The perception of beauty
By: Natasha Archary
When Alicia Keys arrived at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards with (GASP) no makeup on, I doubt she intended to start a “NO MAKEUP” revolution but she did, sparking controversy in the superficial world of Hollywood and receiving global lash-outs from fans and celebrity style critics who feel she can easily get away with her no makeup stance because she is naturally beautiful.
In a world so obsessed with perfection, where heavily made-up women are considered to be the epitome of beauty it is empowering to see Alicia Keys resolutely stand by her decision to go make-up free. The decision behind her bold decision was a long time coming as Keys opened up about how her many years in the public eye under constant media scrutiny had altered her perception of beauty and perfection.
Exhausted of trying to live up to the world’s judgmental expectations on her she was over the pressures of the industry that was trying to turn her into a chameleon. Keys based too much on what other people thought of her and noticed that her insecurities were affecting her music, she was now done with trying to maintain an illusion of perfection.
The last time I weighed in on the debate about beauty, I was pretty negative about it. I’m slightly perturbed by the desire to pin something as eclectic and archaic as beauty by a single definition. And, if I am to be brutally honest: part of my distaste for beauty studies is that they inevitably prompt me to evaluate my own appearance in an uncomfortable and calculated manner. So if a study finds that women with a certain “waist-to-hip” ratio are considered to be more attractive, there I am measuring tape in hand consciously telling myself that I am unattractive based on the findings of a study. Besides all the obvious points about how ridiculous that rationale is, its also futile: If my waist-to-hip ratio which is less about weight and more about build and height, is unsatisfactory, there’s not much I can do about it except blame my genes! And yet, here I am watching my carb intake and painfully counting calories because I very simply do not conform to what is “perfect” !
I’m not alone either, the beauty industry plays on the emotional insecurities of women the world over, it’s a marketing strategy that has us snagged. Want fuller lips? Try our new and improved, super serum infused lip gloss with marula oil that will plump up your lips so you too can look like Kylie Jenner! Please don’t go looking for this product, I embellished out of sheer frustration and was trying to emphasize how EVERY beauty ad looks and sounds the same. I prefer to use beauty as a descriptor here because it’s not just makeup brands that falsely advertise perfection, think shampoo commercials where the model starts of with terrible, brittle and frizzy hair before the product in question and cue after where the model (after just 1 WASH) now has shiny, fuller, longer, perfectly silky CGI hair, that moves like liquid gold over her shoulders. Look how happy she is, look how beautiful she looks, maybe if I just try that shampoo I too will have hassle free, perfect hair!
We over-look the basic intellect when people play on our insecurities because we’re so focused on fixing what isn’t perfect about us that we fail to listen to the voice of reason within us that tells us what we already know….WE ARE PERFECT!
Researcher Nancy Etcoff, psychologist and author of Survival of the Prettiest, in 2011 conducted a study that examined personality traits we connect with makeup use. Participants were shown photos of 25 different women, each shown in four different “faces” of makeup, from none at all to “the natural look” to daytime professional to “glamorous.” The results will probably not knock you over in surprise, the respondents all chose the pictures of the women with makeup on as “THE MOST PROFESSIONAL LOOKING”, competent, trustworthy and of course more attractive. Isn’t it bizarre how disproportionately weighted our assumptions of people are? If all you have to determine the type of person someone is are 4 pictures and our natural inclination is to choose the one who “looks” more presentable.
We’re so caught up on maintaining a certain image in society, of living up to the Instagram standards that we place upon ourselves an insurmountable expectation to constantly look picture perfect and in the process we’re not being true to who we genuinely are. Who are you without the make-up? Alicia Keys has reiterated that whilst she is currently in a no makeup phase, she is not anti-makeup, as she still loves her lip-gloss, eye-liner, mascara etc and I can relate – I love makeup! I love the way I feel when I have make-up on but I no longer feel beholden to have it!