Over the weekend, this meme began circulating on social media. It pictures a black woman — mid contour — reflecting on her actions. The caption says:

“When you’re contouring and highlighting and realize that you’re trying to get more eurocentric features.”

Contouring is a makeup technique that defines and reshapes areas of the face using pencils, creams or powders.

Photo: Instagram.com/unconditionedroots
Photo: Instagram.com/unconditionedroots

My first reaction to this meme was confusion. I proudly wear makeup and contour on special occasions for an extra glam look, but I’ve never tried to look like anything other than myself. To blanketly state that contouring is about looking more European is gross generalization.

For decades we’ve been conditioned to think that a nose with narrow bridge and small nostrils is exclusive to white women. It isn’t. In fact, Ethiopian and Eritrean women dispel this myth entirely. I admit, some black women do narrow their noses in an attempt to downplay the size. But we have to balance that with an understanding that women of African descent are incredibly diverse in appearance.

Ethiopian woman. Photo: Niall Crotty
Ethiopian woman. Photo: Niall Crotty

Furthermore this meme implies that high cheek bones, a narrow face and full lips — in addition to a slim nose — are Eurocentric features that black women desire. But many already have high cheek bones and full lips, which are a sign of beauty in both African and black American culture. Just look at Sudanese model Alek Wek, Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o or actress Kerry Washington. If anything, there are a million tutorials directing non-black women on how to get these features.

ALEK WEK AT THE LAUNCH OF HER NEW BOOK, ALEK WEK'S NEW AUTOBIOGRAPHY 'ALEK: FROM SUDANESE REFUGEE TO INTERNATIONAL SUPERMODEL, Alex Wek in 2007. Photo: Caroline Torem CRAIG/LFIANA
Alek Wek in 2007. Photo: Caroline Torem CRAIG/LFIANA
Lupita Nyong'o (Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)
Lupita Nyong’o (Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)
Kerry Washington
Kerry Washington

Sometimes I think people forget what contouring actually does. Like makeup in general, it is a way to enhance what is already on your face. Do some take it overboard? Of course. But contouring is a way to add dimension and balance to your face. Like wigs, weaves, and clothing trends,it’s fun and a way for women to temporarily try different looks. And while a lot of attention is paid to nose narrowing, a lot of contouring focuses on the shape of one’s eyes, chin, cheeks, lips and face.

In my opinion, it’s not a form of self-hate and a this meme seems to lump all black women who contour into that category.

Check out these fierce black girl contours. Eurocentric who?

Press Play▶️ still testing out different lighting and editing so bare with me Im new to this, I am not tech savvy whatsoever😅 but hey we all have to start somewhere lol and Ive been wanting to do this for the longest and I refuse to keep putting it off because of being scared😜 ✨Products used✨ Brushes for foundation and concealer- @mikasabeauty (OBSESSED with the ovalbrush set) Foundation- @gerardcosmetics BB+ illumination/ @maybelline fit me in shades 338 and 360 Concealer-@morphebrushes in khaki Contour/glow-@anastasiabeverlyhills contour kit and glow kit Mascara-Instant fakes Eyes-@morphebrushes 35OS Blush- @morphebrushes 9N #aunimakeup #makeupbyauni #makeupartistworldwide #morphegirl #morphe #mikasabeauty #anastasiabeverlyhills #anastasiabrows #abhglowkit #wakeupandmakeup #tutorial #follow #makeupforblackwomen #melanin #beauty #highlight #contour #kcmakeupartist

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Fall Glam by the beautiful @camillearianemakeup 😍😍😍😍

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Ladies, what are your thoughts? 

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32 Comments on "Yes I’m a Black Woman Who Contours, No I Don’t Do it to Look More Eurocentric"

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falila

I’m sorry but countouring your face is not enhancing what you already have but “creating” new features especially the nose. Most of time the nose before and after contouring are totally different, how can you say this is enhancing. Do whatever you want but accept what you do, dont try to deny it. Maybe you dont try to look like a white woman but you still want to change your features. Yes thin straight nose does exist in Africa but this is not the common feature, Ethiopian and Eritrean are not a good example.

