Posts Tagged ‘media influence’

If it ain’t broke, should I fix it??

October 8, 2012

A while ago I purchased a Groupon for a microdermabrasion facial from a local laser skin care and rejuvenation center. Included in the bargain basement price was a consultation with a skin care specialist. Aware that the business offered several expensive cosmetic procedure I wasn’t entirely surprised that although I had listed dry skin and occasional breakouts as my only skin concerns, the “skin specialist” I spoke to suggested I “really consider Botox” for the “lines around my eyes and on my forehead.” In a bid to reassure me that Botox is safe and effective, she let me know that she herself had regular injections. True, she had nary a line on her face. She also appeared to be about 25 years old. Granted, she could be 50 and her apparent youth the result of the wonders of Botox. Yet a glance at the stud through her cheek, Lulu Lemon tights and Sketchers sneakers suggested this to be highly unlikely. (So as not to undermine her credibility, I will also point that she was wearing a white lab coat, the epitome of professionalism). Even still, I declined the Botox. At 31, if I choose to look closely, I can certainly see where my face folds when I smile, frown, squint, laugh, or furrow my brow. I just feel that as long as I can still get away with referring to these as “expression lines” I will continue to age gracefully. (With the exception of my Vitamin A face wash, 2 eye creams, retinol serum and day and night anti-aging moisturizers). We’ll see how I feel in 10 years.

Botox is only one tool in the anti-aging arsenal. The technology available to essentially “turn back the clock” seems to grow every day. Procedures are also becoming less invasive, more convenient, and involve less downtime, meaning people can literally walk into their doctor’s office and walk out a newer, younger person almost instantly.  It seems every other week I’m reading about a new technique to treat some cosmetic condition that I have never even heard of or never would have thought about as a physical defect. A few posts ago I wrote about cosmetic surgery for feet. I have often cursed my wide feet while shoe shopping, but never would have thought about this feature of mine as a treatable deficiency. I have just accepted that I would have to live with this trait. Alas, not anymore! With advances in cosmetic surgery, wide footism is treatable! It makes me think: Are these advancement in cosmetic surgery serving to address existing weaknesses that impede people’s lives either physically or psychologically or are these new procedures actually generating anxiety and perceived imperfections out of the normal variations among us?

Let me illustrate this quandary using the prescription lash enhancement drug Latisse. You have likely seen the advertisements for this product featuring gorgeous spokesmodel Brooke Shields. The preparation itself was originally (and still is) used as an eye drop to treat glaucoma when it was noted that patients using the solution developed thicker, longer eyelashes. Result: Latisse. The cosmetically marketed product is brushed on the lashline, and about 12 weeks later you have longer, darker, thicker lashes. Of course any substance seeking FDA approval to be sold by prescription requires a valid medical indication. And this is the kicker. Allergan, the company marketing this “medication” has identified a medical condition called hypotrichosis, defined as “inadequate or not enough lashes”. That’s right, if you are a person born with thin, lightly colored or short eyelashes, you now suffer from a treatable medical condition. The bad news is that hypotrichosis is a chronic, debilitating medical condition that will plague you for the rest of your life. There is no known cure. The good news is that the good people at Allergan have come up with an effective treatment. As long as you keep using Latisse you will have longer and thicker lashes. But you can’t stop using the solution or your eyelashes will shrink back to their original form. Hypotrichosis requires lifelong treatment.

Beyond the now routine procedures such as Botox, Restylane, lasers, implants, tummy tucks and liposuction, the cosmetic surgery industry has progressed to produce processes to “treat” the natural variations that make us unique and distinguishable from one another. Enemy number one is any natural sign of aging. Newer additions: surgery to fix a cleft chin, liposuction to treat “cankles”, turning an outie bellybutton into an innie, iris implants to turn brown eyes blue, abdominal etching (selective abdominal liposuction to give the appearance of a “6-pack”), butt implants, bicep implants, calf implants, and even pubic hair implants. What next??

Cosmetic surgery can be a touchy subject with people feeling strongly in one direction or another. There are those who feel that any attempt to be physically altered is wrong. Others are more accepting of such a metamorphosis. I find most people are in the middle. The majority of us see some of our traits as requiring reinvention, while other deviations from the middle ground are the result of simple human uniqueness. Whether demand is influencing supply or vice versa, it seems that as people continue to seek physical perfection, advancements in the cosmetic surgery field will continue. Perhaps we need not attack the industry itself, but rather take a hard look at the way men and women are represented in the media and society as idealized specimens. Finally, we have to remember that we have the autonomy to refuse to buy into the message that we are being sold. We still have free will until it goes out of style.

