Before I begin this post I feel obligated to state this disclaimer: I am a self-identified cynic, but in no way am I suggesting Adalia’s supporters compliments are disingenuous. With that being said let me introduce Adalia.
The five year featured in the above picture suffers from progeria, or what many people know as the “the Benjamin Button disease.” Her mother created a Facebook page chronicling Adelia’s daily life through words and videos, allowing her millions of supporters to stay updated about her condition and send encouragement via the ‘Book. Oh yea, of course there’s information for donating to “help her family fund her dreams.” But today isn’t about a mother exploiting her child to fund what mostly likely is her own ulterior agenda. Today is about what Adelia’s condition can teach us about the idea of beauty, and all its ugly flaws.
Images of Adelia have taken over the social media land, with most garnering positive attention. Followers have reposted her pics, soliciting likes and comments such as “Aww isn’t she so beautiful.” Which is where the backlash begins. It is perfectly understandable that people want to uplift Adelia and boost her self-esteem, but what’s going to happen when she enters grade school and the dog-eat-dog world of Mean Girls. Young adults have no limits. And without having a discussion about our restrictive and narrow American standard of beauty , how will young children be able to grasp the idea that Adelia, who shares features similar to their geriatric grandparents, can be beautiful?
Adelia’s fame and popularity is a great opportunity to begin a discussion about the superficial and trivial nature of beauty. We like to say beauty is in the eye of the beholder which emphasizes its subjectivity. But honestly we all know it’s not. Beauty is dictated and sold to us via the media and corporate America to maximize profits. This is why Adelia could never be considered beautiful, she wouldn’t sell. Why do some women spend millions/billions of dollars a year going under the knife or chemically altering their hair? Why is every model featured on high fashion runways a pasty, stick thin cookie-cutter image? Look at women who achieve success in the entertainment industry and note the diversity of their physical features. Not much to note huh? What’s even worse is comparing their pre/post industry photos. The number of changes is daunting.
So now ask yourself, what is the purpose of having a category that makes people feel insecure and inadequate. Will we ever achieve a beauty idea that encompasses the diversity of humankind? I don’t think so, because if everyone qualifies, then what’s the point. The fact that people feel obligated to let Adelia know she’s beautiful because she looks different highlights the problem. If there were no beauty idea or standard this would not be necessary. Adelia’s humanity would be enough.