As one of the world’s ugliest problems, could beauty be part of the answer?

march_home1

In this week of heightened awareness of violence against women (first with the win of A Girl in the River: The Price for Forgiveness at the Oscars and second thanks to the march against violence by the UN Women for Peace), it seems an odd time to chat about beauty.  It amazes me — no, downright depresses me — that violence against women is so rampant.

The topic of beauty seems so frivolous in comparison to issues of violence.  Some even argue that the social pressures around beauty are a form of violence — think anorexia, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, and general low self-esteem.  Oh, yeah, and you could claim that the pressure to be beautiful is a way for ensure women’s subservience to men.

But hang on there.

No question a focus on beauty can lead us down some dangerous paths.  But it can also be a form of expression, rebellion and pride. From Afros and long beards in the 60’s to goth make-up in the 90’s, clothing, make-up and other things of beauty, have been powerful signals of revolt.  I’ve written about this a number of times in Beautyskew over the years.

In one instance, Disturbing But Awesome, I highlighted how a famous beauty blogger, Lauren Luke, urged women to fight against domestic abuse by NOT covering up their scars with heavy make-up.  She uses the extremely popular medium of beauty-how-to videos to implore women to stand up against their abusers.  It is extremely powerful.

In another post, Clothing is Power, I referenced a story about a woman who wears her high heels as sign that she CAN.  This is the story told by Jasvinder Sanghera, who founded Karma Nirvana in Great Britain to help victims of forced marriages and honor-based violence.  In an interview with 48 Hours, she tells of a women who escaped after two years of being held captive by her family for rebelling against their traditional ways, and not marrying the man chosen for her.  When Jasvinder met her for the first time after her escape, this girl was determined to express her freedom via her attire…no matter the weather or circumstances.

As I referenced in this same post, this story reminded of my college studies about Iran (a course that propelled me to study Anthropology throughout the rest of my college career). We learned how westernized, highly-educated women were forced into subservient, second-class roles in society after the revolution.  No surprise they were forced to wear the chador (black veil) as a way to further limit their mobility (physical, social, educational, etc).  And yet, women found little ways to rebel. How?  They would wear the chador in a manner that would appear as if it were “accidentally” pushed back on their heads. Or they would sew tiny silver threads into their chador that only a few could see up close.

Lastly, our sexuality and attractiveness should be celebrated not downplayed! Why? In “Look at My Ugly Face!“, Sara Halprin, psychologist, author, and documentary film-maker explains that in ancient societies, “women’s procreative power was understood to be linked to all sorts of creative abilities.”  Goddesses ruled!

So, as we gather to march or, at the very least support the UN Women for Peace March, let’s be proud to be strong, beautiful women and men who can use our power — beauty-oriented or otherwise — to change the world!

For more information about the UN Women for Peace March on Saturday March 5, visit: http://www.unwomenforpeace.org/march-in-march/

RISE. UNITE. and MARCH with us this Saturday!

image3

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

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 8.05.46 PM

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 :).

image3