Model Lauren Hutton was fired from her role as a Revlon brand ambassador when she was 41 years old. It was the eighties of the last century and the executives of the company considered that a woman of that age only had to retire. Ironies of the industry and a radical turn in the society have caused that now, in his fabulous seventy-something, he is chaining one contract after another. His case is not unique and the profiles rejected for decades are now finally celebrated by the sector. Diversity – in races, sizes, ages, or gender identities – is a fact. Also, of course, a resource exploited by marketing. But representation matters, images build realities and what is not seen does not exist. “I didn’t grow up seeing someone I could identify with in the media,” says Nidhi Sunil, spokesperson for L’Oréal Paris. Now she is the image of one of the most famous firms, but when she was a child in India her dark skin did not fit. “It is important that people realize the reach and impact it has on young people,” he adds.
The concept of beauty has transformed in the last ten years more rapidly than it did in the previous hundred. Acceleration, which is not unique to this field, has redirected the conversation to individuality, while suppressing, for the first time in history, the ideal to aspire to. “The canon of beauty has disappeared”, defends the journalist and author of The New Beauty, Kari Molvar. “There is no longer a single standard and the very definition of what is beautiful is constantly changing. Appearances are no longer totally dictated by what society tells us is beautiful, but by what we as individuals choose to express and the story we want to tell.
Therein lies the change: in understanding beauty as a creative expression. It is not the first time that it has happened and it is impossible to forget personalities like David Bowie, Boy George or Prince, but now that freedom is within the reach of any teenager. Artists like Patrick Starrr and maquiladoras like Huda Kattan or Isamaya Ffrench, who just developed Byredo’s first makeup line, propose diverse aesthetics and create communities that engulf the norm. After all, what is normal today? Even personal care giant Unilever announced last March that it was removing the adjective ‘normal’ from its jars. They understood that using it “to describe hair or skin made most people feel left out,” they clarified in a statement.
Umberto Ecco wrote in his Beauty story (2004) that “it has been artists, poets, novelists who have explained to us through the centuries what, in their opinion, was beautiful.” But the Italian published his book only a few months after the appearance of Facebook, when not even its creator Mark Zuckerberg could imagine the influence that social networks would have on the perception of the world and the democratization of messages. Not everything glitters. In Spain, young people between 16 and 24 years old, who are still shaping their taste, spend an average of one hour and 42 minutes a day exposing themselves to the network algorithm, according to the latest study on their use of IAB. Polarization reaches the image: faced with an emancipation of the canon, a generation arises that succumbs to the slavery of the filter. According to the Dove Self-Esteem Project study, at the age of 13, 72% of girls have already used one to modify their appearance in photographs. In addition, these digital distortions have become a daily occurrence for almost half and one in four “doesn’t look good enough if you don’t edit”.
Ancient civilizations were so mesmerized by the notion of beauty that they thought it was not something that could be left to chance. It had to be explained and quantified. Thus arose the first ideals that have been mutating, although always gravitating around the same: «Historically, standards have been based on fertility or on characteristics that indicate that the body is young and fertile, such as hips, voluptuous breasts, fleshy lips or vigorous mane, “says Molvar. Attributes that have always emphasized the oppression of women. For this reason, we cannot finish talking about the new paradigm that ends it without recognizing the importance that the feminist movement has had in this turn.