The Problem With Dove’s “Choose Beautiful” Campaign

Dove is well-known for its campaigns promoting positive body and self-image in women however, a recent attempt by the brand has sparked some controversy… and even resulted in the resignation of one BuzzFeed editor.

The controversial campaign is called “Choose Beautiful” and women featured in the campaign are given the choice to walk through one of two doors… one labeled “beautiful” and the other labeled “average”. Most women choose to walk through the “average” door, then later appear in the advertisement expressing their changed perspective and regrets about not choosing the “beautiful” door.

 

So what exactly is so polarizing about this campaign that it was named 3rd in the list of the 5 Most Controversial Ads in Recent History on Entrepreneur.com and resulted in the resignation of an editor?

According to Fortune.com… “The video’s two-doors dilemma sprang from a 2004 Dove study called “The Truth About Beauty,” updated in 2011, that found that “only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful”; most say they’re “average.”

The article goes on to mention that the research that Dove conducts is not academic research, but rather marketing research and therefore makes the legitimacy of the self-proclaimed social experiment questionable.

Arabelle Sicardi, the BuzzFeed editor who resigned after writing a post criticizing the campaign argued that Dove’s tactic was to sell products by preying on insecurities which it’s advertisements and campaigns help perpetuate.

Sicardi writes in her post…

“You don’t have to be beautiful (or at the very least, you shouldn’t have to be), and not being beautiful doesn’t mean you’re average. Feeling beautiful is an obligation and a pressure — and sometimes a pleasure, but not always. Feeling beautiful is so much work: work that beauty companies cash in on and exploit.”

And she may have a point… If women weren’t told to think that they had to feel or be beautiful, why would we need the products that Dove or any cosmetic company sells for that matter? While the campaign seems like another step in the right direction, it comes as a double edged sword.

#AerieMan Embraces The Dadbod

The brand Aerie has been setting standards in the fashion industry for a little while now by creating campaigns and advertisements for their women’s line sans Photoshop. The brand’s demographic is mainly high school and college age females, who according to numerous studies are the most influenced by images they see in advertisements and media. This, obviously is a great movement towards an overall healthier and more realistic representation of body image in media.

Women however, are not the only gender facing body image issues as I have discussed in previous posts…men too feel pressure to conform to societal standards. Aerie has that covered though, the brand recently launched a #AerieMAN campaign with a similar goal in mind– to feature male bodies as they truly are, unretouched and in various shapes and sizes — dadbod and all.

Check out this video introducing their new #AerieMan line

Here are some of the models featured in the campaign…

 

Photo: Courtesy

Photo: Courtesy

Photo: Courtesy

Photo: Courtesy   

Kelvin, the model featured in the bright teal boxers and fedora told Yahoo! Style he hopes to inspire others to be more confident in themselves by sharing himself unretouched… “Personally, style has made me more confident in life. If you don’t have the confidence in what you wear, it’s going to show.”

Kelvin makes a great point… inspiring confidence in people by representing them in media instead of perpetuating an unobtainable ideal is exactly what consumers need. So kudos to Aerie for making strides towards a more industry positive for not only women but also men… who are often overlooked when it comes to body image issues.

Obama & Misty Copeland Discuss Body Image

Recently President Obama and ballerina Misty Copeland spoke in a video conversation with TIME‘s Maya Rhodan, about issues they face including race and body image.

As a man, Obama admits he wasn’t always aware of the issues women deal with in regards to body image. However, he says that raising his daughters has brought the issue to light. “When you’re a dad of two daughters, you notice more,” he says. “And that pressure I think is historically always been harder on African American women than just about any other women.”

Copeland agreed with Obama, saying she didn’t want to have to use makeup for performances to make her skin look lighter or her nose thinner and that she hopes to be an example for young girls to see it’s okay to have an athletic strong body.

Obama does seem to think there are strides being made towards a more diverse definition of beauty though…

“I do think that culture’s changing for the younger generation a little bit more. You see Beyoncé or you see some of these pop stars, and what both white, Latino, black children are seeing as representative of beauty is much broader than it was when I was a kid. You just didn’t see that much representation. And that’s healthy and that’s encouraging. But it’s still a challenge.”

Beyoncé, is very influential when it comes to a broader representation of beauty. In her song Formation, which she performed during the half time show at this she celebrates aspects of African American ethnicity and culture.

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Embracing different types of beauty, especially in media, is the beginning of a healthier perception of beauty for everyone — and hopefully as Obama said, changing the culture for the younger generation.

 

 

Winnie Harlow Encourages People To Find Beauty In Everything

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Image: Instagram

You may recognize Winnie Harlow from season 12 of America’s Next Top Model… in fact, she’s hard to miss. She first came into public view as a contestant on the show with a skin condition called vitiligo, which causes loss of pigmentation in the skin. Since then, she has become a model who focuses on encouraging everyone to find beauty within themselves even when they do not fit societal norms of “beauty”.

During a TED Talk, Harlow discussed the impact that growing up with such a visible condition had on her life — from being bullied to becoming the bully, she says during the talk that the only reason she ever felt like she wasn’t beautiful is because someone else told her she wasn’t.

Harlow’s sentiment is a powerful one. Who is telling young girls and boys that they aren’t beautiful, after all? We are — in advertisements, on television, on social media, everywhere — they are bombarded with messages of what is beautiful and more importantly what is not.

