The Beauty Industry’s Ugly Truth

Illustration by Austen Rodgers

Young girls are heavily influenced by the media’s standard of the “perfect body.”

The self-esteem of a person is largely influenced by social media and, more specifically, the modeling industry. As a teenage girl growing up in a society where beauty is considered to be tall, blonde, and thin, my self-esteem has been largely impacted my entire life based on what society calls beautiful, and I am certainly not the only one.  Striving to be physically beautiful to the standards society sets can lead to extremely negative outcomes, such as eating disorders and low self-esteem.

According to The Huffington Post, The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders stated that nearly 70% of girls in grades five through 12 said that magazine images influence their ideals of a perfect body. In so-called “pro-anorexia” forums, posters write about watching fashion shows and combing magazines for “thinspiration.” I know when I was a young girl, I looked up to what I saw in fashion magazines to be beautiful, and when I did not fit those unrealistic standards, it was extremely detrimental to my self-esteem. In fact, there was not even the slimmest chance I could live up to the requirements, and neither can the majority of women. According to eating disorderhope.com, “the average American woman, according to women’s health expert Dr. Pamela Peeke, is 5’4” with a waist size of 34-35 inches. She weighs between 140-150 pounds, which equals a dress size of 12-14, which is drastically different than the average fashion model.”

Fashion is an amazing tool to create amazing self-esteem and can make a person feel good about themselves, but the modeling industry has morphed the fashion industry into a self-deprecating machine. For example, when shopping, sizes for women go until size eight. Sizes eight and up are considered “plus size.”  As stated before, the average American woman is a dress size of 12-14. It seems completely illogical to make the average size of an American woman plus size.

I know that growing up I have considered Victoria’s Secret Angels as the epitome of beauty. Victoria Secret Angels live lives where their eating, sleeping, and exercise habits are centered around maintaining their “perfect” physique. Victoria Secret models have personal trainers and makeup artists. Setting this unnatural lifestyle as the standard for being beautiful encourages girls to focus on how to be physically attractive rather than spending their time on their passions, education, and creating relationships that are meaningful with their friends and family. According to Women’s Health Magazine, the average woman spends three hundred and thirty-five hours self-grooming over the course of a year. The amount of money, time, and energy being “beautiful” takes is alarming. Women’s bodies should be celebrated. If every brand and magazine spent as much energy as they do to produce their supermodels on creating a positive impact on the self-esteem on young girls, the impact would be incredibly remarkable.

As much as it has made me insecure, the fashion and beauty industry also built my self-esteem. Wearing clothes that make you feel beautiful and wearing makeup can certainly make someone feel attractive. Fashion is an art and should be used to express someone’s creativity. Fashion should be used to build the self-esteem of young girls and it’s incredible that brands such as Aerie are seeing that.

Brands such as Aerie, a lingerie store targeted to young women, are taking action to change the unrealistic modeling industry. Their campaign sends positive body image messages, and Aerie does not use any retouching for their models. Their campaign states, “We want every girl to feel good about who they are and what they look like, inside and out. This means (and they wrote this in all caps) no more retouching our girls and no more supermodels. Why? Because there is no real reason to retouch beauty. We think the real you is sexy.” Aerie’s campaign shows girls of different races and sizes. They show girls with rolls on their stomach and girls without a thigh gap. And, to Victoria’s Secret’s dismay, they look just as beautiful.

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