Why Lists Like “Trinidad and Tobago’s 10 Most Beautiful Women” Are Problematic

This week, a list featuring the top ten proclaimed “most beautiful” women from Trinidad and Tobago made its rounds on social media. The list, which displayed Trini beauties like Fay-Ann Lyons, Sarah Jane Waddell, Brianna Shim and more, attracted the attention of Trinis of all ages – and welcomed comments left, right and center discussing the validity of this list. The general consensus: it missed the mark.

There are so so so many reasons why a list like this can be considered problematic. Not just for the politically correctness of it all, but just as a woman in today’s society.

In between laughing at whoever wrote the list (it remains anonymous, and probably for good reason) for thinking that they had the qualifications to decide who was the most beautiful, I decided to write this piece.

Firstly, beauty is subjective. It’s a fact. What one might find incredible, another may think it’s mediocre. So there is no way that one list would ever satisfy the general public. And while agreeing to disagree or leaving room for argument is always healthy, it’s certainly not when it’s about a person.

Trinidad and Tobago is widely known as the land of beautiful women. I mean, maybe we’re biased, but truly, we have some of the most incredible women – and a lot of it has to do with our culture. We are notoriously mixed as an island – with a little bit of this and that thrown in from everywhere: from the days of slavery, indentured labour and immigrant populations. Our proximity to South America guarantees us just a little dash of Latin flavour. And, our local culture itself offers the perfect amount of subtle sexiness to all Trini women – whether they’re black, white, red or grey.

You see, in T&T, no colour can be considered “more beautiful” than another – and that’s the beauty of our twin islands.

So how can we, as the land of beautiful women aplenty, choose merely ten. Wait, I’ll repeat it… ten! There are more beautiful women in even our office than that. But how can we choose ten from ALL of the women in our country? It’s near impossible. It’s setting us up for failure. Perhaps that’s why the list was a flop.

But beyond just that. Not only are we home to some of the most beautiful ladies, but Trini women are multi-faceted. Looking past just their beauty, our women – and especially those featured on this list (who are often in the public eye) – have so much more going for them. They’re educated, driven, intelligent, hard-working, mothers, daughters, wives, sisters.

Looking at them, while their beauty is evident, it’s certainly not their only redeeming quality, or even their most important. To place this much emphasis on their beauty is in fact insulting, it borderline belittles all of their other merits.

They mentioned Sarah Jane Waddell’s beauty and presence on stage at Miss World, and even noted her little snafu from last year, but failed to mention her ability to speak multiple languages, her degree from a top-notch university or even her entrepreneurial spirit. They displayed Brianna Shim and mentioned her being a lawyer, but didn’t touch on the fact that she’s also an incredible mother and a talented graphic artist. They showed off Fay-Ann Lyons and noted that she was the queen of soca, but didn’t include the fact that she’s a loving wife and mother, or the winner of many, many awards. They included Amy Stollmeyer but neglected to mention her talents beyond her looks.

But perhaps the most problematic thing in this list is that all of these girls – as different as they are in looks, talents and personalities – are basically carbon copies of each other, because the author chose from the same friend groups, the same type, the same size. In terms of diversity, the list features someone from every race and group in Trinidad, but it feels like you’re looking at the same women.

Especially in Trinidad, where we are known for having a little more to hold or more curves to enjoy, this list featured women on the smaller end of the spectrum – no one there is over a size 6, and that’s a stretch. And there’s nothing wrong with being on the slimmer side, but it’s certainly not fair to display only this ideal of what’s considered beautiful.

For a young girl growing up to read this and look at herself and think something is off with her, well that’s where the issue truly lies.

This is not limited to Trinidad, by the way. These lists exist all over the world. In fact, we had a few lists circulate just last year rating the hottest men in Trinidad, so it’s not a new thing. But what the creation – and sharing – of these lists does, is welcomes comments about those who appear on the list. People reading the list now think they have the right to make comments about their appearance, and especially about whether they truly “deserve” to be on the list, like it’s a prize. It creates an atmosphere that encourages bashing – and in this day and age, women shouldn’t be tearing each other down. It allows men to think that it’s okay to make comments about a woman’s appearance, and to put their beauty before all of their other redeeming qualities. It gives outsiders yet another power in your life, one that they were never asking for. Did any of those ten women get consulted to approve their place on the list? No. So why are we allowing the general public to make comments (and yes, there are a lot of comments).

But perhaps the most problematic thing about this list is that it makes lists like these matter. These kinds of lists are dumb. We know they’re dumb. They’re not that interesting when they’re written about the world’s most beautiful models, so why should they be considered interesting when they’re written about people we know, or know of, or have friends who know? I’ll tell you why: the drama. Trinis love the drama. We love bacchanal – our culture is based on bacchanal.

Take one scroll through Trini twitter and you’ll understand exactly what we mean. We’re a culture who thrives on calling people out, on laughing at the unimportant things in life, at watching closely (mostly silently, but sometimes not-so-silently) as a big story unfolds. We love nothing more than to see a notification, and follow along with a little gleam in our eye. We secretly send it to friends. We discuss it at lengths in our WhatsApp groups. We make memes and jokes for months to come, until another drama comes along that takes our minds off of this one.

And that’s what this list is: another drama to comment on. To laugh at amongst friends. We’re all guilty. But at the end of the day, why does this matter? Why is any of this important? The answer is that it’s not. It’s not the be all and end all. It’s not any of these women’s – or any woman’s, in fact – redeeming qualities. It’s not their claim to fame, nor should it ever be. But sharing and liking these lists encourages them to be created again and again.

And should we really be giving anyone else this kind of power?

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