Consumer or Consumed? See it, Want it, Need it, Have it.

June 10, 2012

Disclaimer to my dad: Do not read this.

Last week at work, I got a large ink stain on my beautiful $250 Tory Burch burnt orange wallet. Devastated, I almost cried, but then I would have smudged my $35 Christian Dior mascara. Still feeling downtrodden after work I walked outside and of course it was raining, not unusual for Vancouver. Still, my $200 denim Filson tote bag does not zip up and I did not want it’s contents to get wet, and I was sporting my $300 open-toed Jeffery Campbell clogs. I couldn’t possibly walk to the bus stop in this state, so I opted to take a cab. At home, I did some research into the removal of ink stains from leather and was able to clean my wallet with the first aid staple isopropyl alcohol. I was so giddy at my resourcefulness that I felt I should reward myself. Essentially I had saved the price of a new wallet. Since I needed to return something at the nearest Winners I decided to go shopping. While there I was ecstatic to find that they had Hudson jeans in stock for half of the regular $200 retail price. What a great deal! I have been doing “The Brazilian Butt Workout” (purchased from an infomercial for $69.99) religiously. It has guaranteed to bring my bottom from flat to fab, and while I have noticed no change as of yet, nothing makes your ass look better than designer jeans! I have a chest of drawers full of them to prove it. And because they were half price, I opted to buy 2 instead of 1. It only makes financial sense.

I tell you all of this not to brag about my possessions or to give you mundane details of my life. I want to illustrate that I am the penultimate consumer of goods. Ads in fashion magazines? I am their target customer. Billboards? They scream to me. Why are there ads in buses, on the backs of toilet stalls, before previews in movies or on the backs of seats in cabs? For people like me. As much as I try to resist the evil influence of media, I am bewitched by the sparkling jewels, the perfectly pulled together models, the picture of the happy life that one pair of patent stilettos will bring me. Rationally, I know it is all fake. The models are photoshopped. The scenery is just a set. The smiles are forced. But when I see the ads, or the beautiful merchandise carefully and captivatingly displayed in the store, I am no less seduced. My pulse quickens, my breathing shallows. The commercial equivalent of the bad boy who’s no good for you, but who you just can’t get enough of.

It may seem I covet only designer brands. Not so. I am not exclusive. I want everything. It’s true that as I have gotten older I have begun to appreciate quality more, but I don’t search out brand names and actually prefer not to wear anything with a flashy label. (I might be a sucker for billboards, but I don’t want to BE one). Make something appealing in some clever and manipulative way, and I will be enticed to buy it. Half price? SOLD! Sample sale? I will push a physically disabled child out of the way to buy a fur coat in July. If it is limited edition, I’ll take 2. I don’t understand the concept of choosing between 2 items. Why make a decision you might second guess when you could just buy both and be twice as happy? Internet shopping is a skill. I am an expert. I believe you can never, ever have too many shoes. Shoes are like diamonds. They are forever. Your ass might get too fat for your jeans. Your feet will never get too fat for your shoes. If they do, you can still put them on display in a cabinet because they are works of art.

I fell in love with Tom Ford’s Santal Blush perfume. It is the most expensive perfume I have ever bought but I can’t get enough of it. It is my favorite of the 11 perfumes I currently have. Of course it is limited edition. Almost as soon as I bought the first bottle I started to worry. What will I do when this runs out?  When the worry became panic I bought a second bottle. My fear abated. Now I am almost halfway done the first bottle and I am becoming uneasy again. It is sold out but I could probably get a bottle on Ebay for a somewhat reasonable price. In London, I spotted a girl wearing a pair of wedge sneakers on the Subway. I needed to have them. All I knew was they were black and white and they had the word limited on them. As I am a self-proclaimed expert at internet shopping I was able to find out that they were the limited edition Ash Bowie high-top trainer. I found them at Selfridge’s and bought them for a steal at 150 pounds. I chose to ignore the 1.6 exchange rate. It was exhilarating. If I couldn’t have found them there, I could have ordered them online. I have both US and UK mailing addresses in case websites won’t mail to Canada. I can have packages forwarded to me from these mailboxes. This is necessary for all of the internet shopping I do. I recently wrote an exam through work. As a reward to myself, I decided I should buy myself something. I bought a $400 rose gold Tiffany key. I deserved it. Of course the results don’t come for 6-8 weeks, but I feel good about it. When I get the results, I’ll really celebrate. A pair of earrings caught my eye in the window of a Tibetan shop the other day. I stopped in and ended up talking to the owner for some length about Buddhism. He was so kind, I felt compelled to buy something. After all, he is an independent business owner and likely struggling in this economy. I bought a handcrafted steel wool scarf and a book in addition to the earrings. The book is on my bookshelf along with the 20 or so others I have not yet read. I buy books at a greater speed than I can read them. I could go on, but I think you get the drift.

