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 con­tour­ing… 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.

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.

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.

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 »
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.

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 women… Read more »
falila

Thank you for say­ing this. They are just in denial

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