I just want to say that the canapes at the Estee Lauder presentation Ashley and I attended were fantastic. Really, superb. These lovely little sashimi things on rice cakes. Just great! And champagne, too! And such a fun space. They had this elevator that was like an entire room, and it was super cool! It was like being on the Tower of Terror without the terror! Yes. There’s a lot to be said for that event.
But now that I’ve said all there it to be said for it, let’s talk about the rampant hypocrisy of the beauty industry.
Specifically, let’s talk about the presentation given to introduce Estee’s Lauder’s new spring line.
During which, the presenter explained that Estee Lauder surveyed women and they’ve found that 63% of women think they’re beautiful! Which I think is rad, given that 75% of women are dealing with disordered eating. I guess the overlap is working out really well for 47% of us! The lady behind me must have thought that was rad too, because she guffawed as though the presenter had made a very funny joke. Like, as though the presenter had intended it to be a joke.
Nothing was a joke.
Even when they said, “there are no ugly women, just lazy women.” That wasn’t a joke either.
“But what does beautiful mean?” the presenter asked, “what does that word mean?” And I whispered to Ashley that if she said “confidence” I was going to shoot myself. The presenter hesitated a moment and then said that they asked a lot of women, and the response that she liked best was that beauty means confidence.
So I shot myself.
But alas, it was just a flesh wound, so I kept listening. Because really, what else can you expect? I would love it – love it – if you went to one of these events and the presenter said “what is beauty? Facial symmetry. I will now illustrate the ideal proportions and how you can trick people thinking you come closer to those proportions than you actually do by smearing our products on your face.” I would buy every product in that company’s line to reward them for their honesty.
But they’re never going to be that honest because, I don’t know, we’re all embracing some elaborate pretend world where beauty is associated with a character trait that it is at best tenuously linked to. The most beautiful women I know tend to be the most painfully insecure. And quite honestly? If Hilary Rhoda had crippling social anxiety disorder it might affect her modeling career adversely, but it would not make her less beautiful. Would it? Oh, fine. Maybe it would make her slouch a little bit, keep her head down. Maybe it would affect her posture. Maybe she would become .5% less beautiful.
The whole “beauty is confidence” line is the kind of smoke that major beauty companies blow up women’s asses all the time – never mind that 95% of high school girls think that beauty means being a size 0, 1 or 2 with big boobs and perfect hair.
Basically “confidence is beauty” is horseshit shoveled down our throats by an industry trying to sell us products. It frankly capitalizes on our extreme lack of confidence.
But, alright, I figured, if that is the kind of campaign it is going to be, that is the kind of campaign it is going to be. “Perhaps they’ll use “real women” who I think of as being very confident like, say, Condoleezza Rice” I thought, “And those women will apply some lipstick and magically be filled with more of this elusive confidence that is beauty itself.”
But they used supermodels Joan Smalls, Constance Jablonski and Liu Wen. Who are insanely traditionally beautiful in every possible way. Well, I suppose they are different races. In 1985, that really would have been cutting edge. Now they’re just all insanely beautiful.
Are they confident? I don’t know. Because they didn’t really say anything in their advertisements. The advertisements consisted of using special effects to highlight problems unique to their specific skin tones, like dark spots on women of color (like Joan), or redness on Caucasians (Constance).
Let me be perfectly clear – I do not mind that Estee Lauder is using supermodels. I love supermodels. I like looking at conventionally pretty women with perfectly symmetrical faces a whole lot. I like to do a little vicarious living through them. That’s fine. But I have no idea how showing a supermodel standing perfectly silent having their blotches highlighted has anything to do with being confident. Or with “every (non-lazy) woman being beautiful”. All it indicates is that size 0 supermodels are beautiful but flawed. Flawed in ways where they’d better slather some Idealist Even Skintone Illuminator on themselves very quickly, so that maybe some day someone might love them.
Really, all I got out that whole advertising campaign was “even absurdly naturally beautiful women are flawed, and need to correct those flaws.” Hey, you know, maybe that’s true. That’s what the make-up industry is based off of. And I wear make-up every single day. But seeing that doesn’t make me feel confident, so much as it makes me feel… sad.
And it makes me feel doubly sad that we’re all sitting there nodding wildly that “yes! Yes, beauty is confidence! Let’s watch these women with computer highlighted flaws be silent because that communicates that message! These size 0 models show that every woman is beautiful! Girl power!” because we want Estee Lauder to send us some free mascara, maybe.
(They make great mascara).
I don’t object to mascara. I don’t object to supermodels. I object to pretend-world.
Nice canapes, though.