Beauty For All? Not Buying It.

The beauty industry has been selling the notions of desirability, youthfulness and “perfection” for as long as it has been around. But now get excited because L’Oreal has decided that the hegemonic reign of young, white beauty is no more. That’s right. Now, thanks to the #BeautyForAll campaign, slim, able-bodied, cis-gendered people of all ages and complexions can be considered beautiful…as long as they still adhere to traditional quips like clear skin and symmetrical features that we already categorize as beautiful.

This ad claims that at L’Oreal, they believe in the power of beauty. I definitely see truth to this statement but I challenge who holds the power. Who holds the power to determine what is beautiful? Who holds the power to control whether they are seen as beautiful? While there is an illusion that consumers can choose to buy products and manipulate their appearance, it is ultimately the cosmetic companies who tell consumers what they want to buy. Jean Kilbourne’s Killing Us Softly 4 summarizes this idea nicely in the quote “ads sell more than products. They sell values. They sell images. They sell concepts of love, of sexuality, of success. And perhaps most important, of normalcy.”

The 2 minute clip specifically makes an effort to include stories of characters’ lifestyles and relate them back to the so called power-of-beauty. But I think the term beauty is being misused here. It’s problematic to accredit beauty as the sole source of success for each character. If feeling beautiful is synonymous to a content, confident perception of yourself – I am all for that. However the current monopoly over beauty is not conducive to building an internal feeling of beauty. Instead, it is made to work from the outside in. Change your appearance externally and you will feel better internally. But what happens when people realize that makeup cannot change you? The way beauty effects each character in this ad also shows some interesting trends to note. Beauty for women relates to romance (presumably with a man), weddings and motherhood. Contrastingly, for the two male characters, beauty is about moving up in power or seeing a woman as a literal object of desire. These mini narratives on each character are meant to strike our emotions as viewers but I can’t get over why the person beauty can help be the “chosen one” had to be Pierre, the one white male in the over-exhausted powerful businessman image. I’m confused as to why little Carolina is taught so young that for her to have a good first impression at school she must conform to be beautiful, a struggle that girls continue to face all their lives, especially as youth slips away. Then Paolo and Louise remind us that old age need not be celebrated in its own right for enduring and growing wiser but rather the most important goal is really “to feel twenty again.”

To speak on the inclusion of cross-cultural actors, I say thank you L’Oreal for trying to be diverse. It’s nice of you to decide to share beauty with the less fortunate Eastern World. Unfortunately I fear your depictions are unrealistic as the Asian, African, South American and South Asian people you are supposedly targeting in your commercial likely live in cities that look more similar to the urban backdrop than the exotic landscapes that were chosen for filming. Sorry to disappoint. It is a common misconception that people of colour each have a distinct homogenous culture to which they belong. Through all the reinforcements of this belief, it has become hard for the public to separate individuals from the background we are stereotypically inclined to imagine them in. For example, the Asian woman in the serene forest or the Indian people surrounded by golden temples dressed in bright fabrics. What can we notice about the white characters? There was no distinctive background they had to match. Each white character seemed to have their own distinct identity, undefined by their skin – a freedom not enjoyed so readily by people of colour. There were also no repeats. By this I mean in the one advertisement, there we several distinct “normal” white characters but no repeats of any “other” race. The idea of East vs. West is simply put from the very start. “Where ever you are from; here or there.” This statement while meant to unify two groups only reinforces the imagined belief that there are two separate groups.

I believe in beauty for all.
But unlike L’Oreal, I don’t believe it needs to be offered in a package.
I believe in reminding all people of the natural beauty they already possess.
That is where the real power of beauty lies.

 

“A little Consideration, a little Thought for Others, makes all the difference.”

― A.A. Milne

 

Kristafurrobin

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5 thoughts on “Beauty For All? Not Buying It.

  1. This was a fun and informative piece you’ve written.
    When I first watched the video, I actually wasn’t too sure what point they were trying to get across. I mean, they essentially got a group of slim, attractive, able-bodied, cis-gendered individuals to parade in the ad. If their campaign truly is beauty-for-ALL, then how come individuals who don’t fall under these specific and narrow categories aren’t even seen or mentioned in the video at all (i.e., differently abled individuals, individuals with varying physiques, etc.)? Moreover, not everyone has the chance to ever experience or even dream of some of the scenario’s being described (i.e., not every single individuals has the opportunity to go to school, or get married, or have kids, etc.) . And, like you mentioned, the commentary for each of the characters are, overall, a bit questionable. For example, most of the women are voiced over with emotional, motherly, and romance type commentary, while the men are voiced over with power orientated and sexually motivated phenomena. This plays on the gender roles society has created, which is problematic.

  2. First of all I absolutely loved the way that you concluded your blog by reinforcing a positive message! I thought it was great that you made the connection between the different backgrounds people are portrayed as inhabiting. I’ve never noticed how white people are shown in various different backgrounds so I thought it was a very critical observation. Although L’Oreal is trying to convey a positive message they still need to be more analytical of the way they do this. I think it’s hard for a company to see the things we as viewers and critics for that matter notice. The media is so used to producing advertisements in a certain way to sell their product and compete with competition that they don’t analyze the subliminal connections deep enough. I think it will take time to for companies who strive to be better to do so, but at least for now it is nice to see a company attempting a step in the right direction, regardless of it’s flaws.

  3. When watching the commercial, the statement you mentioned at the end – “wherever you are from; here or there” also stuck out. Where exactly is here and where is exactly is there? Also, through the whole commercial I couldn’t help but think of class. Makeup or any beauty product (not quite sure what they are selling) is quite expensive! Are they suggesting they are giving their products to everyone? I highly doubt it! Beauty norms are extremely hard to live up to and without the financial means, it is nearly impossible! This commercial completely ignores that! As well, a few clips disturbed me very much! One, was the little girls first day of school! To even suggest that this beautiful little girl needs some sort of beauty product is outrageous! Also, the woman getting married – “beauty can make this day, the first day of the rest of her life.” Really? Her how many days on the planet are not legitimate because she wasn’t married? This whole commercial really reinforces gender stereotypes such as woman getting married, having children, and men getting jobs, etc. The fact that this commercial aired recently is very disheartening.

  4. As littlebunny10 stated, the way you ended your blog was very efficient. You made a great connection between people with different backgrounds. L’Oreal is known to portray very positive messages and I feel as if this commercial depicts that positivity however they could have done it in a slightly better way. The comments made by each character was questionable in my opinion. The women were voiced as naive individuals whereas the men were a powerful source. In today’s society, that is changing. Women are known to be equal to men; thus, this commercial should depict the same commentary in my opinion.

  5. I am happy as well with the message l’oreal is trying to convey. the beauty for all campaign is a great idea and their intentions are great but as a company they do need to look at what some people may take from the commercial. What i took from it is that if you are not considered beautiful you will not find true love, you will not have a good first impression on people and your life will be hindered by your unattractiveness. L’Oreal does a good job at including different races but what they don’t include is the multitude of classes. As well all the actors are what contemporary society pushes us to believe is what beautiful should be. they are all tall, slim and have clean skin. if they truly were trying to promote beauty for all what l’oreal should do is try to broaden and not enforce what is viewed as beautiful in modern society. i really enjoyed your analysis and agree totally with the mixed messages it produces, yet they did make an attempt at a positive output.

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