From what you have read above you probably imagine me to be completely shallow and vain, not to mention imprudent and lacking in intelligence. This is not true in general. I am quite clever. I put myself through university mainly with scholarships and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. I have a good job, a pretty healthy amount of money in savings and am not in debt. I make an effort to be well rounded, enjoying several pastimes apart from shopping. I like reading, I dabble in photography, I jog, spend time with friends and my fiancee, take a dance class, am learning the guitar and of course write this blog. So if I have half a brain, and I recognize I have a problem, why don’t I just stop buying things I don’t need? Simple enough. Except that it’s not. Drug addicts can, for the most part, stay away from drugs, if they avoid the people and places associated with their drug addiction. Alcoholics can avoid alcohol. I can avoid the mall, buying magazines, or internet shopping. But I can’t avoid ads entirely. They are everywhere. I also can’t avoid seeing ‘things’ everywhere that I will want. I can’t avoid stores for the rest of my life. Eventually I will need to buy something necessary for life, whether it be food or drink, or even clothing, which is a necessity, although admittedly not in the excess that I indulge in it. Furthermore, as a woman who has a history of an eating disorder, I am at increased risk of addiction. Up to 50% of eating disorder patients abuse alcohol or drugs compared to just 9% of the general population. Bulimia has an obsessive compulsive component, so it is no surprise that I would substitute this type of behaviour with compulsive shopping. Impulsivity is a personality trait linked to bulimia. It is also a characteristic of shopping addiction.

Is my behavior out of my control? Of course not. It may take some work, but I have overcome worse. I have a wedding coming up, and I would rather serve Bollinger than Budweiser so I have a strict budget to adhere to. It’s time to tighten the purse strings, starting now. Or maybe tomorrow. Today I think I will see if I can find a book illustrating the concept of saving. And perhaps a new purse, with strings.

Let me see that….

April 28, 2012

The other night I found myself frantically searching my underwear drawer for my lone pair of thong underwear. Why the emergency you ask? Well, I had thankfully double-checked my appearance from all angles before leaving the house and realized the bikini briefs I was wearing were not only causing some unsightly PLs (that’s panty lines for those of you not down with the lingo) but they were also cutting into my tush giving the appearance of a double bum. Now, I may not have buns of steel here, but I have been doing my Brazilian Butt Lift workout religiously and feel my butt is well on it’s way from flat to FAB as promised. So assuming I did not in fact sprout a second rear end, I needed to fix this asap. The only possible solutions I could think of were 1)Ditch the panties. This was not an option. I’m over 30. Also more frightening than the idea of going out with twin tushies was going out with camel toe. 2)Wear a thong. No more underwear cutting into butt as underwear will have no backside, only a strip riding up between my butt cheeks giving the sensation of a perpetual wedgie. Number 2 won. So there I was ripping my drawer apart.

Source:xpshou.com

After this episode I started thinking about underwear and the role it plays in women’s lives. Clearly underwear serves a practical function for women. It holds things up and holds things in, it acts to smooth things under clothing, it serves as a barrier between intimate parts and clothing. It can change or accentuate a woman’s shape. In many cases it can also change the way a woman feels, whether it makes her feel more comfortable, sexier, more youthful or more mature. I have underwear for different moods. I have my nice ‘going out underwear’ and my laze around the house ‘boy shorts’ underwear. I have my comfortable slightly more relaxed fit ‘pms bikini brief underwear’ and my older almost ready to throw out ‘period underwear’. I have my seamless underwear for under tight pants and dresses and even a couple of pairs of gigantic high-waisted granny panties which I have learned are actually great for tight dresses as they don’t leave unsightly lines and seams across the front of the dress. And I have that one pair of emergency thong underwear. Why am I so averse? I once worked a job at a restaurant which will not be named where the orange shorts of the uniform were so short that the only possible underwear which could be worn underneath without peeking out of the bottom was a thong. For two years I donned this get-up while in university for my pharmacist degree. I grew to despise the thong. When I finally quit I threw out the shorts AND all my offending underwear and relished in wearing panties that covered my entire bottom. I haven’t gone back.

