“For my entire life, I’ve been sold the seduction of my inadequacy.”
Those are the words of a woman many consider one of the most beautiful in the world, who grew up, like many black and brown girls everywhere, not seeing images in the media that reflected herself and validated her beauty.
Seth Matlins, executive vice president of global marketing at WME, one of Hollywood’s most powerful talent agencies, shared Nyong’o’s quote from a conversation he had with the Oscar-winning actress only a few months ago as some of the beauty industry’s most influential players gathered at Spring Street Studios during New York Fashion Week to discuss the CVS Beauty Mark campaign.
CVS has made a commitment to no longer retouch the shape, size, tone or texture of models’ skin or bodies in photographs associated with CVS beauty products. CVS is also asking brands that are sold in its stores to disclose which elements of a model’s appearance have been altered in the ads for products on display.
MSNBC’s Joy Reid moderated a panel that included Matlins, Chief Marketing Officer of CVS Health Norman de Greve, Revlon-endorsed supermodel and body-positive activist Ashley Graham, activist beauty blogger and documentarian Noor Tagouri, and celebrity makeup artist and Honest Beauty spokesman Daniel Martin to discuss how truth in advertising can help alleviate some of the inadequacies we can feel when faced with unobtainable images of beauty presented as reality.
Among the issues discussed were how how happiness is tied to expectations, and how well our expectations match reality—or not—in the digital era of filters and “liquify” tools that enhance not only professional but amateur photographs. In terms of how this affects self-esteem and body image, the statistics cited by panel members were eye-opening, even for a lot of industry vets in the audience:
- 80 percent of women feel worse after looking at beauty ads.
- 30 percent of high school girls have some type of eating disorder.
- 42 percent of first- to third-graders want to be thinner.
- 90 percent of girls ages 15-17 want to change one major thing about themselves.
The discussion also covered men and body issues, and boys who “feel more beautiful when they wear makeup,” like Matlins’ 12-year-old son, who writes a blog about beauty for boys. Looking at the statistics—and as a mom in midlife with a blog where I don’t retouch, for all the reasons listed above—I think the time is 100 percent right to make authentic individuality and self-acceptance the highest aspiration.
You can see the full one-hour talk here.