Pic of the Week: We’re Just Mere Mortals

Pre-Storm July 26, 2012

While we humans have created so many amazing things, conquered tremendous feats, and built fantastic structures like the one in this pic, we are still mere mortals who are, ultimately, at the mercy of greater forces than ourselves.

This photo captures the New York City sky minutes before a major storm.  I certainly wasn’t the only one with my camera/smart phone out marking the moment.  One passerby saw me taking the picture and said, “Isn’t it beautiful?”  But why do we think it is so?  It’s an ominous sight, and it foreshadows something very dramatic that’s about to happen (which is certainly no fun when you’re walking home, I might add).

I think we see this image as beautiful because it signals that there is something more powerful than us out there.  Human beings have spent an eternity trying to conquer the world around us — natural or not.  But perhaps we still need to feel that We are not as in control as we think.  Perhaps it allows us to relinquish some responsibility over our lives  and the direction they take.  Or experiences like this let us know that there’s still the unknown to be discovered which isn’t anything but scary … it’s exciting!

Weekend Observations: Seeing Differently

With all the accessible, amazing digital devices at our fingertips, are we seeing differently?

I say so!

Let me explain.

I was walking home from work and looking out for any interesting scenes for to shoot with my camera (aka smart phone).  I didn’t have a particular project in mind nor was I thinking about supplementing our blog.  It was just an initial reaction to the scenery that was surrounding me.  This unconscious desire to photograph the streets, buildings and people has made me sit up and take notice of the beauty around me versus walking the way home in a semi-daze like I’ve had for so many years before.  Know that feeling when you’ve walked for a while and arrived to your destination not really remembering how you got there?  That was me for so long.

We are seeing in new ways.  For many of us, look at the world around us in terms of what makes a great photo!

Now some would say this is a perfect example of our subjugation to technology and all it comes with, e.g., social media, instant photos, photoshopping and picture editing applications.  Why can’t we just admire the world without any motivation other than enjoyment?

But I actually think it’s a wonderful thing!  The digital revolution has made us more aware of the beauty around us.  Who cares if that beauty is seen through the lens of a smart phone and then shared with millions of others.  If we’re finally noticing and really seeing this beauty, versus walking around in a fog, I say bring the tech on!

Week in Review: 7/22-7/27

Lots of fun discussions this week…take a look:

Is a woman’s height now a success factor in the boardroom? Weekend Observations: Women, Height & Power

Microsoft celebrates the beauty of and the beauty that’s inspired by the digital space Pic of the Week: This Data-Fueled Space is Filled with and Inspires Beauty

Now that natural hair is “in” what will happen to all the wonderful community building that used to take place during the day-long hair appointments at beauty shops? What Happens to Sisterhood When the Beauty Shops Are No Longer Necessary?

More beauty-in-culture reading to enjoy! More to Love: Additions to the Reading List

Have a wonderful last week in July!

More to Love: Additions to the Reading List

More beauty reading that captivated us:

  • Bigger beauty brands, in this case CVS, are recognizing the huge value of direct to consumer communications via social media


  • Our expectations of design have risen: it must be beautiful and environmentally responsible too


  • Some mindless reading: beauty queen gets awarded settlement after suffering from wearing high heels for charity events


  • The latest in scientifically advanced sunscreens


Any more stories to add?  Tweet or comment us @Beautyskew

What Happens To Sisterhood When The Beauty Shops Aren’t Necessary?

Cassandra Jackson, Professor of English and contributor to the Huffington Post, wrote a fascinating article about the bitter-sweet transition that more and more African-American women are participating in ( Is Natural Hair The End of Black Beauty Culture?).  No, I’m not talking about becoming male. I’m referring to their journey from chemically straightened hair to natural fros.  It’s a process…both physical and emotional.  Hair is laden with symbolic value, especially for African-Americans whose culture and political identity is so tied up with it.

So why is this phenomenon bitter-sweet?  Because it means the decline of the beauty shop experience.  For decades, African-American women had to spend countless hours, on a weekly basis, tending to their hair.  The shop became a Church or community-hall of sorts, where women would gather and share laughter, stories and suffering.

I think women of all cultures gravitate towards communal spaces like beauty shops.  For instance, Indian women have the hours-long henna procedures that take place in their salons and Orthodox Jewish women gather monthly in Mikvahs (ritual baths).  By virtue of these sites being for women only, they create a sacred, secret place for women to let go.

