"Miss Clairol" and Other Short Stories

Viramontes' "Miss Clairol": Cultural Perspectives and Standards of Beauty College

Since its 1987 publication in Chicana Creativity and Criticism: Charting New Frontiers in American Literature, Helena María Viramontes’s short story “Miss Clairol” has provided outsiders a look into the Chicana culture, and has also sparked a criticism for standards of beauty and femininity for all women—and especially for women of color. “Miss Clairol” follows the brief day of Arlene and her daughter Champ. As the story begins, the pair are walking through a K-Mart contemplating what color to dye Arlene’s hair, and what makeup would go well with a borrowed dress for Arlene’s date later that evening. After leaving the K-Mart, Arlene goes home and immediately starts the long process of getting ready for her date, while she leaves Champ alone to entertain herself and cook herself dinner.

Though there is not much action that takes place within the story, Viramontes allows readers to get into the heads of both Champ and Arlene. Throughout, Champ is ten years old and she has not yet hit puberty. Champ is a very imaginative child and she appears to be mystified by her mother’s beauty rituals and femininity, though Arlene vows to teach her how to be pretty one day. On the other hand, when in Arlene’s head there is a dichotomy or...

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