Emerging Cultural Viewpoints on Beauty

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Emerging Cultural Viewpoints on Beauty

As online media like YouTube has become one of the key sources of popular culture, "every day" people are playing a greater role in defining beauty standards, seeing a shift away from mainstream beauty rules towards an acceptance of cultural and physical diversity. Vloggers talk about beauty in a way that "makes you feel like they're your friends.," one cultural critic noted.

US - Normalizing Everyday People and Diversity

  • Experts within the beauty and fashion industries in the US argue that "trendy" is becoming unfashionable, and that the way fashion trends and a sense of beauty is determined has evolved in recent years.
  • Where previously, fashion trends started on runways and in magazines (ie, from above), nowadays there is an "overall shift in the culture of beauty trends toward embracing an inherently less "trendy" sense of individuality". "Cool," experts argue, is dictated by normal people; "street style, YouTubers, and other influencers".
  • Social media has become saturated with a diversity of influencers and products, leading to niche and diverse trends. Individuals are choosing styles or products or looks based on what "speaks to them," rather than most people imitating one single celebrity.
  • The short film Skinflick aims to redefine beauty by portraying a man with skin lumps in a "loving portrait" of his body.
  • Youtuber Em Ford has also aimed to normalize diverse skin types, producing a video that shows her bare face and some skin conditions. The video has been viewed at least 29 million times, and promotes skin positivity with interviews with women with acne, psoriasis, vitiligo, birth marks and scarring. Ford emphasized the idea of "normal" or everyday people, saying, "‘Redefine Pretty’ is about Real women, real stories and shining a light on both the harsh reality and psychological effects beauty standards place on women."
  • Tyra Banks' new television series aims to challenge traditional standards. The show hasn't yet gone to air, but the vision of beauty she'll be promoting is body positivity.
  • Body positivity counters mainstream views about diets and healthy body sizes, and promotes an acceptance of a diversity of sizes. "Body positivity was created to help people with marginalized bodies (read: fat, queer, trans, bodies of color, and more) feel entitled to self-love, something that had previously been reserved for people in privileged (read: thin, white, fit) bodies."

US - Embracing Black Beauty and Natural Hair

  • Counter to decades of beauty standards that glorified a European look, including straight hair, over the past 10 years, "more black celebrities, influencers, and real women alike [are] embracing their curls, coils, and kinks". Pop culture examples include Solange Knowles, Issa Rae, and Lupita Nyong'o.
  • The growth of this natural hair movement - online and offline - is inspiring new generations of people of color to pass on perms, relaxers, and applying excessive heat to their hair.
  • Vloggers like Patrice Grell Yursik, who goes by Afrobella, are raising awareness of the many textures of Black hair, and how to take care of them - the spectrum goes from 1A, which is straight, to 4C, which is coily.
  • According to a 2018 Mintel survey, 40% of Black women are likely to wear their hair natural (ie without chemicals or heat styling). Some 51% of women say their current hairstyle makes them feel beautiful, and 87% of Black women believe that health is the "ultimate beauty accessory."
  • Natural hair videos started to "trickle" on to YouTube in 2008 and 2009. Since then, more and more curly-haired women have stood in front of the camera, making their hair visible, but also providing care advice.
  • Whitney White, for example, provides hair style tutorials on YouTube, and has over a million subscribers and 100 million views. "The positive feedback and genuine connection I was forming with all these different women across the world encouraged me to keep sharing more of my experiences," White noted about her experience building her channel. "The organic passion for encouraging self-love and unapologetic black beauty that was birthed within the natural hair community alone has uplifted and emboldened the black community to do so much."
  • Other Black youtubers are speaking out against make-up brands that don't cater for different skin tones, and are promoting a diversity of alternative styles, such as bomb eye art (vibrant colors).
  • Nicole Kimberly Foster, a cultural critic and founder of For Harriet observed that Black vloggers and viewers have a "parasocial" relationship, where people watching the YouTube videos are also “latching onto the likability and accessibility” of the vloggers, thinking of them as “your hair sisters.”

France - Beauty of Marginalized Ethnic Groups

  • Over the past two years in particular, Youtubers have been reshaping the definition of "French Beauty." The mainstream vision is of "a white, slim and ‘naturally’ beautiful girl who always looks effortlessly chic." This image is known globally due to France's use of it in its advertising of perfume or skin-creams.
  • However, Algerian-French YouTuber ‘Horia’ and Moroccan-French beauty YouTuber ‘Sananas’, both of whom have millions of followers, have been promoting the views of marginalized ethnic groups and alternative types of beauty.
  • They are also breaking the rules and using rainbow eyeshadow palettes and contouring their faces apparent faux-pas in traditional French beauty.
  • New movie stars such as Karidja Touré and Oulaya Amamra are making a more inclusive idea of French beauty a topic of discussion. Both of them have social media partnerships with companies like Chanel.
  • Céline Sciamma’s film about four young, Black women from suburban Paris, aimed to "rewrite the script on la femme française."