Maha Rahwanji: I Really See Beauty as More Than Skin Deep

When I was 17 years old, my mother would encourage me to put on some makeup and my father, on the contrary, would feel annoyed at my trying to grow up too quickly.  I was confused then but now I think my mother had a much more conservative point of view on makeup, like you should wear makeup and be well-presented as a young lady, whereas my father thought makeup was something that women should not do, especially for a 17-year-old girl. I used to wear a little bit as a compromise to both of them but I enjoyed putting it on.

Similarly, attitudes towards makeup are deeply divided in my culture from the Middle East. Some women do not wear makeup at all as they think it is not pure or often a sin against their faith. However, there are other Arab women who wear full makeup even when they are wearing the hijab. Though I have talked with some of my friends about this, I still don’t understand why they put on such heavy makeup and more than I would do in a year!  Young girls, particularly the ones from the upper classes might spend huge amounts of money on cosmetic surgery out of the pressure to look ‘perfect’.

Personally, I do know that this sort of pressure is hard to stand sometimes. I grew up being ‘the less beautiful sister’ in my family because my mother considered my sister to be more beautiful than me due to her olive complexion and brown eyes. This really damaged my confidence for many years and it took me a long time to reach where I am now. Yes, I am very pale and pink, but I accept it completely: this is me and I am happy with myself. Last Saturday, one of my friends said to me: ‘Maha, you are very interesting.’ This is a much more worthy compliment than simply saying ‘you are pretty’. Being beautiful is not just external, it is also something internal. It is about self-confidence, it is about knowledge and personality. I really see beauty as more than skin deep.

Maha Rahwanji Bio


*This article is based on an interview with Maha  Rahwanji on April 10th, 2017.

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