The Other Side to Media’s Unrealistic Depictions of Beauty

Apologies for the break in posts over the past few weeks.  I’ve been cooking up a whole new aspect to my blog!  Stay tuned for the upcoming changes.

Courtesy of Numero Magazine

I was flying back from Paris last week and picked up the August issue of Numero magazine in the airport.  Though my French is terrible, my eye sight isn’t, so I relished in the magazine’s beautiful imagery.  But nothing blew me away as much as the amazing spread by Sophia Sanchez and Mauro Mongiello.  Of course the photography was gorgeous and the fashion beautiful.  What stopped me in my tracks, though, were the striking images of young and older women (see pic above).  Despite my heavy load, I knew I had to carry that magazine with me all the way home.  This photoshoot elated me.  And it confirmed what I’ve been believing for a while.  Let’s not fear and reject media outright for it’s shaming of men and women.  Instead, let’s find ways to uplift it.

As a young strategic planner at DDB in the 90’s, I couldn’t escape all of the famous quotes from legendary ad man and founder, Bill Bernbach.  As you’d expect I barely remember most of them but a few have stuck.  One that has influenced me throughout my career, and frankly kept me connected to the marketing and advertising business as long as I have, was this:

“All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.”

Today, media, especially social media, is often vilified for projecting unrealistic, negative, stereotypical imagery of people.  And it can lead to the vulgar sides of society: body shaming, poor self image and crazy standards.  As a mother of girl entering puberty, I’m acutely aware of this.  Plus, I often catch myself measuring my looks against these standards.

But can we recognize the opportunity the media affords us too?

For better or for worse, we are visual creatures.  We are drawn to imagery, especially images of people.  Moreover, we are fundamentally attracted to beauty — beautiful people, beautiful images, and beautiful things.  Of course we have different interpretations of beauty.  But the truth they appeal to us… greatly.   And because we’re that much more likely to focus on a picture or video than sit down and read an essay, or listen to a pundit speak, we are likely to let these new notions of beauty and self-expression penetrate.

We could just bemoan today’s media or we could use our tendency towards beauty, and the media that leverages, it to “uplift”society, rather than “vulgarize it.”

How?

First, let’s use the plethora of imagery to spark a conversation with our kids.  We can ask them how they feel about it and how to view it all with a realistic eye.  Through that conversation we may venture into much larger issues of body image, aging, and confidence.

Second, we can influence media to push for more inclusive imagery.   And it’s happening already!  Media is starting to hear us.  A recent article in Digiday references the numerous examples from beauty and fashion magazines that are now reflecting the many different forms of gender, ethnicity, body type and age.

Finally, because we know we are attracted to such imagery, the world of beauty and fashion can be a vehicle for even greater social change!  This same article gave us two great quotes, one from Jenny Bailly, Allure’s executive beauty editor, and the other from, Cat Quinn of Refinery29, which summarized this well:

“Beauty is a great vehicle for driving conversations about social change, because it’s accessible to everyone,” said Quinn, of Refinery29. It’s a topic that many argue lends itself easily to the bigger picture. “When we talk to Halima or [trans model] Andreja Pejic, or [boy beauty star] James Charles, or a young woman on a reservation in Montana about hair and makeup, we’re also having intimate conversations about where they’ve come from, what they believe in and how they interact with the world,” said Bailly.

Let’s not expect to shield our children entirely from the imagery around us, or even poo poo it.  Plus, we all know they find ways to see to it anyway.  Instead let’s embrace the imagery.  Let’s use it as a forum for discussion, and even encourage our friends and our kids to let media outlets know what they want to see projected.  After all, isn’t that the beauty of social media?  Everyone has a voice :).

Want to Take a Stand? Use the World of Beauty

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Conversations around beauty have been a source of ugliness and racism this week thanks to the former West Virginia mayor and her disgusting post about our lovely and intelligent first lady.  And we had to weather our share of obnoxious comments about Hillary’s pantsuits for years.  

But this week also shows that beauty dialogue can be a source of amazing, unifying and progressive power.  When society, even government, takes an intolerant, racist stance, sometimes it’s the world of beauty that pushes progress forward.

Just this week, Allure magazine published a thoughtful set of articles about muslim women, including their take on beauty and fashion, and their culture in general. For the first time, a non-white man,  Dwayne Johnson — half Samoan, half- black actor, was named sexiest man of the year by People Magazine. Cover Girl named its first spokeswoman wearing a hijab, Nura Afia; and the transgender community held their first (in-secret) beauty contest in Indonesia.  All of these stories not only affirm these diverse individuals’ beauty, but they empower them and others like them  And, they give us a much-needed view into their worlds, allowing us to better empathize and support them.

There is no question, conversations around and depictions of beauty can be a source of angst, even cruelty.  But the world of beauty can also lead the way.  It can force conversations, provide new perspectives and hopefully, just hopefully, change our views for the better.  And it’s not just me saying it.  At the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women dinner honoring Nicole Kidman this past week, Frances Corner, Head of London College of Fashion, said (which I then tweeted out to the world :)):“We need to use the power of fashion to end violence against women.”

There’s no getting around it: most of us care about what we look like — some more than others.  So instead of ignoring the important role it plays, let’s use it to tell a critical and meaningful story.  Let’s leverage our fascination with beauty to make us more tolerant, accepting and loving.  

So many of us are looking for ways to rebel against the increasing intolerance being spewed since the election…some by the very people in charge of running our government.  There are MANY actions we must take to stop it, e.g., signing petitions, starting dialogues and trying to understand the root of the hatred itself.  But there’s another form of rebellion too.  And that can take the form of embracing beauty of all the lovely, diverse people we have in our country.  Let’s buy more makeup from the brands that embrace diversity, let’s comment on the insightful beauty articles posted about different types of beauty, and let’s compliment others’ unique beauty in front of our children.  These small actions will add up to a big difference.  It’s not the only solution, but it’s a start.  And, it’s fun, so why not?

