‘Beauty whitewash’, it’s a thing in advertising and it’s used to describe situations where the advertisers portray simply one race, thus one definition of beauty, or more controversially where the skin tone of others are depicted as digitally retouched to appear whiter. It is rampant trend in the advertising industry and has been for many years, but we are so accustomed to it that often it’s so difficult for us to notice that advertisers are only pushing one definition of beauty to us.
Probably one of the most infamous cases of whitewashing is that of beauty giant L’Oreal whitewashing Beyonce Knowles in their ad into a paler skin-toned and strawberry blonde hair woman, whose appearance is uncanny to her original tones.
This is especially concerning in multicultural countries such as Australia and the United States. I mean, in Australia alone 1 in four Australians are born overseas but somehow, when it comes advertisers’ portrayal of beauty, the array of multiculturalism just does not make the cut. We can’t pretend like this is harming the beauty ideals. How can girls and young women of colour feel beautiful when the messages pushed by advertisers is that beauty is whitewashed.
Many studies have been conducted into the idea that the advertising industry thrive off women feeling bad about their appearances and their bodies, and tapping into their desire to fix their flaws which many women perceive as not measuring up to the media standards of beautiful which they perceive as the average. What these studies indicate is that these manipulations are working. For one, Kristen Harrison conducted a study testing the idea that exposure to TV influenced girls believes about others though of their own bodies and found that white women’s exposure to TV beauty ideas predicted the large-busted women wanted smaller chests and the small-busted women wanted larger chests. Therefore, no one believes they are perfect the way they are, no matter how they appear.
I think, author, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown sums it up pretty well… “too many black and asian children grow up understanding the sad truth that to have dark skin is somehow to be inferior” and there needn’t be this view. When everyone is born with different tones from light to dark, shouldn’t there be more than one definition of beauty?
Advertisers need to reflect society and show that beauty has no one definition. Some advertisers such as Estee Lauder has chosen to embrace that every woman can be beautiful regardless of ethnicity, making it it’s beauty brand’s message in its new ad campaign. This is a beautiful message but more advertisers needs to work towards diversity and inclusivity. Until then, as their target market, we should appreciate our beauty regardless.
What do you think dear readers? Should advertisers stop whitewashing definitions of beauty?