I was a speaker at an event for ELLE and Matchesfashion.com. I had that nervous excitement going on all day.
After finishing my talk in the evening, I chatted with attendees who all shared how much they'd enjoyed my story.
In turn, I listened to theirs and was riding high off the energy of being lucky enough to do what I love and be in a room full of like-minded people who appreciate it.
ELLE had live streamed the event. I got home, caught up with texts from friends congratulating me and asking how it went, then checked the videos on ELLE's Facebook page.
The first comment under a clip of me introducing myself?
"She looks like a man."
A bunch of people had agreed with the person who'd made that statement. Right underneath that were a bunch of comments saying I was beautiful, but that first one was a heavy hitter and you tend to not notice the rest.
My first reaction was "OK. And…?"
I mean, this is relevant how? What does it matter? And even the people who were kind enough to leave a comment saying I'm beautiful, it just brought home to me how this is the first thing we're judged on as women.
No one was saying they were looking forward to what I had to say, everything seemed to be resting on how attractive people deem me to be.
Apparently nothing else mattered. My intelligence, my passion, my work ethic, how I treat those around me, who I am as a person—they weren't interested in finding that out, because I don't match up to the standard of prettiness they require from a woman.
I instantly thought of one of my favorite quotes from fashion legend Diana Vreeland:
"You do not have to be pretty. You do not owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your coworkers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked female.'"
I give this quote a standing ovation every time I read it.
Here's the thing, the comment was from a woman and it was other women who were agreeing with her.
The patriarchy has force-fed us the standards of beauty we have to live up to since the beginning of time, and we've bought into it so much that we're willing to call out women who don't live up to a standard we didn't create in the first place.
It saddens me that there are women who are so caught up in the game, they're scared to color outside the lines.
Yup, sure, I'm not pretty. I'm not blonde and dainty. Or I don't look like a Kardashian. And since that seems to be the new beauty standard, willingly falling outside of that is an act of courage these days.
I'm not what one would deem a "traditional beauty" no, but let's not get it twisted: I look f***ing fabulous.
I love my face. I love my body but most importantly, I love who I am as a person.
I don't care that some stranger on the internet thinks I'm ugly. I care that that's what my worth as a woman boils down to. And especially when it's other women making that judgment.
Are we not tired of this bullsh*t yet? Do we not understand that our value is tied up in so much more?
That moment, giving that talk, for a magazine I've wanted to work for my whole life and am now the fitness columnist of, that was a huge moment for me.
I spoke openly, honestly and passionately. I've worked really hard to get to this point in my career, only to have someone's first comment about it be how ugly I am.
So yeah, you're right, I'm not pretty. I have other concerns.
I'm more worried about how smart I am, how passionate I am, if I'm being a good friend, daughter, sister, if I'm making a positive impact on those around me, how I can mentor young women to get where they want to be, how I can put good work and good vibes into the universe to counteract the veritable quagmire of rubbish we have to wade through every day.
My attractiveness isn't my primary concern. Maybe I'm crazy for ranking "Am I a good person?" higher than "How can I look more like Kim K today?" But hey, I'll live with it.
I'm not pretty, but I'm fly as hell. I decide what attractive means for me, I don't care about conforming to a standard I'm never gonna meet.
Nothing seems to make people more uncomfortable than a girl who's not deemed traditionally attractive, owning her looks, being totally cool with it, and serving hot dishes of fabulous everywhere she goes.
Get used to it, babes.
This article originally appeared on ELLE.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.