If you’d like to donate to the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, please go to this link and contribute what you can or Text to Pledge to 56512: UNTF20[space] Pledge Amount [space] Your Name.

Weekend Observations: What's With All The Boring Hair?

Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 9.04.58 AM

It’s haircut time for Ms Posner.  Because I rarely get myself professionally coiffed, it’s a big deal for me to get my bi-annual cut.  I usually proceed the event with hours upon hours of perusing (Ok, who are we kidding…poring with a magnifying glass) the latest mags for some looks.  See above if ya don’t believe me.
So that’s what I did.  I grabbed a whole slew of fashion tombs (give the size of the Sept issues …they are annal-size) and started digging.  But all I found were pic after pic of long, straight-ish blown out hair do’s.  I get it.  Models can’t afford to screw up their hair with a trendy cut given they have to pose as different personas from shoot to shoot.  But there’s tons of celebrities pics out there and they ALL had straight, long hair (except the cuties like Michelle Williams)!
What’s going on here?  No only am I uninspired for my cut, but I have to wonder: “Where are all the fun, crazy, innovative styles?”
Are people just investing their creativity into their outfits?  Nah.
It’s like we’re all hedging…all trying to play it safe.  Could it be a subconscious reaction to the economy?  Yes, things are getting better but still…..
Any thoughts?  Would it be crazy to buck the trend or should I just throw up my hands (and strands) and follow suit?

Weekend Observations: What’s With All The Boring Hair?

Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 9.04.58 AM

It’s haircut time for Ms Posner.  Because I rarely get myself professionally coiffed, it’s a big deal for me to get my bi-annual cut.  I usually proceed the event with hours upon hours of perusing (Ok, who are we kidding…poring with a magnifying glass) the latest mags for some looks.  See above if ya don’t believe me.

So that’s what I did.  I grabbed a whole slew of fashion tombs (give the size of the Sept issues …they are annal-size) and started digging.  But all I found were pic after pic of long, straight-ish blown out hair do’s.  I get it.  Models can’t afford to screw up their hair with a trendy cut given they have to pose as different personas from shoot to shoot.  But there’s tons of celebrities pics out there and they ALL had straight, long hair (except the cuties like Michelle Williams)!

What’s going on here?  No only am I uninspired for my cut, but I have to wonder: “Where are all the fun, crazy, innovative styles?”

Are people just investing their creativity into their outfits?  Nah.

It’s like we’re all hedging…all trying to play it safe.  Could it be a subconscious reaction to the economy?  Yes, things are getting better but still…..

Any thoughts?  Would it be crazy to buck the trend or should I just throw up my hands (and strands) and follow suit?

Weekend Observations: I Wasn’t Totally Crazy After all!

Van Gogh: Pair of Shoes

As I was waiting to get my weekly (if I’m lucky) manicure, I saw a story that totally validated me, ha!  Well, in truth, it validated my expenditure and wearing of cool, amazing shoes.

We all hear — especially us corporate folk — that appearances matter.  We are often judged forever by the first impressions that others form when we they see how we dress  how coiffed we are, and how nice our faces look.  But Allure magazine’s December issue shared results from a scientific study that proves that we judge people by their shoes BIG TIME.

Soooooo, we shouldn’t be so hasty to slip on the sneaks when we’re strolling around town.  You never know who you’ll bump into and what they’ll think of you 😉

More to Love: Additions to the Reading List

u look haute YouTube Brand Channel

It’s the fashion/beauty & tech addition of Additions to the Reading List!  Read on…

  • How social media is transforming the fashion industry

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/beverly-macy/how-social-media-is-givin_b_1443008.html

  • …And another on how technology in general is changing fashion FOREVER!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephanie-winston-wolkoff/fashion-meets-technology_b_1449226.html

  • First ever fashion and beauty blog conference

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/lucky-magazine-announces-first-ever-west-coast-fabb-fashion-and-beauty-blog-conference-presented-by-pg-beauty-grooming-2012-04-24

  • Allure launches a search for the best beauty blogger

http://www.sacbee.com/2012/04/23/4436328/allure-launches-first-ever-beauty.html

Stop the Discrimination!

Amanda Knox

In my continual quest to dig deeply into our complex relationship with beauty (beautiful things and beautiful people), I found another story about the disadvantages of being beautiful.   Sure, there are a TON of advantages to being good-looking, and they’re even proven by science.
But we human beings just don’t like it when people have unfair advantages.  And so we tend to negatively discriminate against them in order to level the playing field.
I get it in a way.  But such bias can really be detrimental.
In the December 2011 issue of Allure magazine, Rebecca Mead illustrates in “Hating the Beautiful” not only how biased against beautiful people we can be, but how influential that bias can be.  We’re not talking about just nasty talk around the water cooler or in the ladies bathroom.
Beautiful people are negatively discriminated against in the court room.  Amanda Knox anyone?   Beautiful people fare less well on job interviews if the interview is conducted by someone of the same-sex (unless the interviewer is attractive herself, then the bias isn’t evident).  Beautiful people can get unfair treatment in the office too.  Remember Deborahlee Lorenzana who was fired, she claims, for being too sexy?
In a world full of strife, must we ALSO be jealous of and mean to others who may have some advantages over us?  Also, who’s to say these beautiful people we discriminate against actually have it so good anyway?  Maybe if all embraced our sexuality and own beautiful assets fully, we wouldn’t be so jealous of others.
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