NOT ME!! Source:flickriver.com

It is believed that women have been wearing some form of undergarment since 3000 BC. Throughout history there has been a lot of controversy surrounding women’s customs with respect to underwear. Often women of higher classes wore very elaborate and constricting undergarments in order to shape their bodies to a form considered appealing in their time. One of the more controversial pieces which is still in existence today is the corset. The first corset appeared in medieval times and has persevered throughout the rest of history. During the French Revolution, women revolted by adopting the un-corset instead. This was a prototype which lacked the rigid boning of the corset making it much more comfortable and less constricting. However by Victorian times the corset was back again. Many have said the corset oppressed women throughout history, and also was the cause of unnecessary health problems. It has even been said that the lacing of the corset is a metaphor for sexual intercourse. The second controversial piece of underwear is worn by most North American women every day. It is the bra. Originally called the brassiere, it originated in the early 1900s, banding the breasts down so women could more easily do athletic activities. In 1935 cup sizes were introduced. In the 1960s and 1970s many feminists pronounced bras repressive to women, and bra burning took place all over the US and Canada. Today, there is a bra for every woman, from lined to unlined, underwire, push-up, push WAY up, backless, strapless etc.

1880s corset Source:corsetsandcrinolines.com

While at this point of my life I have to admit that my own underwear drawer is pretty G-rated, not all my undergarments are purchased for practical purposes. As I said before, sometimes women buy underwear that makes them feel sexy. Other times, they purchase undergarments to look attractive to someone of the opposite sex. Usually in these cases, we call the articles in question ‘lingerie’ and charge a lot more money for them. Lingerie is the fancy stuff, made out of lace or silk or satin. Or if you’re really kinky and in a seedy area of town it might be make of vinyl or pleather or PVC. The question is, why are we buying this stuff? Certainly society and class does not dictate the undergarments we must wear the way that it once did. That is not to say we have nothing to influence our decisions. Almost every day I see ads of beautiful models in sexy lingerie, often beside gorgeous men who are looking at them longingly. In movies and on TV, when an actress undresses, you never see her wearing ratty cotton panties and an old mismatched bra. No, you always catch her on a good day when she’s got on a matching set and she just happened to (thank goodness) throw on her best garter belt. And their relationships always end in happily ever after with perfect men who adore them. Then there’s those Victoria’s Secret Supermodels. Need I say more?? Women are constantly bombarded with messages that tell them what they need to wear under their clothes to be attractive. Not to mention how we should look in these get-ups. It’s just another impossible standard for women to live up to.

This past Valentines day, armed with romantic thoughts and courage, I visited a local lingerie shop. The first thing I noticed is that all lingerie seems to be made with men in mind. When I asked the salesgirl if she had something with a “whole bottom” she looked at me with a confused look. Apparently most women do not go there with modesty in mind. The second thing I found was that they did not appear to have bras in my size. 34A. The only A cup they had was 32A. But the girl assured me my “sister size” was a 34B and this would fit ‘perfectly’. In fact what it did was squeeze may back so hard skin poured out on either side of the band and I did not nearly fill the cup. Hmm. Thirdly, every bra seemed to be filled with either gel or water and weighed about 10 pounds. I think my significant other would know something was awry if my breasts were suddenly 2 cup sizes larger, pushed up to my chin, and sounded like the ocean. No, this was not the place for me. I eventually found what I was looking for somewhere else, something that I felt comfortable and sexy in. Did he like it? I didn’t ask.

I think as women we worry too much about what other people think about how we look. We worry about our appearance at work. Will we be taken seriously? Do we look professional? We worry about how we look when we go out. Do we look sexy? Pretty? Cute? Awake? What impression will I give? The answers we give ourselves are heavily influenced by what the media and society tells us. If we want this to change, maybe we can start with our most intimate attire. Wear what makes YOU feel good whether it’s white cotton or red satin. And sometimes practical can even be sexy to some people. I’m going to invest in another practical thong this week, you never know when you’ll need to pull it out.

