Candid Conversations with Teens: Pretty Privilege

This post was written by Ayden Bjork, niece to Gulf Coast Mom co-owner Christy Bjork Elias, for her sophomore PreAP English class.

Candid convo with teens Gulf coast momWhat is pretty privilege? Well, let’s break it down into simpler questions: What is pretty? And what is privilege? Merriam Webster defines “pretty” as pleasing by delicacy or grace and “privilege” as a right granted as a particular benefit, advantage, or favor. The conundrum lies in the role pretty privilege plays in society.

Over the years, American society has shifted its view of pretty.

Current magazines have abandoned the days where bleach-blonde beauties graced the covers. Strolling through the Books-A-Million magazine section, I noticed those magazines are now filled with diverse models, dark hair, and different skin tones. The richer the hue, the greater probability it has to sell.

Candid conversations with teens: pretty privilege
Ayden at a cross country meet

So this shift in American standard of pretty begs the question who defines pretty? Is it in the eye of the beholder? Or is it in the eye of society with the greatest buying ability?

As a product of two diverse parents, I feel I have reaped the benefits of genetics playing in my favor. Some days I joke that “I’m working with what I’ve got”. In reality, I know I possess the best physical qualities of both my parents. On one hand, I have my mom’s olive complexion and her high sun exposure tolerance. On the other hand, I have my father’s height and low-maintenance locks. My Spanish family raves about the height I inherited from my father; they even call me leggy. It’s odd to think that by 13, I had outgrown every woman on my mom’s side of the family. My American family raves about my dark eyes, the most common physical attribute of Spanish women. I’d like to think it gives me a sense of mystery.

Candid conversation with teens about pretty privilege So, based on the physical qualities I was gifted, will life be easier for me?

Thus far, aside from high school scholastics, one of my greatest achievements has been being the tallest female on my mom’s side of the family.

I don’t quite yet have personal examples of pretty privilege. So, where have examples of pretty privilege surfaced in my life?

The largest indicator is social media and its influencers. There is now a job for pretty people who have the ability to collect a large following and sell to their followers. Modeling and influencing careers can be established with large followings and getting noticed by scouts. Brands will reach out to “pretty” and likable accounts to send them free products, club promoters will DM “hot” college girls, and now the trending app TikTok even partakes in the “pretty people” and racial AI technology algorithm (Lexington Post, 2020).

While this is likely shocking to older generations, it is not to us younger ones.

Teen and her mom
Ayden and her mom.

Economist Daniel Hamermosh acknowledged that physical beauty affects wages, even in occupations where appearance does not seem relevant to job performance.

My mom has told me in the past that coworkers have minimized her efforts, drive, and fast advancement as a benefit of her looks. As an engineer and proposal writer, my mom is not in an occupation where her beauty should matter. Yet, some women in her field choose to attribute her success to the genes she inherited from her parents. She admits that this gift has likely helped her in getting where she is, but in no way is it the only contributing factor.

Will I one day become a benefactor of pretty privilege. Only time will tell.

But I do know one thing, my parents have equipped me with confidence. For that I’m already ahead of 50 percent of society.

About the Author

Ayden Bjork, niece to Gulf Coast Mom co-owner Christy Bjork Elias, is a sophomore enduring a demanding school schedule consisting of honors English, math, and science. She’s a retired multi-sport athlete but still runs cross country. In her spare time she channels her artistic flair, babysits and spends time with friends. She loves The Office and dogs, especially her chihuahua Mr Sanchez.

In PreAP English, Ayden was tasked to write a creative nonfiction piece. The topic had to be a juxtaposition, so Ayden chose to write about pretty privilege.