Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Hempel, Lynn

Committee Member

Howell, Frank

Committee Member

Rader, Nicole

Committee Member

Boyd, Robert

Date of Degree


Document Type

Graduate Thesis - Open Access



Degree Name

Master of Arts


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work


The literature concerning the relationship between black women and beauty has revealed conflicting findings: some argue that black women are negatively affected by ‘white’ beauty ideals while others argue for the existence of an alternative ‘black’ beauty standard. The purpose of this research is to describe and analyze young African American women’s awareness of beauty standards and their perception of themselves with relation to these standards, examine whether beauty standards are negotiable, and explore how perceptions of self affect daily social interactions. Data were collected through in-depth interviews with black females between the ages of eighteen and twentyive that were current students in one of three colleges in Mississippi (N = 21). Results reveal that context is an important element for understanding how black women relate to and use beauty standards. Their understanding of beauty standards and the expectations of others dictates how they manage/present themselves in a variety of situations.