Name: Jasmine Pittenger
Residence: I’ve lived all over the world, but am now based in the US
Occupation: Writer and Humanitarian.
What is your Life quote?
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
What is your idea of Beauty? ( Inner Beauty & Outer Beauty )
“You’re going to have a huge butt like me. I can already see it,” says my big sister. A National Geographic lies open across my skinny nine-year-old knee. I look down at the magazine so my hair flops forward. Don’t let her see my face go red.
I turn a page. I gasp. A stone Venus statue looms on the page. Hips four times as wide as her waist. Maybe five times as wide! The magazine feels heavy in my lap. I trace those lumpy stone hips with a finger for one long breathless second.
For the next few years I twist to check my bottom in the mirror every morning. It grows, little by little, until I’m a teenager. One with a backside that people call “round” or “voluptuous” when they’re being nice. Or just “big” (or worse) when they’re not.
But I have an escape plan: If the National Geographic is to be trusted, then there were places on earth where my curves might be not just okay – they might actually make me beautiful. Places like Samoa, or Senegal, or Brazil.
Over the next 20 years of my life, I live on nearly every continent. From dancing the lambada in Brazil to working with refugees from Darfur in Africa, I learn some surprising things about beauty. First, that beauty can look very different wherever you go in the world. I notice, living in places where few have enough to eat, how soon my own eyes start to see women with an extra layer of flesh as beautiful. I meet refugee women who’ve survived rape as a weapon of war, and girls who had been subjected to female genital cutting. I meet women all over the world who struggle to escape the large and small violences that are imposed on their bodies – by others, and also by themselves.
And I learn what is maybe the most important thing of all: That we are each beautiful, every single one of us, if we can embrace ourselves, scars and all. That maybe – just maybe – we can each learn to love our own version of beauty. And that seeing our own beauty, and that of the world around us, may help us build a more peaceful world.
Who of the 17 global beauties that Carola painted could be your inspiration and why?
(Beyonce, Hillary Clinton, Oprah, Kate Moss, princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, Julia Roberts, Angela Merkel, Kate Middleton, Queen Noor, Michelle Obama, Linda de Mol, Madonna, Angelina Jolie, Sheryl Sandberg, Dilma Roussef and Sonia Gandhi.)
Beyonce carries her beauty, including some seriously womanly curves, with pride. She doesn’t get caught up in ideas of how she “should” look or who she “should” be, but walks boldly through the world as the strong and unique woman she is. She’s one of a global tribe of women who are changing the shape of beauty.
Who is your own inspiration in life and why?
My mother Jane has a brand new passion at age 70: wilderness photography. She stomps around bogs, sand dunes, canyons and mountains taking photos, her hazel eyes shining in her wrinkled face like a little kid. After two years of this, she’s already winning awards for her photos. Before this, she was a midwife and then a psychotherapist, and earned two graduate degrees while raising five children. She inspires me by keeping her eyes wide open to beauty, and because of her wise, loving heart. I asked Jane about beauty and she said:
“I delivered a thousand newborns as a midwife. Every single one of those babies was beautiful.”
Jasmine Pittenger is writing a memoir about the freedom she found over 20 years of living in places like Pakistan, Darfur, Spain and Brazil, and discovering that beauty had a different face and shape everywhere she went. Read more or email Jasmine at firstname.lastname@example.org