scarlett costello is proud of her body hair
The model, artist and body image activist on why she won’t conform to bullshit beauty ideals.
Image via instagram
20-year-old Scarlett Costello is part of the millennials movement that uses social media to challenge conventional beauty standards by simply posting pictures of her natural self. Born with bushy brows, north Cal native took heed of her mother’s warning not to over- pluck from a young age. And besides, she preferred them bushy anyway -- they made her look like Frida Kahlo, who she used to dress up as when she was little. It was only when she became a model, after being scouted at a Lady Gaga concert eight years ago, that her brows -- and the rest of her body hair for that matter -- became an issue. The older she got, however, the more she realised the importance of staying true to herself, so she ditched the tweezers and decided to embrace her natural beauty. Since then, Scarlet has managed to create a space for herself online as a true pioneer of the body positivity movement. Here she shares her story.
“I’ve always had a connection to beauty. My mum is a hairdresser so she always did my hair in the bathroom mirror before work in the morning. I had bows or clips, two buns or french braids, it was never down. She’d pull my hair tight, but it stayed in all day and I loved getting compliments on it. We had so many grosgrain ribbons and I wore them all the time. She also wore gardenia’s behind an ear for fancy occasions, and I’ll never forget that.
I did dance lessons after school pretty much my whole life, so I got to wear a little make-up at end of the year performances.But I remember in seventh or eighth grade, getting samples at Sephora with my auntie. High school is when I started to wear it properly. At first I did the classic black eyeliner and mascara look that all young girls do. I remember watching hours and hours of make-up guru YouTube videos -- I still do. That’s when I got kind of good at it and began to enjoy it and experiment more. I remember begging my mum for the Urban Decay Naked Palette for Christmas when it came out.
"The less emphasis I put on the more superficial stuff, the more I've been appreciating who I am in my own head, and that gives me the most confidence."
I don’t think I ever thought about whether or not I felt beautiful until I became a woman. I’ve always had a tendency to feel insecure, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve really focused on reminding myself how being liked or praised doesn’t matter as much as making myself happy does. Life got better when I realised how important it is to be your own best friend, your own number one fan. No one else is going to do it for you, no one is going to say some magic words that will make you feel better. You’ve got to come to terms with it on your own. I really try to focus on being introspective and remind myself that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Doing cool activities, making new friends, making art that I’m proud of etc. The less emphasis I put on the more superficial stuff, the more I've been appreciating who I am in my own head, and that gives me the most confidence. Also being in college has helped because I read a lot! Knowledge is really empowering and a huge confidence booster.
Being a model, you've got to understand that you're a blank canvas. It’s not necessarily about me as an individual in front of the lens. I try and balance the nature of having this job with maintaining something I’m proud of. I like my unibrow, I think I look better with it than without. I’m grateful that in the last year or two, people embracing their differences and unique features has been super trendy in casting, so I think I’ve gotten more work because of the choices I’ve made over my body. Sadly, I’m not in a financial position to be turning down jobs if I have to get a bikini wax or something. Choices and sacrifices, baby, the game of life.
"I really try not to care about societal ideals. Neither following nor breaking them makes me any more or less of a valid human."
I’ve received a lot of attention online for having body hair. I don’t think I divided the internet, I definitely wasn't trying to be provocative! The community I come from is kind of earthy, so a lot of my friends in high school didn’t care about body hair either. I went through periods of having long body hair and periods of not. It’s when I got more of a following on Instagram through my modelling, and was public about my body hair, that’s when I realised my actions have the potential to carry some weight with people, which is kind of cool. But it’s also intimidating. I’m just trying to figure out who I am, and what I like for myself, and people are either telling me they’re inspired by it or that I smell like onions or something.
I really try not to care about societal ideals. Neither following nor breaking them makes me any more or less of a valid human. But conforming is boring. That said, sometimes the negative comments really get to me. It’s frustrating when someone digs at you and they don’t even know anything about me, who I am, my family or where I come from, they only know the few photos I’ve shared on instagram. But then I remind myself, it’s not worth my tears or negative energy, move on. Disabling comments, and blocking people works great too; whenever I feel myself getting affected emotionally, I have to delete my Insta app for a week or so. It’s not healthy otherwise. You’ve got to recognise when something small is bugging you, and do your best to brush it off and disconnect.
My advice for someone who doesn’t know how to be beautiful would be: do something kind for yourself and others, spread more love and positivity -- the feeling from that alone will radiate from inside you. Beauty is being able to see the silver lining when life hands you shitty lemons. Beauty doesn’t bring happiness. Happiness brings the ability to see beauty.”