Emma Dabiri: ‘I was told that everything about me was too big, from my mouth, my lips, my bum’

The author and academic on why she’s resisting modern beauty standards

Listen | 39:54

Irish-Nigerian author and broadcaster Emma Dabiri is giving the middle finger to modern beauty standards.

Growing up a young black woman in Dublin, Dabiri felt pressured to conform to society’s beauty ideals, to shrink herself to fit in and to straighten her natural afro hair.

“There was a very oppressive beauty standard for everybody… one of the most prevailing and most dominant characteristics of it was to be very, very thin,” she explains on the latest episode of The Irish Times Women’s Podcast.

“The ideal was to diminish yourself as much as possible… I was told that everything about me was too big, from my mouth, my lips, my bum, everything was just too big”.


Speaking to podcast presenter Róisín Ingle, Dabiri explains how she’s fighting back against these limiting constructs of beauty. From going makeup free to embracing her natural hair, the author says there is a power that comes with “reclaiming your unruly beauty”.

“I have done big events where I’m simply not wearing any makeup and I remember the first one I did, I felt I had to explain why I wasn’t wearing makeup,” she laughs. “And I was like I wonder when I can do this without having to do this big preamble, to justify why I look like this, but by the second event I forgot to even explain”.

“And the world didn’t stop turning on its axis, people weren’t horrified and shocked, it was grand, I’m grand,” she adds.

In her new book ‘Disobedient Bodies’, Dabiri urges readers to join this rebellion and to “try challenge the ways that we’ve been conditioned to think”, when it comes to modern beauty standards.

You can listen back to this conversation in the player above, or wherever you get your podcasts.