For years, the media has defined beauty as being fair skinned with Eurocentric features. The perception of having lighter features was classified as the ideal beauty. Going back to the 1960’s, Marilyn Monroe was considered “perfect” with her all-American features; blonde hair and blue eyes that represented the Eurocentric beauty the world was mesmerized by. Thus, Black women with a darker skin complexion had been shunned as not depicting or reflecting the “ideal beauty.” As time evolved, so did television ads with Black women promoting products that were essentially used to make our hair “European straight” or “mixed-chick curly.” Not to be misunderstood, who doesn’t want nice long hair but the often indoctrination of having “straighter hair” equals beauty. Images translated to the world were based upon how to make your hair longer and straighter. The thought of having a glorious mane of kinky, coily hair was horrifying to the media and the representation of women of color in advertising was extremely marginalized.
Over the years, Black and Asian women have encountered difficulty when it comes to makeup. For years Mac makeup was the front runner for women of a darker skin complexion. Finding the right shade was difficult as women of color come in different hues from caramel to mahogany, makeup brands such as Iman and Black up catered for Black women. I have previously read models finding it extremely difficult with makeup artists struggling to apply the right makeup or having a lack of knowledge when it comes to darker skin tones. Model Jordun Dunn once said in a Vogue interview, “to be honest choices can still be limited for darker skin, people don’t understand they’ll offer darker shades but they don’t understand the different tones in darker skin whether they will be too ashy or too orange. It would be great if makeup artists were better educated in how to do makeup on darker skin”. Unfortunately, not just Black women in the world of modeling have encountered issues with makeup.
Equally, most women recognize that the thin models portrayed in the media are unattainable ideals and can therefore, prevent explicit social comparison. As a result, because most previous studies have used explicit questionnaires, the implicit attitudes that might be more sensitive to the impact of unrealistic social comparison may be overlooked. The importance of including both implicit and explicit measures of self-image is emphasized by the mixed media messages that women receive about beauty. American women increasingly receive explicit advice from people in their lives that their worth is not based on their appearance; however, women cannot avoid the implicit association between extreme standards of physical attractiveness and success, acceptance and self-worth.
As shown above, women are faced with a constant barrage of advertisements every day and the subliminal messages that come with this visual assault. These messages are influenced by years of sexism and oversexualization in the media, and shape the actions of female consumers. The results from a majority of advertisements' effects on women demonstrate that exposure to these advertisements is harmful to women’s body image, mood, self-esteem, view of self, health, eating habits, consumption patterns, expectations, and many more. The role of social comparison was shown to be a key component in generating these effects; in that, advertisements alone cannot have detrimental consequences unless women engage in comparisons of themselves with the unrealistic ideals portrayed within the advertisements. Because the ideal of beauty and thinness is presented across all forms of media, many women accept it as their own ideals and internalize the disappointment they feel with their own body because of it. While the ideal of thinness is not a new concept, the pervasive reach of mass media means that this ideal is transmitted on a far larger scale than ever before. Not all women are equally vulnerable to the negative effects of advertising messages, but even short exposure to thin-ideal images creates negative moods and body dissatisfaction.
Unfortunately, the ideal for feminine beauty is a social construct that depicts a flawless, faultless, and impossibly-proportioned woman upon whom women should base themselves to be considered attractive in society. However, this ideal is not simply a theoretical construct that women hope to emulate; rather, it is a tool employed by advertisers to create a constant demand for beauty products that help women inch closer to this impossible standard. Because there are many advantages to being attractive in society, advertisements develop and nurture a strong need in female consumers to obtain this beauty. Other factors, like how familiar a woman is with the concept of ideal beauty or whether her favorite celebrities endorse beauty-enhancing products, contribute to the need for women to continue purchasing beauty products even though the advertisements, and the ideals they portray, have negative effects.
In the end, all that women—specifically black women—have gone through in regards to beauty standards has only prompted us to create our own. With platforms like ‘Black Girls Rock’ and ‘My Black is Beautiful’ leaves girls learning to value and appreciate themselves. No longer having the fear of meeting the unreachable standards created by society. Now living comfortably in melanin skin, kinky hair, and natural faces because the standard of black beauty is individualistic. The essence of being black now displays a strong feeling of prosperity, deliverance and not limiting ourselves to what society perceives us to be and look like.