We live in a world where we as women are subconsciously beholden to some beauty standard projected by the fashion, beauty, and advertising industries, aka the “triple threat” of an institutionalized insecurity breeding ground, as we like to call it.
For the past couple of years we have been sharing and blogging about so many everyday people and even big brands who are trying to go against the norm and prove beauty doesn’t come in one size, or in one package, and nor should it be dictated but rather developed from within each person in an individual unique manner.
The aforementioned industries thrive of our insecurities because that’s what makes them billions of dollars. But what would happen if we didn’t buy into the crap they were peddling anymore?
One American woman has become somewhat of a whistle-blower to this farce with a very clever project she undertook. Esther Honig is a journalist and blogger from Kansas City who came up with a genius idea of showing the major flaw in the “beauty standard” myth. How did she do that? By commissioning people from more than 25 countries to photoshop a picture of her in a way that depicted their country’s cultural beauty standard or norm.
She came up with the idea from the app Fiverr, which is a freelancing website where people can commission any type of work from freelancers anywhere in the world.
Esther managed to get in touch with digital retouchers from countries such as Sri Lanka, Ukraine, The Philippines, Kenya, Morocco and Australia by using Fiverr and explained what she wanted them to do.
“In the US Photoshop has become a symbol of our society’s unobtainable standards for beauty. My project, ‘Before and After’, examines how these standards vary across cultures on a global level,” Esther explains on her website about the project.
“Photoshop allows us to achieve our unobtainable standards of beauty, but when we compare those standards on a global scale, achieving the ideal remains all the more elusive.”
Just a note, some of the artists were experts in the field, while others were amateurs. But all seemed to have a pretty good grasp on what the ideal beautiful woman looks like according to their own cultural constraints and local media.
Since publishing the photos on her website, Esther’s project has gone viral, and been covered by the likes of The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Refinery 29, Bustle, US Magazine, Elle Magazine and even E! Online. Not bad for a woman who just wanted to prove what was wrong with the system. Here’s hoping all that major media coverage means many of those outlets will think twice about buying into those false beauty standards and perpetuating them to their audience.
After receiving all the photos back from the respective countries, Esther says she was initially a little shocked to see how her photo had been manipulated in so many different ways.
“I thought I would see more consistency in the images than I did, or that some would exemplify commonly known stereotypes. I soon realized that people were pulling from not only their cultural constructs of beauty, but also their personal aesthetic choices. There are many different images that leave us to speculate the ideals of beauty,” she told the Daily Mail in the UK.
“There’s so much to be told through this experiment,” she said to Elle. “It’s me, but it’s not me. It’s everyone.”
Acknowledging that every has their own ideal of what beauty is, as well as a the cultural norm, how do brands better balance between the two and allow for more individuality? Is it even possible to do this? If they only pick, say, one model to represent a brand, a lot of diverse groups are already going to be ostracized. But perhaps companies like Lancome, who just signed Oscar-winning actress and dark-skinned beauty Lupita Nyong’o to be their new face along with their other stable of diverse actresses, is a start to progress.
In our opinion, it’s not enough to talk about diversity, but brands and companies need to put their money where their mouth is. They need to a do a better job of representing the greater variety of their actual customers. Check out the photos below from some of the countries: