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Embracing Authenticity While Dating: What We Learned from Tolú On “Perfect Match”

Embracing Authenticity While Dating: What We Learned from Tolú On “Perfect Match”

Tolu from Perfect Match

In what ways does society influence who we view as desirable? After the latest season of the popular Netflix dating show Perfect Match, cast member Tolú Ekundare recounted some of the backlash she received from viewers via TikTok. Much of the criticism was centered around her appearance, especially her short hairstyle.

@toluekundare

Needless to say, I love and appreciate everyone who has been pouring life into me 🥹💖 #perfectmatch #femalegaze #netflix #beautystandards #perfectmatchnetflix

♬ original sound – TOLÚ

Tolú’s experience leads to a bigger question about true authenticity while dating. Centering looks instead of personality, something we may all be guilty of, can lead to an inauthentic dating experience. Whether it occurs subconsciously or not, we give those we find attractive preferential treatment to those who stray from normative beauty standards. It can be difficult to avoid pressure to conform to these standards in the pursuit of feeling desirable. But how do we determine who is attractive? Let’s unpack how our dating preferences are rooted in systemic structures and explore ways to maintain authenticity in our dating lives.

Normative Beauty Standards

The societal beauty standard centers on whatever is closest to whiteness, skinniness, straightness, and being able-bodied. Anyone closer to this standard receives better societal treatment and has more options in the dating market. As a darker-skinned Black woman, Tolú expressed her awareness of not being the beauty standard. She explained how choosing to embrace her bald-cut hairstyle left some people questioning how she would attract men. This is a classic example of texturism in action.

Texturism is the systemic discrimination experienced by people who have coarse, tightly curled, and kinkier hair texture. Since this hair texture differs from the beauty standard, which is long, straight, and blonde, it is perceived as less desirable. This is why Tolú’s hairstyle received negative comments from some viewers. Society has also conditioned us to believe that hair is a symbol of feminine expression. This results in the devaluing of women who choose to go bald, associating them with masculine traits.

Another important system that influences our dating preferences is featurism. Featurism is the systemic discrimination experienced by people who don’t have what are perceived as white or European features. Eurocentric features are associated with a small narrow nose, small lips, light eyes, and high cheekbones. It is important to note that anyone can have these features, but because whiteness is the societal beauty standard, those features became associated with white people. In Tolu’s case, her bigger nose and lips stray from the typical beauty standard, because Afrocentric features such as fuller lips and a broader nose are in direct opposition to the current beauty standard. Like texturism, the dating pool is not kind to people who are impacted by featurism.

The most influential system that impacts who we find desirable is colorism, which is the systemic discrimination of people who are darker skinned within the same ethnic or racial group. This is an extension of racism, which is a broader form of discrimination against other races.

So for people like Tolú from Perfect Match, who are uniquely impacted by colorism, featurism, and texturism, what does embracing authenticity look like while dating?

Embracing Authenticity While Dating

It’s important to address how these systems of discrimination influence our dating lives. Our biases leads to the dehumanization of people who are not desirable, so it is crucial to deconstruct these ideologies. Constant reminders by society that you need to alter yourself to be accepted and experience love can also cause self-hatred to grow. Combating these limiting beliefs requires an awareness of how you are impacted by or perpetuate these stereotypes.

True authenticity is rooted in radical self-love. Connecting with your intuition is key to establishing your true inner voice. This version of yourself can discern whether your actions are rooted in societal conditioning, which will allow you to recognize and reject biases, like beauty standards, that are maintained by our participation. Self-reflecting through intentional conversations, journaling, or meditation are great ways to practice self-love.

Tolú from Perfect Match often embraced her authenticity throughout the show through her fashion style. She was very intentional about staying true to her roots by incorporating Nigerian clothing throughout her dating experience. Tolú was unapologetic about her Black identity and self-affirming about her sense of worth, a great practice to boost self-esteem.

Portrait of Tolu Ekundare from Netflix dating show Perfect Match Season 2
Tolú was unapologetic about her Black identity and self-affirming about her sense of worth throughout Season 2 of Perfect Match. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

It is important to note that we cannot self-love our way out of systemic structures, but internal work is still helpful in recognizing our biases. Unlearning the societal beauty standard will liberate your dating experience. You will embrace authenticity and not settle for relationships that don’t serve you. It will also allow you to show up as the best version of yourself while dating or embarking on serious relationships.  

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