27 photos that show what beauty looks like around the world

TV shows and magazines have desensitised us into thinking that there’s only one rigid standard of beauty — that we all must aspire to the same monotonous look.

Luckily for us, Italian photographer Sara Melotti was sick of seeing the same type of woman over and over and perpetuating unrealistic standards of beauty, and decided to embark on a “Quest for Beauty.”

Melotti has spent the last year travelling the globe photographing and interviewing everyday women “in order to understand what beauty means to them, and to hopefully change those outdated standards that kill our self esteem.”

She’s captured a myriad of singular looks, reminding us that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Formerly a professional dancer, Melotti worked as a fashion photographer for three years.

However, photographing model after model left her unfulfilled.

'I started to feel torn inside as I realised that the work I was producing was contributing to setting very unrealistic beauty standards that made many women suffer,' she said.

She noticed how many of her friends had body image issues, and felt responsible for perpetuating these unrealistic standards.


'I decided I didn't want to be part of that machine anymore, and I wanted to help women take pride in the way they look, and love themselves for who they are,' she explained.

So she asked herself, 'What is beauty?'

This set off her 'quest,' which has led her to 10 countries in the last 12 months.

She began travelling the world photographing and interviewing everyday women 'in order to understand what beauty means to them.'

Her method is to first find a background she likes, then stop the first woman that walks by.

'I don't select my subjects as I think all women are beautiful,' Melotti said.

She tries not to take too much of their time and snaps a quick portrait, then asks five simple questions about beauty, and what it means to these women.

'I am so happy and relieved to see that for 99% of (the women I've interviewed) beauty has nothing to do with looks,' she said.

'Women are getting very tired of being told what they should look like,' Melotti explained. 'None of them thinks beauty looks a specific way -- for them beauty has no look, it's personal, it's subjective, it's an inner quality.'

She says that most women are open to being photographed, and that few say no.

Interestingly, those that need the most convincing are teenagers, according to Melotti.

10 countries into her project, she says she is only halfway through it.

While her quest has taught her a lot about beauty, it has also taught her a lot about travel.

Formerly someone who travelled to big cities in big groups, she now travels to rural areas solo.


'Before I started travelling like this I used to think 'How can I use the world to my advantage?' But now I think 'How can I make my life useful to the world and leave it better than I found it?''

'I try to experience a place from a local point of view, and not from a tourist point of view.'

But despite the many differences she has come across, she says we are all much more similar than we think.

'We all want the same things: happiness, love, comfort, and safety for our families.'

Vietnam was her favourite country so far.

'Vietnam stole my heart! There's no rational reason, it was the warm smile of the people, the food, the smells. (...) It was just one of those places that leaves a mark on your heart.'


'One of my favourite images is of a lady working in the rice fields outside Hoi An. It was sunrise and we were the only two people out there; we couldn't communicate at all, but we understood each other in a strange way. After I took her portrait I went knee deep into the mud and she taught me how she works the fields -- it was one of those strange and magical travel moments that puts everything into perspective.'

'To me beauty is a feeling, an emotion, something that touches a little piece of my soul and leaves me in awe,' she said.

'Beauty goes far beyond outer appearances to me.'

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