Beauty Vloggers: A Sign of a Digital’s Much Bigger and More Powerful Influence on How We Communicate In This New Age

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What if I told you a bunch of beauty bloggers reflects a great, new and culture-altering phenomenon?

A report was just published that proves what we, in the tech business, have known for quite a long time: beauty bloggers, particularly beauty vloggers, are proving more influential than “celebrity” make-up artists.  You can’t troll YouTube without coming across dozens of popular, no, beloved, YouTube beauty experts.  I’ve been friendly with Michelle Phan over the years and seen her meteoritic rise into a mega star and powerhouse first hand.

What’s interesting about this information isn’t so much that there is a shift towards beauty bloggers, but rather why there’s the shift.  As the report points out, and viewers recognize immediately, these beauty mavens are very personable and, more importantly, real.  They usually use make-up to transform themselves.  They are not applying cosmetics and their tips and tricks to gorgeous models with smooth skin, high cheekbones and tiny pores.  Instead they are starting with a canvas that most people can relate to: a normal one.

Why should you care?  I guess if you’re searching for the best Oscar look to match your complexion, I can see why switching to beauty bloggers can help.  I’ve actually met a few of them over the years and they are pretty talented wonderful people.  But let’s be honest, for many of you readers, you probably couldn’t give a rat’s ass about them.

Ah, but you should care.

This shift from aloof beauty experts partnering with perfect models to more realistic, more relatable beauty-how-to stars reflects the larger shift that the digital space has offered, even demanded, of us all.  Whether we are promoting our businesses or our personal brands, the digital space expects us to be real, human and, well, splotchy sometimes.  To present our companies or ourselves as shiny, perfect, aloof and inhuman beings will only get us so far.

I actually spoke about this very point — albeit, in slightly different ways, at Social Media Week a few days ago.  I had the privilege of sharing the stage with my friend, and founder and president of TheSocialArchitects, Donnetta Campbell, where we talked about how peer to peer social can transform corporate brands (see pic below).  Social media and the digital space in general has changed how we communicate as brands and human beings.  While I observe this first hand, I learned this through extensive anthropological research we conducted a year ago.  What stands out to me is how vulnerable, real and raw we are all allowed to be.  Thanks to the real-time and highly visual nature of it all, this space is unfiltered, and highly emotive.  Remember how Carrie Fisher responded to nasty comments about her weight on Twitter  after the new Star Wars?  She struck back in a real and honest way.

Not only can we feel free to be imperfect in the social space, we should be!  Brand executives often tell me they are nervous about entering the social space because they could “lose control of their brands.”  Or they may screw up and “say” the wrong thing.  My response? People want to see the humanity behind the brands.  And that includes their screw ups — as long as brands come clean about them.

What’s so great about these new forms of communication is that they are beginning to pervade all aspects of our lives — online and off.  I truly believe we are going to see brands — all of us for that matter — feel freer to lose our veneers and be more open, honest and real.  Of course some of us could be a bit too real (ah, Kanye, ahem).  But I would take a bit of rawness over phony any day :).

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Provocative Theories of Beauty: Why & How It Stirs Us

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“As the force of physical attraction, beauty drives fertility, inspiration, creation, and reproduction. Beauty ricochets through the body and mind … Beauty has been the root of deep division and politicization.  But our attraction to beauty endures.”  — Andrea Lipps and Ellen Lupton

This sums it all up for me.

I stole the quote from a great review by CNN of the “Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial” exhibition.  The article describes how the exhibit’s artists, ranging from jewelry designers to ceramists to lighting designers, bring to life the many different definitions of beauty.  I’ve summed up these diverse explanations of beauty as follows:

  1. Ever changing.  Objects of beauty transform, e.g., we age or clay hardens. And of course, beauty ideals alter, e.g., overly tanned skin was out then in and now out of style.
  2. Expresses the passing of time.  To quote the article directly:                                                                                              To honor his grandmother’s failing memory, Tuomas Markunpoika welded small rings of steel around a hulking wardrobe. He then burned away the wood, leaving behind a lacy shell of blackened metal.The piece became “a physical memory of the furniture—kind of a smoky, shady, semitransparent memory of it.”
  3. Ignites our senses.  Beauty isn’t just visual but can stimulate our aural and olfactory senses as well.  In one instance, visitors can experience the scent of New York Cit’s Central Park.
  4. Challenges our perceptions.  From dresses made out of straws to images of decay, beauty pushes us to react, think, analyze and see the world anew.

This last description is, by far, my favorite.  In fact I’ve been especially taken by beauty as represented by death and decay (see my post: Beauty in Decay, Dirt and Death).  I know I may sound gruesome, but that’s not my point.  Rather, I’m blown away by expressions of beauty that challenge our expectations.

And that is the real purpose all my posts.  Originally, I chose to focus on beauty because I spent a number of years working with beauty brands, and it’s a topic that never goes out of style.  But as I dug deeper into the topic, I realized how complex, fascinating and wondrous our relationship to beauty truly is.  The topic of beauty can be a source of fun, angst or even ridicule.  But downplaying our understanding and reaction to it isn’t the answer.  Things of beauty may just strike us at first glance, but upon deeper reflection it becomes a window into our culture and ourselves.  It can open our eyes to how we live, what we value, and how brilliant and creative we, human beings, truly are.

