Is Beauty an Accomplishment? My response to Priyanka Chopra being voted second most beautiful woman. (Featured on Browngirlmagazine.com)

When Priyanka Chopra was voted “second most beautiful woman” by Buzznet, a video sharing platform on the web, I saw my Facebook newsfeed flood with derivatives of the same headline –

Priyanka Chopra voted second most beautiful woman in the world, Beyonce tops the list.

If I was my pre-teen self I would have felt proud that a minority celebrity, that too of my background had received such a recognition. It’s rare that you see South Asian actors play roles other than stereotypical immigrants such as Abu from the Simpsons or Raj from Big Bang Theory.

So even if its “second” place, it’s almost the equivalent of a cultural medal of honor.

However, more than a decade has passed since then and my thinking has taken quite the turn. I will still flip to a Miss Universe pageant here and then, but at the same time I shudder at society’s devotion to superficiality. I am not only talking about the magazine moguls, but about our neighbors, our families, and to a large degree even we are at fault.

We are so quick to juxtapose random individuals together and compare them on a perceived rubric of beauty – one revolving around looks alone that we forget true accomplishments. I know many people reading this will argue that she was chosen for being much more than a pretty face – a Goodwill Ambassador, etc. But who are we kidding? This was a poll that I doubt had most participants googling her list of charitable contributions before completing.

What is even more troubling is one headline stated something along the lines of  “Priyanka Chopra has more than 16 million Instagram followers but can’t beat Beyonce”. We live in a world where self-worth is based on Instagram likes and follow-backs. There’s even the followers to following ratio going on (don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about).  More than anything everyone has to beat someone to be considered successful and beautiful. The question is not whether Beyonce is more beautiful than Priyanka or vice-versa, the question is does a poll or Instagram likes determine real beauty?

The same week this headline came out, I overheard a father introducing his five year old son to several of his friends. From a distance however the father told the son pointing to a colleague, “Hey see that pretty girl over there, that’s _____.”. As I proceeded to finish my tasks, I could not help but think, regardless of the father’s true intentions, he was giving his son the ground work for judging someone through superficial standards. This son may be the same one who will toss comments with his guy friends when he’s older about a girl’s appearances. He might even take a Buzznet beauty poll.

Likewise, if we flashback several years ago a few relatives and I were debating about who is our favorite Indian actress and why. You heard names such as Aishwariya Rai and Sushmitha Sen thrown into the conversation, but now that I think back at our discussion there was not one point made outside the basis of physical appearances. The same relatives that were giving me college advice were also the ones debating with me about an actress’s beauty.

We are all at fault.

I think in promoting real beauty standards, we have to start framing beauty outside physical appearances alone. Priyanka Chopra is a woman who has joined the ranks of Aziz Ansari and Mindy Kaling in raising that 0.5% or less representation of South Asians in American media.

One can argue that her work ethic is an indicator of her beauty and this can definitely not be measured through random beauty polls.

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