Beauty standards, and the representations thereof, have been shaped by greed and prejudice for centuries longer than any of us have been blotting lipstick. For Western media in particular, the image of a thin white woman has dominated the mainstream to a propaganda-like extent.
Even countries around the world have suffered the consequences: A 1998 study showed that high school girls in Fiji developed eating disorders at a much higher pace after American television shows began broadcasting there.
Even Vogue’s recent “diversity” issue was heavily criticized for a cover featuring more white models than models of color, and no dark-skinned models at all. The cover did have one-plus sized model, but the rest were typically skinny and tall. As the peak of hypocrisy, this “diversity” issue had a spread of a white model in yellow face, appropriating the imagery of Japanese geishas. Just from these few glossy pages of one magazine issue, it’s clear that the beauty and fashion industries have a long way to go before they can say that they truly represent the populace.
Digital media has usually been perceived as the thriving alternative to mainstream media. On a small scale, this effect can be seen in the flourishing of communities around niche interests, while more diverse shows on Netflix and Hulu in comparison to cable are a larger boon. In the realm of beauty, the people and styles not represented in traditional outlets have room to prosper online. There are still barriers to digital platforms, of course, since a person needs a camera, editing equipment and internet access at the very least to be a creator.
Modern beauty blogging alone cannot reform the industry — never mind thousands of years of cultural bias — but for now, these creators serve an important purpose in portraying their personal definitions of beauty. These definitions are not necessarily alternate forms of beauty; they have just existed without cameras in front of them or a billion-dollar industry behind them. When beauty enthusiasts are in charge of their own lenses, they can control what images to project for a more positive and gorgeous atmosphere overall. Diversity obviously means far more than choosing between a cat-eye or cut-crease, so below are just a few examples of super cool, super positive beauty enthusiasts making the web more glam.
A licensed cosmetologist of Nigerian descent, Jackie Aina has vowed, according to her channel page, to change the “standard of beauty, one tutorial at a time”. She’s taken big cosmetic brands to task for not having a full range of foundations and performing poorly on darker skin. In her own collaborations with brands, she always makes sure that the product looks great on everyone.
The dearth of diverse foundation products, taking undertones and skin type into account, is no secret. Even when there are functional products, it’s hard for people to test the shades themselves. That’s a big part of the reason vloggers like Nyma Tang are so important! In one typical video for her channel, she details affordable products for dark skin.
Claire Marshall and Dasha Kim
As with different skin tones, it’s harder to find tutorials for monolid eyes in mainstream beauty-focused media. Luckily, there are artists like Claire Marshall and Dasha Kim to help out!
It’s disappointing that so many lifestyle platforms assume their viewers have the same sort of hair, and thus only suggest styles for straight, thin, non-textured follicles. Happily, Youtube is just one of the many platforms that serve to broadcast diversity, with tricks for cute looks and helpful products all around! For example, Tatyana Ali has some nice preppy styles, perfect for back-to-school!
While some magazines touch on the topic of acne, it’s usually in a way that’s more pretty than useful; it becomes more of a quirky trait than something educational. Like, I am sure that these flawlessly beautiful supermodels have secret tricks for banishing a zit overnight or whatever, but the average person doesn’t really have a paid facialist or free luxury products. That’s why I personally really like Fei’s videos! She tests masks and tools, demonstrates practical tricks for covering up spots, and never shies away from the pimply task at hand.
Even when creators aren’t necessarily talking about makeup, an insight into their daily lives can provide a valuable perspective. For instance, Ingrid Nilsen was one of the first female makeup vloggers to come out, offering important representation and sincerity in the extremely heteronormative beauty world. It also makes her date night tutorials even better!
J Alahi, SoothingSista & Kaya Empire
For basically October through December, the web is saturated with Christmas makeup tutorials. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — although, geez, the timing — but other religions and cultures do exist! I might have my own lipstick picked out for latkes, but it’s still so cool to see people like J. Alahi get glam for Eid, Stephanie and her friends party for the Lunar New Year or Kaya Empire blend out her eyeshadow for an Indian wedding reception.
That Isn’t All
And this is just a small sample of the way that modern vloggers define beauty! Perhaps the most common trait of these beauty bloggers, aside from appreciating cosmetics, is a level of honesty not necessarily depicted in traditional mediums. Thanks to the accessibility of the platform, anyone can elucidate their own form of beauty.
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