The politics of pretty privilege - don't blame Uncle Waffles's looks for her success
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The term “pretty privilege” has been thrown around online after DJing newcomer Uncle Waffles and her sudden rise in popularity following her viral video last week.
The conversation shifted from her having good mixing skills, great dance moves and giving an overall great performance during a set to being about how the only reason Drake followed her was because of “pretty privilege”.
Whether or not this is true will never be known since Drake is the only person that answers that question.
However, the use of pretty privilege in online discourse can be examined not only within the local entertainment scene but on a broader scale within Hollywood.
Now, before we can look at what pretty privilege means there needs to be an explanation of both words.
Author and director Janet Mock (“Pose”) explained in her piece for Allure magazine, “Being pretty is a privilege, but we refuse to acknowledge it”, that while what people perceive as pretty is subjective it “is most often synonymous with being thin, white, able-bodied, and cisgendered, and the closer you are to those ideals, the more often you will be labelled pretty.”
And when you look around and at people deemed pretty, specifically in a visual media space, it is often the case.
And for BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and people of colour) there are added layers which include colourism, featurism and texturism form part of what is commonly viewed as pretty. Just look at any Netflix show with a Black woman in the cast. More times than not she’ll be light-skinned or mixed, have 3B to at most 3C hair and more often than not has Eurocentric/”exotic” features.
For BIPOC men it’s not as overt since many dark-skinned men are deemed as desirable and handsome, but there is a hint of fetishism with the way their attractiveness is talked about but that’s a conversation for another day.
The whole concept of beauty has its roots, like most things, in white supremacy and colonialism since for the longest time the images we as a society were being fed as a whole, is deemed beautiful and deceiving of being viewed as desirable.
And while we have made leaps and bounds with how we frame what is deemed pretty there is a lingering sense that the closer you are to whiteness the more pretty you are viewed.
When it comes to privilege depending on your intersections there is a level to which each person has.
Whether it be your gender identity, gender expression, height, level of income, racial identity etc.
And when the concept of being perceived as pretty meets with a set of privileges there are ways in which you can move in society which is not afforded to those who don’t fall into that category.
We’ve seen it in music many times, especially with women, that if they are deemed pretty and desirable they can move quickly and amass fame at a very fast pace. And also in the influencer and reality TV space.
Just take the Kardashian clan. Kim along with most of her sisters are deemed as the pinnacle of the new beauty standard even though they bought most of their looks.
Kylie’s fortune specifically jumps out since she was a pretty average looking girl when she was younger, but once she made some tweaks with the family plastic surgeon she was able to launch a make-up empire which wouldn’t have been possible if she didn’t give access to be viewed as pretty.
There is often a joke when people share Kylie’s before and after pictures that “you’re not ugly just poor” since it’s common knowledge that having access to pretty privilege opens doors that otherwise would have been closed.
Even though Kylie was already in a wealthy family she still changed her looks to be deemed more desirable and her whole career trajectory shifted.
And this is a great example of how pretty privilege gives you more opportunities and lets you get away with things that otherwise wouldn’t get away with. The model Jeremy Meeks is another example of this.
His mug shot went viral after he was arrested in 2014 during a gang sweep called Operation Ceasefire in Stockton, California.
After his release in 2016, he bagged a model deal and in 2018 dated and had a child with Topshop heiress Chloe Green. How many fellows do you know that have this kind of luck in life?
There is no denying that pretty privilege plays a part in how people move around in the world and it goes hand-in-hand with desirability politics.
There’s a great line in “Popular” from the Broadway musical “Wicked” that says “it’s not about aptitude it’s the way you’re viewed.”
This refers to how people perceive you but it most likely also refers to the literal meaning since the sequence where it takes place Glinda is busy giving Elphaba a make-over.
Pretty privilege is very real and plays a huge part in how you move can move in society.
Whether we like it or not, being viewed as pretty does make a lot of things more easily attainable.
From relationships, fame, job opportunities and so forth.
However, there is a need it inspect what we deem as pretty and how many of the features that are associated with being viewed as pretty have a thin layer of white supremacy and Eurocentric standards at the bottom of them.
You can read and share the latest issue of IOL Entertainment digital magazine here.