It’s all on you, Baby!!

April 3, 2012

Happiness. It’s something that most people strive for, yet often cannot define for themselves when asked to. Happiness means different things to different people, and frequently our own notion of what yields happiness changes throughout our lives as we grow and change. Some seek happiness through their relationships, some through career or financial successes, others through physical fitness or outward beauty. Happiness is subjective. Your interpretation of happiness will determine if you will achieve it in your lifetime, and you may be happy at certain times of your life and unhappy at others.

The nature of happiness means that you need to identify what will make you happy. No one else can unearth your criteria for happiness. Following this, it is your responsibility to actively pursue happiness. One thing I have noticed about women, myself included, is that we very often look to others to make us happy. In a lot of ways, this is not our fault. We have been told since we were little girls playing with dolls that one day our prince would come and sweep us off our feet. The message from many Hollywood movies and TV shows is that we need to find a man to take care of us and ‘make us happy’. The media tells us that if we alter ourselves to be skinnier and more beautiful we will be happier, so we enlist the help of hairdressers and personal trainers and makeup artists and sometimes even cosmetic surgeons who are supposed to transform us and make us happily perfect. We want our careers to fulfill us, and often failing that we aim for nuclear families and children to make us feel complete and content. We buy and read books about happiness, hoping that the authors will be able to finally unlock the secret for us. I saw 3 people reading ‘The Happiness Project’ just last week. All of them were women.

Certainly our relationships with others, careers, health, even shallow things such as physical appearance and money can contribute to happiness and satisfaction. But arguably these things don’t make you happy. Being truly happy requires self-acceptance and a good self-image. A woman has to be sure of herself and confident in who she is in order to be truly happy. When a woman is reliant on others for her happiness, it shows that she lacks self-confidence. It is nice to have the man you love tell you that you are beautiful, but you shouldn’t need this validation to feel attractive. Getting praise from a boss for a job well done feels good, but you should be confident enough in your skills and abilities that you already know your value in your field. It is probably one of the hardest challenges for women, to accept themselves for who they are. It’s something I’ve been working on for a long time, and continue to struggle with. But trust me, it’s worth a try. You’ll be happier for it.

THE ISRAELIS ARE WINNING

March 28, 2012

Ad banned in the UK for "highly visible ribs"

 

On Monday, Israel put into effect a law regulating the use of extremely thin models within the Israeli fashion industry. The law bans fashion houses and advertisers from using models with a BMI less than the World Health Organization standard of normal (18.5). Models must provide a medical report no less than 3 months old at every shoot or fashion show stating she is not malnourished. The law also forces advertisers to put a disclaimer on any image that has been edited or altered in way which makes a model appear thinner so that young girls and women will know the image is not realistic. This rule does not apply to foreign publications imported into the country. The legislation comes as a response to the relatively high incidence of eating disorders in the country, where approximately 2% of girls age 14-18 have anorexia or bulimia. This is similar to rates in other developed countries. While Israel isn’t exactly a mecca of high fashion, this ban has created a buzz all over the world, and we can only hope other markets will follow suit. It shows that someone is paying attention to the effect the fashion industry has on its consumers, and how the fashion industry responds will show how much accountability they feel to the people who perpetuate and escalate its growth, both the models who sell the clothing and the women who buy them.

This is not the first we’ve heard of a country or city putting restrictions on models used in shows. In 2006, in Madrid, the Spanish Association of Fashion Designers was the first body to put a ban on overly thin models. While not a law, there was a guideline put in place that models have a BMI of at least 18. At that time, Cathy Gould of New York’s Elite modeling agency accused the agency of using the fashion agency as a scapegoat for anorexia and bulimia. The ban in fact originated after backlash following the death of a 22 year-old anorexic Uruguayan model of heart failure after starving herself for a show, and shortly thereafter the death of a Brazilian model of complications of anorexia. Following fashion week in Madrid, Milan followed suit that same year. In Milan models were required to produce a medical certificate declaring them healthy with no eating disorder, and stating a BMI of at least 18.5. The models also needed to be at least 16 years of age. This was also not an outright ban, but a guideline requiring “self-regulation by the fashion houses”. Even Mario Boselli, the head of Italy’s National Fashion Chamber did not seem to take it very seriously, stating that only “maybe one girl in a hundred’ in the shows was too skinny. In fact, the average model is 5’11’’ and 117 pounds. This gives her a BMI of 16.3. She would have to weigh 133 pounds to achieve a “normal” BMI of 18.5. The average US woman is 5’4’’ and weighs 140 pounds and has a BMI of 24.  Designers had mixed opinions about the ban. Many supported it, such as Emanuel Ungaro designer Giles Deacon who said  ”At a certain period in time, the fashion industry was portraying this image of a totally unrealistic woman, women who are not allowed to be themselves. It’s just all a bit wrong.” Many did not approve of the change. Outspoken Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld said that fashion is about “dreams and illusions, and no one wants to see round women.” Oh, Mr. Lagerfeld. There are no words.

