Who is your first image of an exotic beauty? Adriana Lima, a Brazilian Victoria’s Secret model is my honest choice. Dark, flowing hair with full lips and tanned skin. Cool, bluish-green eyes. This look is exotic and otherworldly. This is exactly the problem.
Dictionary.com defines Exotic Beauty as “strange or unusual in effect or appearance.” According to researchers from racial Microaggressions, this is where the problem lies. Sue and her colleagues (2007a), describe racial Microaggressions like:
Microaggressions, which are short, daily exchanges that send demeaning messages to people of color simply because they belong to an racial minority group, can be described as “simply stated” These exchanges are so common and automatic in everyday interactions that they are often ignored and dismissed as innocuous.”
Sue and her colleagues (2007b), find many common themes in relation to racial microaggressions. Inscription of intelligence is one example. One example of a possible offense is asking someone from Asia for help with math. Another theme is colorblindness. This would be asking an Asian person for help with math. However, this assumption ignores the individual’s unique cultural experiences and assumes that they will adopt the dominant culture.
One theme is the notion that minorities are second-class citizens. This would be illustrated by someone mistaking a person with color for a service worker. Another possibility is that there is one communication style dominant. One could ask an African American why their speech is so animated, or an Asian American about why their silence. One of the most common microaggressions is denial of individual race. It would be like me saying, “I’m non-racist toward Mexicans.” Two of them are my friends.
What does this mean for Adriana? Although the term “exotic” implies that she is inherently different and other, it is not a positive connotation. Although it is often meant to be a compliment, it can also mean that an exotic beauty does not equal a true beauty. It is a discriminatory sentiment.
Why I Hate Being Called “Exotic Beauty”
It makes me cringe every time someone uses it to describe my unusual combination of dark eyes, light hair, fair skin, and Middle Eastern features. This is due to my German, Iranian, and Irish heritage. However, I am certain that this emotion is tied to the first country on my wish list. Anybody who asks about my heritage will nod when I mention the two other countries, with an obvious aha moment when they hit “Iranian”.
Don’t be afraid to use it in the future to describe someone, even me. It’s not meant to cause harm, I’m sure. However, intention and impact can differ. Let me tell you why.
I find it interesting that exotic is an adjective that is better suited to things like birds or plants than people. It makes me feel like an object.