They are considered one of the hottest, most successful, women’s groups of all time. Tragedy may have changed things, but their legacy lives on. The messages they encouraged for teenagers, and young women, concerning safe intimacy, and themes of womanhood, continue to be heard, by today’s generation. The messages and songs of TLC, never go out of style. Even with a missing member, one must continue to understand that this musical, feminine bond is eternal.
One of the most memorable attributes of TLC, is the artistry, creativity, and storytelling of their music. One of those such is for the song, “Unpretty.”
The lyrics tell, and speak of, many things. Nevertheless, the imagery of the video is telling.
Listening to the song, “Unpretty,” one listens to a common theme and struggle, among women. The desire to feel pretty and acceptable for the male gaze. Stuck in constant cycles of low self-esteem and reliance on society’s expectations of women, who fit into the beauty realm. The song highlights the reality of many women, who are so emotionally starved for outside validation and approval, that many will do anything to get it. Even if that means altering their looks, and very existence, to. . .fit in.
Throughout the video, getting breast implants, bullying, and eating disorders highlight some of the critical issues facing many women. Too fat. Not enough hair. Small breasts. Big Breasts. Nose too big. The list goes on. Many of the times, much of the doubt begins with our thoughts. And then, our thoughts take over. Our self delusions, fears, anxieties become an obsession. We want to be desirable. We want to be beautiful. We want to be validated, by mainstream society. We, too, want to be included, as part of the “pretty girls.”
And then. . .And then. . .the Feminine steps in, and gives us our. . .reminder. That “wake up” call needed by many of us, when we are trying to fill that void.
“You can buy your hair if it won’t grow, You can fix your nose if it says so. . .
You can buy all the make-up the Mac can make
But if, you can look inside you, find out who am I to, be in a position to make me feel so. . . d*** Unpretty. . .”
Wow! Can we say power in those very words alone? Power in the simplicity of truth, and where real beauty. . .lays! Sidenote: Its not external.
When it comes to the famous slogan, “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder,” this song expresses its meaning to the very core. “Unpretty” gives phenomenal, enriching texture to what it means for a woman (old and young), and girls to find beauty and joy in the uniqueness of their Being. To appreciate their own physicality, and the fact that they are beautiful because there is no one like them. Which means that one’s beauty, and recognition of it, starts. . .within. It is from the interior, where one finds their beauty. Once a woman, or young girl, finds her inner beauty, recognizes it, and cherished it, she begins to glow on the outside. That’s true beauty, Ladies!
Listening to more of the lyrics, one is re-acquainted with the journey in trying to find one’s beauty. The very first thing that is spoken is initiated by T-Boz. Her poetic serenade, “I wish I could tie you up in my shoes, make you feel Unpretty, too. I was told I was beautiful, but what does that mean to you?” is an inner cry that every little girl, and woman, can relate to. The feeling is not good. It’s not pretty.
Then comes along Chilli, who gives a diary narrative of what the reality of “pretty” looks like. “My outsides look cool, my insides are blue. Everytime I think I’m through, it’s because of you. . .”. Many women are dealing with that awful paradox. This facade of looking good to feel good. And, while there is truth to that, it does need a little reversal. In order for one to truly “feel good,” it is going to require igniting that feeling from the inside, not dressing it from, the out. This is one of the most powerful themes of this song! Many women dress up in beauty, but they don’t really wear its decor.
“Unpretty” came out during a particular generation, but it is relevant for all women. The message is very obvious, we become “Unpretty,” the moment we feel, it. Which means necessary work is needed for the interior, in order for a woman to feel beautiful. And, that requires the removal, and stripping, of one’s outer ensemble. Whatever beauty and cosmetic accessories we have adorned on the outside of our bodies, take them off. Remove them. Place them aside, and be spiritually, bare. Look at yourself in her “plain” image, and love her for who she truly is. Love her. Embrace her. Nurture her for who she is. And, then, see her as. . .pretty!
That’s one of the most imperative lessons of this song, as it pertains to woman’s loving of self. For girls to embrace and love themselves. What is often ignored when it comes to the definition of “pretty,” is that it is not discussed in terms of, love! Terms such as pretty and beautiful are supposed to be reflective of positive and holistic energy. The energy behind them is supposed to be connected to. . .love. Unfortunately, humanity has abused the terms. Exploited the sacredness of their very Being. Transformed them into havens of envy, abuse, and the feminine’s willing to destroy reflections of her own Being (i.e. other women and girls), for the sole purpose of gaining favor and being prized by the male gaze. In today’s world, pretty and beautiful have been removed from any connection to. . .love. Through “Unpretty,” and TLC’s performance in the video, that very notion was questioned, challenged, and shattered.
Pretty is patient. Pretty is nutritious. Pretty is soul searching. Pretty is friendly. Pretty is caring. Pretty listens. Pretty has vision. Pretty is loving, and relinquishes into. . .Love!