queenubian

African people have diveristy genetic different than other people living in the World,so too people of African dispora have inherited these African characteristics!
Some black women have slanted eyes or almond eyes! My eyes tend to be very long and almond shaped so this make me Chinese or want be Asian?
We have slanted eyes and almond eyes,because these are our African Genetic diversity!

bumper UK
What I would like to know is, does all that contouring makeup stay on your face all day? I wonder because sometimes I forget I have eyeliner on and rub my eyes. Along with blowing my nose and sweating, at the end of the day I have very little makeup still on my face. It just seems an awful lot of trouble to go through for a few hours of looking different. Why change the shape of your nose with makeup if you are happy with your looks? I think that’s a contradiction right there. Makeup should enhance what you… Read more »
maximilion

I don’t even know why this topic is an issue-I don’t know ANY black women who contours who does it to look European as straight noses are indicative of people with African roots also not just a feature that hails from white roots-if someone wants to slim their nose through makeup that doesn’t necessarily meany you want to be white.

falila

That not necessarily means you want to be white but definitely means to diminush your african feature

maximilion

There are Africans,many of whom have straight noses-not all black people have flat or broad noses,so if someone wants their nose to look slimmer,shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing or wanting to be ‘white’.

Nnaya
This article is awesome. Thanks for sharing, Portia! The way I see makeup, hair, and fashion is that they all should be fun and done in moderation. As we all know from those amazing special effects makeup artists who morph their faces and hairlines to look like different celebrities, makeup at its max can indeed transform one’s features. When I’m wearing my makeup my aim is to enhance, not change, my features. I’ve tried contouring once for a special event which included contouring my nose. But that entire night, I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures because I’d cringe when I’d… Read more »
maralondon

You’re from Africa, how come you don’t know that Ethiopia and Eritrea are located in the East?

Delia
To the writer: ‘Ethiopian and Eritrean women’??? Really? I bet my life savings you have no trace of either. In fact, the majority of black American and Caribbean are from NOT from either as well. And you know that. If a black person of the transatlantic slave trade has European features, it’s most likely due to a non consensual sexual act in their ancestral past involving someone of European decent. Only 25% of black Americans are purely of African decent. Yes all features originated from Africa, but not the areas of Africa where people were dragged to these parts. So… Read more »
maralondon

I cannot find in the article where it states that African Caribbeans and Americans are descended from Ethiopians or Eritreans. However my daughter’s father who is of Igbo origin told me that Igbos and well read are in fact descendants of Ethiopians.

Chioma

As a Nigerian and an Igbo person I can whole heartedly say that that is a BIG Iie lmao maybe the Fulani in the north but igbos in the south no.

GHAnana85

I always thought contouring was started by drag queens to make their masculine features look more feminine. I think many women have evolved from looking 2d with one shade of makeup. some people can be excessive but no one is trying to look white.

Camille

So much fingerpointing and projecting goes on when it comes to who wants to be or look white. Even if someone is doing it to make themselves look more white it is no different than a weave or relaxer. It hurts no one and isn’t a big deal.
When it comes to highlighting and contouring, many black women NATURALLY have 2 shades of skin on their face just from how the sun hits us and our high cheekbones. Highlights and contours are just a way to enhance that.

jj
first i’m very sorry for my bad inglish , i’m just a black beautiful women who want to respond to this . when a white women do conturing to have big lips or when a white girls do squat to have big butt like black women . anybody say something. conturing is just be more beautiful. black women are very beautiful. white people are very jealous. don’t listen what white people say. if you are black you can do conturing. and white girls can do squat or putt injectections to have big lips . we are one life why people… Read more »
MrsMokM

Very well written. And I agree, the diversity of women in Africa and the diaspora is too great to lump us all in the category: big nose, lips and wide unshapely head. That being said, I sometimes wonder whether these memes are posted purely to get a rise ut of others…

Rayn
Although all the points in this piece are very very true i just wanted to point out that I follow the woman who originally created this meme on twitter and it was meant to be a joke- she even made sure to tweet out that the meme was a joke. She herself is Somali so she knows better then anyone how certain features like narrow noses and high cheekbones are most definitely not just white. Its only now that people have rediscovered it and clearly have taken it out of context and created this debate. But amazing piece it is… Read more »
TWA4now

Contouring HELPS what you have….that’s all.

