the price of beauty: uganda

Not only was Uganda on my mind this week since Arlington Academy of Hope, our client for my PR Portfolio group, is located there, but The Price of Beauty was also in this African country on Monday.

They immediately went to a rural part of the country to meet their beauty ambassador, Judy, who grew up in Hima tribe, but now lives in the city so she has both perspectives of their culture’s beauty.

After they arrived, Judy brought them to the store in the village for them to put on some of their dresses. They’re made of silks and beautiful materials, but a difference between their clothing and ours is that they are billowy and made to make the woman look bigger and fuller. As Jessica said, “we wear the corsets,” but in this tribe, the fatter you are, the more beautiful you are, yet that’s offensive here in the states.

From there, they went to go talk to some men about what they think beauty is. Unlike the tabloids here, they actually told Jessica that she needed to gain weight and was too thin. She asked them what “too big” is considered and one said, “if she’s having difficulty getting up, then she’s too fat.

But there’s an underlying symbol as to this view of beauty. See in Uganda, cows are a status symbol. The larger your herd of cows, the wealthier you are. The bigger your wife is, the more money you have, but also the more she looks like a cow which is a compliment in that area.

A large beauty tradition comes when a woman is getting ready for marriage. Jessica and CaCee met Martunge who is about to get married, but for the last 2 months she’s been living in a “fattening hut” where her mother and aunt prepare her.

She drinks gourds full of milk all day (about 5,000 calories a day) without doing anything else. In those 2 months, she’s gained over 80 pounds, but men appreciate and love a woman with curves so this tradition is considered a right of passage into womanhood.

While the girls are with Martunge, Ken goes with one of the village’s men to learn how to milk a cow. It’s the same milk that Martunge’s been drinking for the last few months and I think Ken was surprised at the thickness and richness. It’s not the pasteurized skim milk we can get here, but unpasteurized, raw whole milk.

While using herbs for medicinal purposes was once considered liberal and hippie, it’s been gaining popularity in the States the last few years; however, in other parts of the world, it’s very common. Uganda is no different. They met with a woman who uses herbs in specific combinations to make lotions, hair washes and deodorants. These can leave a lasting scent for several days aside from its other properties.

The most exciting part of their stay was when they were all asked to be a part of Martunge’s bridal party. Jessica and CaCee were bridesmaids as Ken was a groomsman. CaCee said that you could tell it was an imporant day for the village and the neighboring ones because of the tents and decorations. All the villagers were dressed up and in their best clothes.

Another difference between their wedding traditions and ours is that the bride is dressed all in black with her head and face is covered and is under an umbrella until the end of the ceremony. The groom can not see her at all throughout the entire ceremony.

“Beauty is what you want to see, it’s up to nobody else but you want to see and what the people of Uganda wanted to see is a full figured woman. That’s beauty here,” Ken said at the end of the segment. Well said! Why do we think thin is beautiful? Why did we ever?

Jessica said that being in Uganda made her see a definition of beauty that she’s never known before and it makes you think about your definition and your perceptions. She respects them for loving their way of life as they were always happy and smiling no matter how big you are. What a wonderful way to live!

Next destination, Morocco… and from the sound of the previews, Jessica’s going to be showing a little too much skin for them…

When was the last time you felt beautiful? Does your size play a role in how beautiful you feel?

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4 responses to “the price of beauty: uganda

  1. The last time I felt beautiful was actually the other day at the end of my yoga class. I wasn’t feeling particularly “thin” and I was sweaty and in workout clothes. But for some reason, I felt incredibly empowered and at peace with my body.

    Most of the time I would say that my size does play a role in me feeling beautiful, to be honest. However, the experience after my yoga class proved that that doesn’t always have to be the case.

    • I love yoga so much for that reason. I’m glad you had that experience and carry that with you on the other days that you feel a little off ❤

  2. When I was in Kenya last semester, I experienced a lot of what Jessica and co. did in Uganda. In East Africa, bigger definitely = better. I am a curvy girl and I got SO much positive attention for it during the 4 months I spent there. Guys were always complimenting me on my figure, etc. I actually got quite annoying after awhile. But an ego boost, for sure!

  3. this was really interesting, I can’t imagine drinking 5000 calories worth of milk a day, I can barely drink one glass!

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