Wednesday, March 23, 2011

American Beauty

No, I'm not talking about the movie. As anyone who watches America's Next Top Model could probably tell you, standards for beauty in the fashion industry change from year to year, morphing from "traditional" beauties like Christy Brinkley and Turlington to those with more unique features. The standard for gorgeous used to be a symmetrical face, high cheekbones, long flowing hair, and strikingly sculpted beauty. Models who walk the runways now might not stop you in your tracks on the subway, but are prized for their specialness, their individual look. Different is better, traditional is commercial.

The desired look for models has evolved from Twiggy's waif to to a love of an athletic, toned body (think Patti Hansen and Cindy Crawford) to Kate Moss's "short" waifish beauty,  and back again. More recently, there has been the love of the sexy bombshell that every Victoria's Secret model embodies: leggy, and busty with a flat stomach and round butt. Standards for the ideal beauty to be featured in every magazine and on TV show change with these idealized looks.

So what is the typical "American" beauty? Google image the word beauty, and you'll see that this is not a simple question. However, Allure magazine set out to find the answer with a beauty survey of 2,000 respondents designed to determine what our nation perceives as the most attractive physical archetype.

The results? The majority of men and women surveyed perceived a photo of Latina woman with dark eyes and dark hair as the most attractive from a variety of races and ethnicities. The male winner? A dark-haired, dark-eyed male model of Indian descent.

The reigning beauty standard of the past has expanded, likely in response to the increasing diversity and growing acceptance of all races and ethnicities that inhabit this great melting pot. Beauty has always taken on a range of forms, but a more inclusive conception of what is skin colors, and facial features are idealized has only appeared in recent years. With increased idealization of more forms of beauty, I hope to see a new generation of confident women emerge as more and more girls can find their likeness in the glossy pages of a magazine. Here's to hoping the next fashion and beauty revolution brings a transition away from emaciated and towards healthy figures.

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