Detroit Today: How beauty standards affect our quality of life

Cornell professor Kate Manne and salon owner Nefertiti Harris discuss how beauty standards shape society and our individual lives.

Stock photo of makeup.

Beauty does not just excite people — it also carries power.

In many surveys, those deemed beautiful are also considered more trustworthy, competent and intelligent than those considered unattractive. One study found that, when compared with attractive people who committed a moderate misdemeanor, the fines for unattractive people were about four times as large.

How does perceived beauty intersect with power, status and the way we carry ourselves each day?

Cornell University philosophy professor Kate Manne and hair stylist and salon owner Nefertiti Harris joined Detroit Today to discuss beauty standards in society and how things have progressed.

Listen: How beauty standards affect our career trajectory and incomes


Kate Manne is a philosophy professor at Cornell University. She says in order to be respected many have to change their physical appearance, and that beauty standards are upheld by particular social norms with historical roots.

“Beauty norms, beauty standards essentially privilege certain [innate] features over others,” says Manne.

Nefertiti Harris is a hair stylist and owner of Textures by Nefertiti, a natural hair salon and spa in Detroit. Harris says the acceptance of Black hair has gotten better in just the last ten years.

“I’ve seen such a beautiful progression to the embracing of our naturally kinky curly hair in a positive way. There is a self-love I particularly see in people in Detroit that is so overwhelmingly beautiful,” says Harris.

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    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.