A study conducted in 1996 the amount of time an adolescent watches soaps, movies, and music videos is associated with their degree of body dissatisfaction and desire to be thin. While that information may seem outdated, that is the exactly the point I want to make. In 1996, exposure to media caused body dissatisfaction in adolescents— Imagine how much more frequently adolescents are exposed to these images in 2016. According to CBSNews.com, we’ve gone from being exposed to about 500 ads a day back in the 1970’s to as many as 5,000 a day today.”

So though the message to find beauty in everything may seem cliché, it is exactly what the world needs. That, and more models, actors, and media portrayals of people like Winnie Harlow — individually beautiful.

 

Photoshop Is More Powerful Than You Might Think

Most people are well aware that images in media and advertising are Photoshopped to some degree but, do we really know how powerful the editing software can be? Until I watched this video, posted in an article on TODAY, I was unaware of how severely images can be altered.

The original photograph and edited version don’t even appear to be the same model. Elizabeth Moss, founder of Rare Digital Art, a high-end retouching boutique in New York, made the videos to show people that virtually nothing goes untouched in Photoshop. While you would expect imperfections to be erased, Moss also demonstrates facial reshaping, enlarges her eyes, even changes where shadows from the mask appear.

In an interview with TODAY, Moss justifies the use of Photoshop by saying it is necessary to produce impactful image.

“Often when you see an image that boasts ‘no Photoshop,’ the lighting is pretty flat and boring,” Moss said. “Does society win in that situation where we’ve forced the photographer to light in a way that he might not have otherwise because he’s afraid of what the subject might look like without Photoshop?”

While it may be true that the harsh lighting calls for a bit of retouching— there is a fine line between retouching and creating a completely new image.

Moss also said in her interview that people shouldn’t compare themselves to media or advertisements..

“I hope that young people understand that what they see in magazines should not be setting a beauty standard for them to try to achieve,” she said. “Even without retouching, models make up such a minuscule percentage of the world population it’s crazy to compare yourself to them. Then they have makeup, stylists, the best photographers, and people like me spending days to make the beautiful look even more beautiful.

If it is not a beauty standard that people wanted to achieve, how would companies sell products? Consumers purchase beauty products to obtain the look sold to them by that advertisement but the images aren’t an accurate representation of the product at all — so what are companies really selling? An ideal. And to say that people shouldn’t compare themselves to an standard being sold to them is almost insulting… it takes the responsibility away from the industry and allows them to continue to make money off consumer insecurities, which is exactly what they want.

We Are Raising Girls Who Hate Their Bodies

“As a child, I never heard one woman say to me, “I love my body”. Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. No one woman has ever said, “I am so proud of my body.” So I make sure to say it to Mia [her daughter], because a positive physical outlook has to start at an early age.”
-Kate Winslet
After I read this quote for the first time, it stayed in the back of my mind… and thinking about it made me realize that growing up I had never heard a woman say to me that she loved her body either — something was always not toned enough, too big, could be fuller, enhanced, you name it.  Why is this? Why do women hate their bodies? More importantly, why are we inadvertently raising young girls to feel inadequate as well?
It’s obvious that the media has a huge influence on perceptions of body image and unhealthy ideals that are a result of the constant bombardment of airbrushed, flawless models. But does it really have an impact that carries beyond personal dissatisfaction into how we raise our children?
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, “42 percent of first- to third-grade girls want to lose weight, and 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat.”
It is heartbreaking that almost  half of third graders want to lose weight, and an overwhelming amount are afraid of being fat when they should be concerned about learning and playing with friends. And collectively, we are raising young girls to feel and think that way — the fashion industry, the beauty industry, media, fat-shamers, mom’s and sisters who hate their bodies, and men who ridicule them.
While there are great strides being made towards body positive advertising, media portrayals, monitoring pro-anorexic and pro-bulimic posts and pointing out what isn’t right as a society… Winslet really may be on to something. The place for a real change to start is at home, with mothers telling daughters what they love about themselves and encouraging them to embrace things that may not be seen as ideal — but instead unique and beautiful.

Nykhor Paul Is Tired Of Apologizing For Blackness

The fashion industry has undeniably made strides towards becoming more diverse, including models of different races, ethnicities, skin colors, and looks in recent years more than ever. While the change is certainly a positive one, it may not be as progressive and positive as it seems.

Model, Nykhor Paul, explained in an Instagram post last August the struggles she still faces as a “blue black” model working in the industry…and even more so, other models hesitancy to speak out against these issues due to fear of not being booked for jobs.

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Paul explains that makeup artists are often unprepared and models with darker skin tones are asked to bring their own makeup to professional shows while those of lighter complexions do not.

“Just because you only book a few of us doesn’t mean you have the right to make us look ratchet. I’m tired of complaining about not getting book as a black model and I’m definitely super tired of apologizing for my blackness!!!! Fashion is art, art is never racist it should be inclusive of all not only white people, shit we started fashion in Africa and you modernize and copy it! Why can’t we be part of fashion fully and equally?”

Paul is not the first model to speak out against this issue either… Supermodel, Tyra Banks, told HuffPost she had to create her own foundation kit in order to avoid embarrassing makeup artist mishaps. Her advice to every model is to “come prepared”, saying that, “Yes, complain. Get the word out. Spread the word. But, while you’re spreading the word, make sure that you’re looking right and tight and take it into your own hands.”

After all, are we really making strides in an industry when people of color are still being treated differently? When they are forced to bring their own makeup to sets and are a statement in the show…. Not really. Hopefully Paul, along with Banks and other influential models are able to bring this issue back to the forefront to  demand that they are not only represented in the industry but also respected and treated equally.