Interested

I have yet to see a black woman who didn’t have high cheekbones.

maralondon

Exactly. You should see my mum’s and sister’s cheekbones.

Riak

I used to be ashamed and think that I was wanting to be more Eurocentric every time I did my nose but now I’ve realised that it’s not a big problem unless you have some self loving issues and actually want to be more Eurocentric but I’m happy with who I am, it took a couple of years but I’m happy now.

Riak

I saw this meme on instagram and I agreed with it but now I’ve realised that my nose is quite thin and it’s in the middle. It’s not broad or thin. There are some black people with noses like that so it doesn’t matter. Yes a lot of black people have the broad noses and they’re perfect but some like myself are different and don’t have the typical black person nose.

SimplePseudonym
I never thought about it this way, but the meme is right, now that you mention it. Using Ethiopian and Eritrean women as a counter point doesn’t work b/c the thin noses come from having Arab ancestry. I have long found some black people’s fascination with the looks of Ethiopian and Eritrean women in general to be problematic because it stems from admiration of that mixed heritage (rather than their Africanness), consciously or subconsciously. Things are definitely getting better, though, and we are making great strides. However, this doesn’t take away from the truth in the fact that most facial… Read more »
Itumeleng
Exactly. Ethiopians are mixed race. As African as they are, they are NOT pure. I like my nose, as one can see in my avatar its cute and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am a 100% Tswana. Black people need to believe in our own looks and our beauty and embrace it. I get it, its so hard after centuries of European brainwashing. Heck I think many other Africans are cuter than Ethiopians, namely Senegalese, South Africans, Kenyans, Angolans etc etc and these groups do not have a mixed bloodline. I honestly believe black women contour to… Read more »
FeeFee
“I honestly believe black women contour to have thinner noses. No amount of denial cancels that fact. Otherwise why change how your own nose looks? Its an inferiority complex, period.”–Contouring for a thinner nose is just ONE aspect of contouring. If you are into makeup you would understand that contouring is done to enhance various features of your face, not just your nose. So to say that black women contour to have a thinner nose is not completely accurate. Agree an aspect of contouring is to thin the nose, but that’s not the end all to be all of contouring.… Read more »
Itumeleng
Ok, but I have seen so many Youtube videos of black women contour and thin their noses in a way that does not in any way shape or form resemble their real noses. So yes its completely an inferiority complex to paint something on your nose to make an illusion that its thinner than it really is. Its self hating point blank period, and please, lets not do that whole ‘white women do it too’. White women have thin noses generally, thinner than ours. I’m glad I don’t follow trends, because black female trends is playing catch up to white… Read more »
falila

Thank you for saying this. They are just in denial

Delia

Spot on! The writer and the rest of these black women need to find another justification for this practice. To throw in Ethiopia is just silly.

FeeFee

“Not to mention that 99.9% of famous black women have surgically evolved to have a Michael Jackson nose once they make it big.”–You had me until this. That is the most ridiculous thing in your post. Numbers like this, you would need to back verifiable data. I understand your overall point, but this took the cake lol.

SimplePseudonym
Well, first, there is something called figurative language that I assumed people would know about before reading my comment. 99.9% isn’t meant to be a scientific number- it’s a tool to make the point that a ridiculous majority of famous black women have had their noses done. Remember, this is a comment section on a blog, not an academic paper. Second, all you have to do it look at famous black women to see this trend. They all have the Michael Jackson nose and you just have to look at photos of them when they first came out to tell… Read more »
Hocus Pocus

While I can’t speak for Habesha Ethiopians, the majority of Ethiopians mostly Oromos and Somalis do not have an Arab or foreign ancestry.
People seem to only picture them when talking about Ethiopia.

BattyByChoice

I agree. Just like there are Egyptians with more african features and Egyptians that appear to have more features corresponding to the other middle eastern countries.

SimplePseudonym

Yes, to this. That actually lends to the other part of what bothers me about the fascination (I didn’t go into detail because wasn’t the main topic of the post): because the association of Ethiopians with being exceptionally beautiful is really reserved for those who have Arab ancestry. I don’t see people falling all over for dark skinned, kinky-haired Ethiopians. It’s the mixed ones with the curly hair. Kinda like how everybody goes gaga over the light-skinned Indians and act like South India doesn’t exist.

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