Road To Beauty: What I Learnt About Self-Confidence From Brazilian Women

Cecile Discovers That Beauty, Brazilian-Style, Comes From Great Self-Esteem

kiss - l'equipee
kiss - l'equipee
(Image credit: Ludovic Ismael)

Cecile Discovers That Beauty, Brazilian-Style, Comes From Great Self-Esteem

What Does Being Beautiful Mean To You?

Being a beautiful woman today often means having a body that fits our society’s standards. To be polished, feminine, young and also to be self-possessed, mysterious and controlled. We L’équipée girls are trying to escape these ideals: they don’t fit us, even though we have felt the pressure to conform since we were little. For me, it's more about being active, about pushing my limits. I like to travel, to meet people, to live and interact with them. I like physical challenges and leaving my comfort zone. I like walking away from my computer, my mirror, and focusing on what is going on around me - be it in my neighbourhood or in other countries. That is what drives me. I don’t know if it makes me beautiful, because being beautiful has never been a big concern of mine. Anyway, I feel fulfilled. I think my smile and my will to accomplish things are what make me beautiful.

How Do Brazilian Women Express Their Beauty? 

In Rio, at the start of our trip, we played beach volleyball with other women on Copacabana beach. I really hit it off with one of the girls - she was down to earth, friendly, very cool and quirky, and we kept in touch by email. However, she has since confessed that she felt very insecure on the day we met because she thought she looked chubby. We were having fun and forging a new friendship through sport, but it saddened me to realise she had been inhibited because of her poor self-image. It proves that the weight of aesthetic pressures transcend borders, and can prevent you from living your life to the full because you don’t feel perfect. Even if a woman is overweight, even if she does look a less than beautiful, does that mean that she can’t have a life? That she can’t take pleasure in her day, or doesn’t have a right to happiness?

What Beauty Lesson Will You Take Home From This Trip?

I had a 'beauty lesson' in Noiva do Cordeiro, which is also known as the 'women’s village', and we were welcomed in as if we were part of the family. We had been told that there were no men there, but in fact they spend all week working in town, and leave the women alone to take care of the community. They work the fields every day, and spend Friday afternoons making themselves beautiful for their husband's return. The women give each other manicures, which is something I never do: I’m a woman of action and I tend to find them unnecessary. But while in the village, I saw a man carrying a baby and looking sweetly at his wife who was taking time for herself with her girlfriends. This attention moved me, because I’m more used to men mocking women for their vanity. It was then that I realised you can be a strong and independent woman, and still be feminine; it's OK to take care of your body and make an effort to be beautiful for your man - these characteristics actually work in harmony.

(Image credit: (c))

Did You Find Beauty In Unexpected Places?

In Fazenda San Francisco, near Miranda, we were welcomed into a cowboy ranch run by a family of extraordinary women: Beth Coelho and her four daughters. We helped the cowboys and girls lead the pack of 200 livestock on horseback to their pasture. We were told to be very careful, as the animals can charge, and Carolina - one of the daughters - opened the pen. Our goal was to prevent the herd from dispersing, by leaving them only one exit leading to the green field beyond the river. We held our positions; you need to be close to the animals, to feel them and face them. Several managed to escape, so we had to gallop behind them and try to bring them back. It was an endless dance. I’m not quite sure what role we played in all this, but I became completely immersed in the mission; I forgot that I was just a visitor, that I am a 32-year-old woman from Paris. I was completely lost in the action and elated by the animals' energy. We sang with the cowboys on the way back, proud to have given it our best. That’s beauty. Beauty is about forgetting yourself, being lost in the moment. I can’t thank this amazing family and team enough for such an incredible experience, and the chance to discover what real beauty is.

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