If you get a chance to visit the exhibition, let us know what you respond to.

What’s Your Most Attractive Quality? It’s Deeper Than You Think

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Given the nature of my posts, I absorb myself in reading and writing about beauty.  While I’ve presented many theories on what makes something or someone beautiful, I don’t often share what I consider beautiful or what attracts me to someone or something.  I guess I feel you really can’t pin the answer down to one thing.

But just the other day I heard a definition of beauty that I never had before.  And I found it to be the best one yet.  What’s even better is I heard it in the most unlikely of places: during a manager training course!

Allow me to explain.  As my colleagues and I were getting valuable coaching tips, the trainer explained that we can better coach our teams if we let them come to their solutions on their own.  To do this, we need to guide our conversations using open questions, like “how do you imagine doing XYZ “or “what possibilities come to mind?”  By being curious we not only let them know we care about them, but we allow them to be creative and find a solution.  As the trainer summed it up: “Curiosity is our species’s most attractive trait.”

Bam! It hit me like a ton of bricks.

Sure we are visual creatures and we are attracted to the obvious signs of health (e.g., physical symmetry) and reproductive capabilities (e.g., large breasts).  But the invisible trait that draws us like a magnet, holds our attention and then captures our heart isn’t our pheromones, but our curiosity in others.

Our curiosity lets others know we are interested them and more importantly that we are concerned with them.  It gives them a sense of safety and security.  Who wouldn’t be attracted to that?!

According to a BBC Story, Why Are We So Curious?curiosity is one of the few childlike traits that we have held on to as a species.  While other species grow out of their childhood traits, e.g. lack of body hair, we actually retain some of ours.  In addition to being far less hairy than other species, we still hold on to our capacity to be curious.  Evolution made us the ultimate learning machines.   Our curiosity gives us the capacity to learn and progress, but ALSO attach to one another.

What’s even better about curiosity? It inevitably makes us happier people.  As a blog I happened upon, Experiencelife.com, states:

“In his book Stumbling on Happiness (Knopf, 2006), Harvard University psychology professor Daniel Gilbert, PhD, shows that, while we think we know what will make us happy in the future, we are actually less likely to find joy as a result of a planned pursuit than by simply stumbling upon it.  It follows that by cultivating curiosity and remaining open to new experiences, we increase our likelihood of encountering those surprising and satisfying activities.”  And in the end, happy people inevitably attract us more, right?

While I’m all for looking our best, don’t forget what will make us the most beautiful: our sense of curiosity.  And for all of you celebrating Valentine’s Day, remember be curious in your loved one. 🙂

Why Super Bowl Fever is a Very Beautiful Thing

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Like so many of us, I have Super Bowl fever.  I actually don’t care about football or even enjoy watching sports in general.  But my kids, especially my middle son, are buzzing with excitement.  And THAT is so fun to watch.  The energy and passion are infectious.  The fun of having friends over just ratchets up the buzz.

I used to think watching sports was a big waste of time.  But I’ve come to see that there is something truly beautiful about the whole experience.   In particular, the beauty of loyalty.  As I witness my kids and friends perched at the end of the sofa glued to the screen, I remember a post I wrote a number of years ago but this topic.  I was struck with the beauty of team loyalty when I was walking on my way to work early one morning.  It must have been about 7:30 AM (well, early for NYC standards anyway :)) and I passed a bar already open for business.  Sitting there was a woman all alone — literally.  The place was empty expect for her!  She was wearing a soccer jersey (I couldn’t identify the team or country as I am terribly sports-challenged) and staring intently, mouth agape, at the World Cup game on the TV.  It was definitely an odd sight.  But it was a moving one too

Sports are a wonderful thing.  Not only do they promote physical activity and cooperation, but they sublimate our warring instinct.  If you examine the pre-game rituals of some countries, you’ll find they are reinterpreting dances and costumes that were once used to prepare for battle.  But another way to look at it is that sports invoke a sense of loyalty among all of us.   No question loyalty can inspire people to do horrible things, from stadium fights to blindly following dictators to kill masses of people.  And for my son, whose favorite team, the Patriots, lost the opportunity for another Super Bowl win, loyalty also means days of being in an outright pissy mood.  For the most part, though, it is a wonderful, beautiful thing!  Loyalty is what bonds us to our friends and loved ones.  Loyalty signifies a human being’s potential for love, community and willingness to sacrifice for others’ welfare.  No wonder being in a stadium is so exhilarating.  Not only do we get to see the game in person but we can also connect and share in our excitement with a ton of other people.  We don’t even know these people but our shared loyalty and energy builds our own and makes us feel connected.  There’s a term for this in anthropology called “Communitas.”

Of course the Super Bowl is a big spectacle.  It’s an opportunity to party with others and stoke our competitive spirits.  And, frankly, it’s a whole lot of brain candy.  I mean it’s just a game right? But this game, like so many others that we watch from afar, is also a moment to embrace our sense of loyalty and commitment.   Who wouldn’t want more of that?