Who knew Belizean women could be pretty?
We live in a society
Before you come for me, the above headline is satire, but for many Belizeans it very well may not be. There is a long-standing conversation over what is deemed as beautiful, and how society skews the criteria to most Euro-centric features. We know this. What constitutes the “perfect” man or woman has evolved – but only slightly – over the last decade. What was considered an insult before – being ‘thicc’ – was now a compliment. Where in the ’90s, bushy eyebrows were seen as unkempt on women, are now being emulated by celebrities and influencers. But one thing that has remained constant – or at least here in Belize – is that white women are automatically considered more attractive than women of color.
Belize is vastly diverse, not only in food and culture but in what we look like. I remember going to college in Kentucky and attending parties with my Belizean friends. When we would introduce ourselves as Belizeans, confusion would flash across people’s faces: “but y’all look nothing alike.” No, we don’t. That doesn’t make us any less Belizean. Just like how there isn’t (or there shouldn’t be) a typical American poster boy, there isn’t one for Belize, either. We could go in depth on colonization, heritage, and migration in Central America that a certain rhymes-with-mistofer-molombus may have had a hand in, but I won’t. I’m here today to talk about the infuriating pattern that people – our own Belizeans – display when they see a pretty girl: “She can’t possibly be Belizean.”
Scrolling through TikTok (most of my story ideas begin this way…), I tend to come across local TikTokers now and then. Some cringe, some funny, some just straight vibing. However, whenever an attractive Belizean girl comes across my For You Page, there is at least one comment asking her “if she’s really Belizean.” Mind you, the hashtags say #BelizeanTikToker, and the girl is obviously a person of color. Another one I saw, where a very beautiful woman was doing a simple makeup tutorial, a person commented, “Wow I didn’t know Belize had girls this pretty.” I remember one of these women replying to a comment with a TikTok defending that she is in fact, Belizean, and proving it by speaking Creole. Commenters were adamant, saying “no Belizean looks like that” or that she had to be “half-American.” Most of these women were lighter-skinned, with more Euro-centric features, but they were undeniably people of color.
I was wondering why comments like these upset me, until another TikToker (@aerienuh) put it perfectly into words, which gave me the basis for this column.
Apparently, it wasn’t only a Belize issue, but a general one, as well. In the TikTok, she speaks about how a slew of commenters came for an Ecuadorian girl – who was obviously non-white – and called her white passing and demanded that she acknowledge her privilege. Why? Because she was attractive.
“It comes from internalized racism and internalized colorism,” @aerienuh said in the video. “That people think oh, because she’s pretty she can’t be indigenous or black. She has to be white passing, so she’s white passing.” This type of mentality has been present in Belize for generations; we could even talk about the adjacent internalized racism on how Belizeans in the service industry treat white tourists versus how they treat fellow Belizeans (I know a lot of Belizeans have spoken on this and are unhappy about it, to say the least.)
But back to the attractive Belizean women online: the kicker to this entire thing? The women take it as a compliment. One of them even thanked a commenter for assuming she was white. Rage turned to pity, that we have caused these women to think that not “looking Belizean” was a success when it comes to their beauty. In some of their reply TikToks, you can see the sparkle in their eye, the shy smile, that they were confused for being white-passing.
I happened to find another TikTok this week that corroborated that same mentality. In it, a Vietnamese woman is live-vlogging the reveal of her ancestry DNA test results. The woman curiously is donning a glaringly-red French beret as she waits for the reveal. She mentions both her parents are full Vietnamese, but because Vietnam was colonized by France, she hopes she might have some French DNA in her. She crosses her fingers, and when the results show she’s – surprise, surprise – 100% Asian, her face falls. “I must say I am a little bit disappointed.” The TikToker duetting her hilariously adds, “Why do you want colonizer DNA so bad?” Indeed, why, lady, why?!
In any case, I may be witnessing this and bringing it to light (hopefully), but I am at a loss as who’s to blame. Is it our older relatives, passing along this mentality? A “third-world-country’s” obsession to be like America? The ubiquitous, villainous “media”? It could be all this plus society, but the bottom-line to the thesis is yes, Belizean girls can be pretty — without being white. They always have been. It’s time you came to terms with it.