Shavanare and Valuing Difference

Today’s feature is a Bajan beauty of Guyanese descent. The thirty-one-year old is a big fan of good food! Her name is Shavanare. That is pronounced Sha-van-aray please and thank you very much.
As a bearer of unique names, Shavanare is no stranger to differences. She notes that she realised at an early age that she had a number of special traits about her and her gap was one of them. With the insight that people tend to highlight anything that is different from what appears to be the norm regardless of the situation, Shavanare has learned to embrace the things which separated her from other people.
She was clearly born to stand out, rather than fit in. As a result, like her distinctive name, her gap became an important characteristic and identifier.
Shavanare reflects that she began to recognise beauty in herself when she learned to love her unique traits. By my observation, she has learned to strike a balance by exhibiting quiet strength as an effective leader and also as strong support.
Her feminine strength, perhaps more modernly expressed as girl power, is perhaps reminiscent of the sturdy matriarchal base within her family. She possesses a beautifully woven connection with her mother and sisters.
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Shav and her sister
Her sense of familial belonging is further cemented by the understanding that her gap is a hereditary trait from her mother’s side of the family, particularly through the lineage of her grandfather. What she calls the signature gap evokes a sentiment of a treasured heirloom passed on to you at birth. It is an honour that you get to carry and uphold it. These deep seated values have contributed to her decision to maintain her diastema.
She states that she learned to develop this confidence gradually over time. She had gone for some time cognizantly smiling with sealed lips instead of her beautiful teeth. While she never had any qualms about her gap when she was very young, as someone who preferred to get by without drawing attention to herself, she did consider closing her gap when she realised that sometimes people would make it a point of focus. She describes this period in her life as a “transitional phase so many of us seem to go through where we try so desperately to fit into whatever is the socially acceptable for of beauty at that time”.
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For this reason, it is so important for us to recognise the diversity which manifests itself through beauty. Beauty cannot be one dimensional. As Shavanare did, many of us will find acceptance when we accept ourselves and realise that difference should not make us pariahs. Shavanare points out how many of us shape our perception of ourselves based on the perception of others. I believe as a result that to reverse this process we must begin defining ourselves by our own distinct perceptions. This would involve doing quite a lot of ignoring, which of course Shavanare duly commits to when men on the street have disconcerting comments to make about her gap! She has come to realise that her outward differences are only tangible realisations of the special identity on the inside of her. With thoughts like these, she realises that it is far more thrilling to be different than it is to struggle to fit in.
The landscape of perception concerning gaps is indeed changing. Shavanare indicates that when once upon a time, models were instructed to close their gaps to be more appealing, they are now at times encouraged and motivated to widen them! Additionally, she is clear that she has receive compliments on her smile on other occasions and while she does not lean on external validation for security, it did help her feel more comfortable about her smile. Positive feedback is of course a good sign as it indicates that the public is potentially re-shaping their perception about gap toothed smiles. In the end, regardless of if we have gaps or not, when it comes to our differences so we must do what Shavanare calls learning to embrace our own brand of uniqueness! And we are so happy that she does 🙂
-CiCi

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