The other day I was skipping through the channels on TV when I caught the music channel. k.d. lang was singing Hallelujah. I’d heard this song before of course, it’s a very evocative and beautiful song, and I love it and how it makes me feel when I hear it.
But this time I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before. And it brought tears to my eyes.
k.d. lang was singing at a musical “sessions” program, where a small audience was standing, not sitting, and it was clearly an informal arrangement.
As she sang, I was overcome with how fully she was in the moment. How fully she embraced the song. How fully within her body she appeared to be. How utterly lacking in pretence or artifice she was. As she sang, she seemed to me to be the most alive and present person on the planet.
And to me, in that moment, she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.
Current definitions of female beauty
The current version of female beauty is fairly limited and extremely consistent. It usually consists these elements. Long full-bodied hair. An immaculately made-up face. A very slim body with visible cleavage or breast shape. Figure-hugging clothing and eye-catching accessories. Stilettos which extend the leg line.
You often seem an exaggerated version of this limited view of female beauty in music videos and of female singers performing on stage.
Let me be clear: I am not saying the women who exemplify the current examples and versions of idealised female beauty are not beautiful. That is not the point I’m making. I’m saying those examples are one version only of female beauty (the current popular example) and that it is not possible for the average woman to become beautiful in that way. Nor is it desirable, in my opinion.
I’m saying there are many many other ways to be beautiful that aren’t portrayed in the media (social and mainstream) – we are seeing an extremely limited and amazingly consistent version of female beauty. If this was the animal kingdom, we’d be seeing giraffes only – no lions, no wildebeest, no hippopotami, no rhinoceroses, no elephants, no leopards or tigers, no wolves or bears or moose, no frill neck lizards or kangaroos.
And this narrow unflinching definition of female beauty is leading many women to believe there is only one way to be beautiful. Which is making many women miserable because they’ll never be that kind of beautiful.
k.d. lang was the complete opposite of that. Apart from the simplicity of the set and the stage, k.d. did not appear to be wearing any makeup and her hair was its traditional short cut. Her clothing was dark and loose-fitting – no visible female shape was available. The only accessory she wore was a simple necklace. The way she wore her clothing was relaxed – the cuffs of her dark business-style shirt were unbuttoned and her feet were bare.
And yet I don’t think a more beautiful woman exists than the one k.d. lang was being in that moment. She was ripe, full, in full bloom. So herself. Not trying to be a single thing she wasn’t, but being everything she was to its fullest extent. Not holding back, standing in the full glory of the light intended only for her, but not taking anything from anyone else. She didn’t even seem aware of the audience.
As hard as I’m trying, I’m finding it difficult to put into words the emotion of watching her sing evoked in me. It was like watching a beautiful sunset, or an eagle in flight. It was a full expression of natural, fully expressed beauty, as the intricate design (of God or the Universe or whatever you believe brought this crazy amazing world into being) intended.
You can watch it below or by clicking here (if that link won’t play in your area/country, do a YouTube search for “kd lang Hallelujah max sessions”).
Watching k.d. lang in that moment made me wonder what would happen if more of us were fully ourselves, and not trying to hold ourselves up to an externally determined view of female beauty?
It made me wonder what would happen if we were fully ourselves, and not trying to squeeze ourselves into not only a ridiculously narrow but impossible to achieve definition of female beauty? If we remembered the beauty of different?
It made me wonder what would happen if we didn’t hold back but stood (or danced) in the full glory of the light intended only for us?
It made me wonder what would happen if I tuned in more to myself and turned less to the opinions of others, when it comes to being, and more fully becoming, the woman I truly want to be?