Music, Pop Culture

Alessia Cara is reshaping cultural expectations around beauty and we’re so here for it

Grammy-winning singer Alessia Cara refuses to adhere to society’s culturally imposed beauty standards.

Recently at the Met Gala, we saw a lot of colorful looks. The stars arrived adorned in glittery outfits and with their hair styled to perfection. Their appearances sparked conversations among people around the world. Some looks were admired while others received bitter criticism.

A lot of effort went into creating all these glittery, colorful looks. If we read closely into this, it becomes clear that all these celebrities feel the need to look a certain way at events—different, beautiful, the best that they can look.

These celebrities, even if unknowingly, are enforcing impossible ideas about beauty.

But in their midst, there’s a young star, who has refused to swim along with the stream.

Her name is Alessia Cara, and she is breaking traditional norms around the concept of beauty through her music and appearance. She has dared to be herself again and again.

I heard Alessia Cara’s “Scars To Your Beautiful” at a time when my self-esteem was the lowest it had ever been. I was listening to her song on repeat—its lyrics gave me hope that I craved in my dismal life.

But there’s a hope that’s waiting for you in the dark
You should know you’re beautiful just the way you are

Cara’s music is edgy, youthful, powerful and inspiring. There’s defiance in her words. They urge you to be yourself even when the world wants you to be someone else.

But you and I, we’re pioneers, we make our own rules
Our own room, no bias here

The message threaded in her carefully-worded songs is loud, clear and important—she tells her listeners to never be apologetic for being themselves, to escape tradition, culture and conventions, and reinvent themselves—to be who they are.

It takes courage to extricate yourself from society’s expectations. The pressure to conform to these expectations weighs most heavily on celebrities. They are expected to look a certain way, to act a certain way, to be a certain way. Some celebrities have made certain (mostly impossible to achieve) beauty standards the norm. Audiences now expect all of them to look the same—perfect, unreal, ethereal human beings.

And you don’t have to change a thing, the world could change its heart
No scars to your beautiful, we’re stars and we’re beautiful

Cara has taken on the task of redefining beauty measures and promoting a healthier, more real self-image.

She hasn’t achieved this through her music alone but also through her appearances at different events.

The best example is her performance at the VMAs in 2017 where she sang “Scars To Your Beautiful”. In the beginning, she was dressed in a red gown with jewels dangling around her neck and her hair coiffed. As the song went on, the back dancers tore away the red dress, messed up her hair and took off her make up. By the end she was only wearing a plain black tank top and black jeans.

Her performance exhorted audiences to break free from the traditional measures of beauty and appearance. Her message was simple yet powerful—be who you are and not what others want you to be.

The new-age culture embodies stereotypes that especially pivot around female celebrities’ clothes. Cara is slicing these reductive stereotypes into halves by constantly dressing in clothes that are traditionally considered men’s clothes.

Cara’s music has personally been extremely important for me as it set me on the path of self-acceptance. I embraced my flaws and looked at myself differently. I realized if anyone’s opinion is important in my life, it’s my own.

It’s a well-known fact that her words have had the same effect on millions of others. But even then, she’s given much less recognition, appreciation and value than she deserves.

Her music and appearance both resonate with ordinary people. She’s real, she’s beautiful, she’s just like us. Her songs make us realize that everyone’s beautiful in their own way. And that we don’t have to change for the world. After all, we’re stars and we’re beautiful.