another are influenced by stereotypes and personal ideologies of what constitutes beauty and womanhood in their respective cultures.
Abebe conducts a ‘beauty’ test to get a concrete understanding of her subject’s view on beauty standards for women of color.
“Before the interviews took place, the “Model Test” was administered. This consisted of showing the participants fifteen photographs of African and African American female fashion models. The images selected were designed to reflect a spectrum of physical features depicted in the fashion industry. I had the participants try to identify the ethnicity of each model as African or African American. The purpose of this test was to see what physical characteristics were looked for to identify someone from each group. In doing this I was able to investigate if stereotypes about an African and African American “image” existed; how such stereotypes, if in existence, related to one’s perception of beauty and, in turn, affected initial relationships. I also took note of any other comments that were made about each model, which helped to facilitate discussions about beauty.”
Figure 1: Liya (Ethopian model)
African American: “She looks mixed, I think she’s really pretty […] African American.”
Nigerian: “Probably Ethiopian […] the whiteness of her eyes and bone structure.”
Figure 2: Alek Wek (Sudanese model).
African American:“Personally I don’t think the girl is cute, I’m sorry, it has nothing to do with her ethnicity. Maybe ‘cause she don’t have no hair. I think that she is a model, because she is so dark. Almost like her darkness is exploited, and this is the reason why she is a model. I feel like they really emphasize her darkness. Her being a model is ironic. I think that she is a model because she’s not cute. They say, “oh this woman is so exotic, she’s African, she’s so rare” and in all of that she’s beautiful.”
Nigerian: “Yeah, she’s African […] I think I’ve seen her before.”
Figure 3: Jessica White (African American model ).
African American: “See this girl has hair, she’s really cute. She’s black [African American].”
Ethiopian: “She looks more African American than African…something about her face.”
Figure 4: Carla Maria (African American model ).
African American: “[…] I don’t know…when I see African woman, they don’t have this little button nose like she got […] African American.”
Nigerian: “She has softer African features, her Cheekbones […] she might be African.”
Figure 5: Simone (Ugandan model ).
African American: “I think that she would be cute, if she wasn’t so Greasy […] African.”
Ethiopian: “She looks African…her skin color, and lips.”
Figure 6: Jenine Bandle (South African model).
African American: “She looks like she’s black and white […]
African American […] I think she’s pretty.”
Ethiopian: “She has a really strong face structure […] she’s
African, maybe Angolan.”