by Lauren Sanchez
This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s fall editorial intern Lauren Sanchez. Find her on Instagram at @lauren.sanchezz. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at email@example.com.
Hundreds of thousands of views and duets of people reacting to these videos have been circulating on TikTok with captions such as “Unconventionally attractive celebrities I’m attracted to” and “Sing along if you find these unconventional celebrities handsome/hot.” And while the videos are often posted with innocent and harmless intentions, these videos are shedding light on the problematic and backhanded nature of calling someone “unconventionally attractive.”
“Unconventionally attractive” is often used to describe someone who does not fit the “normal” beauty standards, and rather looks and presents themselves with a unique physical trait or characteristics. Those who are deemed unconventionally attractive aren’t in the mold that society has already created and deemed beautiful, and in fact, make their own beauty standard.
But when we talk about beauty and what it means to call something “beautiful” or “attractive,” what are we ACTUALLY talking about? As the saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and while one person’s definition of beauty may not match up or be completely different from another’s definition, beauty is abstract enough to allow people to have their interpretations. So why is beauty, a term that has no clear-cut definition, have such clear and set standards of what it should look like? Especially with beauty standards and trends changing every day, something that’s currently “in” will be on its way “out” in no time.
So, when we want to call someone “unconventionally handsome,” “unconventionally beautiful” or “unconventionally attractive,” we need to take a step back and reevaluate how we approach different kinds of beauty and how just because we may have different physical traits, it doesn’t make others any less conventional or normal.
Conventional vs. Unconventional Beauty: What’s The Difference?
When we talk about conventional beauty, we often find ourselves centering our perception of beauty around a specific type of person, a “perfect” looking one. For women and people who identify as one, they must be not too thin but not too thick, tall but not over six feet, have great skin, nice hair, eyes that aren’t too big but not too small, etc. For men and people who identify as men, they must be tall, muscular but not too ripped, masculine but just the right amount, etc. It’s all about those cookie-cutter features that are meant to make someone look just right. Conventional beauty is all about fitting into the beauty standards that society has deemed worthy or desired.
Unconventional is just the complete opposite and defies the standards set. For example, some traits that I have seen circulating and been labeled as unconventional are big noses, tooth gaps and crooked teeth, curly hair, different skin pigmentation, acne scars and the list just goes on and on. We typically notice these traits in photos or when people-watching along the street, and sometimes consider them out of the ordinary and “imperfect.” Despite the beauty standards that people have been taught their entire lives, these traits bring a whole new dimension to what they have been told.
Why It’s Problematic And What This Says About Beauty Standards
In many of these TikTok videos showing us examples of what unconventional beauty looks like, many users put people of color and those of a certain ethnicity (typically those of Jewish heritage) on the front line. While many of these videos have no intention of being racist or discriminatory, these videos single these people out because they don’t fit either the eurocentric features that many beauty standards are based on and expose the biases of people’s perception of beauty.
Calling these people unconventionally handsome or beautiful is such an incredibly backhanded compliment. It’s giving the same vibes of “OMG I wish I had your confidence!” and “You’re so brave for wearing that outfit out!” – which are both completely unnecessary things to say to someone.
These people who have different features or a different kind of look are breaking those eurocentric standards and proving to us that no one needs to add the word “unconventional” in front of beauty. Everyone is capable of being beautiful or handsome, and there is no need for an abstract definition of beauty to be limited to certain characteristics and traits that only a small amount of the population actually has. By calling and characterizing someone as “unconventionally attractive”, we are only reinforcing the conventional beauty standards.
One perception of beauty should NOT be the main perspective, period. Beauty is something we are all judged on from the moment we are born and as we get older, we struggle with self-confidence and how we feel about our physical appearance in our normal day-to-day life. And just because we all have different features and quirks, it doesn’t mean that we should be singled out, compared to the standards upheld by society nor be labeled as something unconventional. Beauty is never about being perfect, it’s about being real and authentically yourself.
So no need to add an extra word in front of beautiful, handsome, or attractive. Just simply compliment people and give them the chance to feel good in their own skin!
What do you think about no longer using “unconventionally attractive,” “unconventionally handsome” or “unconventionally beautiful” to describe people? Do you agree with the backhanded nature? Let us know in the comments below!