But I think there’s something else going on that goes beyond the single-sex nature of these gatherings.  After all, we’ve always had gender-specific social clubs and gyms.  Beauty shops are different because in them we are beautifying ourselves.  We are engaging in intimate behaviors and as soon as we walk out the salon, bathhouse, mikvah, where ever, we are changed.  When we let others into these intimate practices, we are opening ourselves up in deep, vulnerable and, ironically, empowering ways.  Moreover, we are beautifying ourselves in ways that only people within our religion, cultural or social circles truly understand which makes the rituals that much more meaningful — even if that means burning our scalps for straight hair.

I understand Jackson’s bitter-sweet feelings.  Hopefully, she and her friends can find other places to beautify themselves in unique and culturally-binding ways.

Pic of the Week: This Data Fueled Space is Filled With & Inspires Beauty

For a while now I have been purporting how the digital space has made us more aesthetically inclined.  Either because of the tools it offers or the access to amazing imagery, the digital space has helped us become more appreciative of beauty.  Microsoft has picked up on this in their new campaign: “Welcome to a More Beautiful Web.”  What do you think?


Weekend Observations: Women, Height & Power

We’ve all heard about the connection between height and power when it comes to men.  That is, the more powerful he is, the more likely he is to be tall.  We associate height with strength, control and virility.  Look at our country’s presidents if you don’t believe me.

I would argue (based off of personal experience) that the same is true for women.

Of course our culture doesn’t necessarily deem EXTREMELY tall women as beautiful.  But there’s something about women between  5′ 8″ and 6′ that makes them seem that much more powerful.

I’m of average height (5 ft 5 in) and my personality is pretty “tall”, i.e.,  I’m very outgoing, loquacious and dress to be noticed.  But among taller women, I feel — not just look– short!

Is female height becoming a signal of attractiveness now more than ever?  And can we attribute that new cultural ideal on women’s growing power in the boardroom?  Case in point: the much buzzed about ascension of ex-Googler, Marissa Mayer, to CEO of  Yahoo this week (by the way, she is  5′ 8″!)

But if my changing of ideals of female attractiveness, e.g., height, are indeed held by others, is that a good thing?  I’m certainly thrilled that women’s power in the business world is continuing to rise, but should women be adopting “male” traits or should we be ascribing “male” ideals on to them?  In other words, should I be “looking up” to tall women more than short ones?  Just as women are encouraged to assert their power in ways that are different from those of men, i.e., collaboration vs hierarchy, shouldn’t we want women’s physical attractiveness be based on traits that signal our special talents vs physical prowess?  In other words, I should be looking up to women who smile, who are animated and hold their bodies erect with pride, right?


Week in Review: 7/15-7/21

Me Practically Melting in This Week's Heat!

A packed (and hot!) week for us…here’s what got us excited:

Why can’t the medical community finally figure out how to help us all get to a healthy weight?! Weekend Observations: Medica Community, What Gives?!

How can you not love a commute like mine when you can walk hrough an outdoor gallery with paintings like this everyday? Pic of the Week: What My Commute Looks Like

Kudos to YouTube celebrity Lauren Luke for her new, powerful campaign Disturbing But Awesome

More great beauty reading pulled from the headlines More to Love: Additions to the Reading List

A bit cooler for our New Yorkers, eh?  Enjoy the weekend!

More to Love: Additions to the Reading List

Take a look at some great beauty-in-culture reading:

  • Yet another adaptation of Sleeping Beauty that gives more (albeit freaky) depth to “Beauty”


  • Top Ten NEW Rules for Black Beauty


  • The story of Benedict Arnold’s beautiful wife




Disturbing But Awesome

Lauren Luke, YouTube star and make-up artist to every teenager out there did something pretty cool.  She took her famous beauty tutorial platform and turned it into a anti-domestic abuse campaign.  While cosmetics hides everything from sunspots to zits to the last night’s debauchery, it also can hide the painful marks of domestic abuse.   Luke spends a minute or so stoically showing how to cover up her own bruises.  It’s extremely jarring and sad how matter-of-fact she is.    But at the end of the video, she challenges women NOT to cover their marks up and instead urges them to stand up against their abusers.  Take a look:

How to look your best the morning after