There are many arguments that have been made against regulating the fashion industry. Some may say BMI is not a great indicator of health status or nutritional status as it is unreliable. It is true that BMI calculations can be unreliable in some cases, for example in children or the elderly, people who are very muscular, or women for example with very large breasts, or even amputees. I can’t think of a fashion model who meets any of these criteria. Some argue that there are women who are just naturally very thin and we shouldn’t punish them for this. I agree that there are those women who are naturally tall and skinny. We all have those girlfriends who for as long as we’ve known them have been twigs, eating twice as much as anyone you know and never being able to gain a pound. That girl everyone tells “You should be a model” even when she’s in her awkward ugly duckling stage because girls that tall and skinny are always models. But these girls are few and far between, and even these girls are very often not as bony as the girls we see on the runway. Should a girl like this be excluded because her BMI is 18.3 instead of 18.5? Maybe not. But there has to be a line drawn somewhere. And as for Mr. Lagerfeld’s  statement that women like to look at “illusions” on the runway? I think that most women would rather see clothing on a real woman. When a woman looks at a size zero model wearing an outfit and she is a size 10, she has no “allusions” that outfit will look the same on her. (Hahaha)

Fast forward to now and we have actual government legislation in place in a country protecting models in an industry that up to now has promoted an unhealthy body image, as well as helping shield impressionable young girls and teenagers from images of unachievable ideals. There is some rumbling of similar legislation being discussed in France and in the US. An ad was recently banned in the UK for portraying a model with “highly visible ribs”. Australia has come up with a new code of conduct for the fashion industry. If key recommendations are met, such as not using female models that are excessively thin or male models that are excessively muscular, not using cosmetic surgery or rapid weight loss ads in magazines, putting disclosures on altered photos, not using models under 16 and stores stocking a wide variety of sizes then the fashion labels, modeling agencies, and magazines which comply will be awarded with the youth minister’s stamp of approval. We are not anywhere close to being there yet, but people are recognizing there is a problem and talking about it, and that is a good step in the right direction.

Will you buy what the kids are selling?

March 27, 2012

Dakota Fanning for Marc Jacobs Lola perfume

 

There has been a lot of controversy lately surrounding the use of very young actresses as the faces of campaigns for everything from makeup to perfume to high end designer clothing. Dakota Fanning was the cover girl for a Marc Jacobs campaign at the age of 12, and now at the age of 17 she is the face of his Lola perfume ads. Her younger sister Elle (13) is showcasing his Marc by Marc Jacobs line. 14 year-old Hailee Steinfeld, best known for her Oscar nominated role in True Grit was the face of the 2011 Miu Miu campaign. 15 year-old Chloe Moretz (Kick Ass) has just been named the MaxMara 2012 face of the future and is doing an advertising campaign for them. 19 year-old Emma Watson has been doing campaigns for Burberry since 2009. Using young celebrities in advertising isn’t a new concept. In 1980, a 14 year-old Brooke Shields was the young centerfold in Calvin Klein jean ads, alongside the very suggestive logo “Nothing gets between me and my Calvins”. However the number of underage girls in the media seems to be increasing, and their age decreasing. Also, with the technology of today, media reaches a much broader demographic of people. It is hard to believe there is any race, culture, economic class, religion or age of person who is not affected by advertising today.

Hailee Steinfeld for Miu Miu

 

It is true that a lot of models are ‘discovered’ at a very young age, sometimes as young as 13 or 14. They can be doing runway shows and booking fashion shoots while still going through puberty. But let’s face it. When you see a stream of models walking down a runway, one angular, expressionless girl after another, you can’t really distinguish a teenager from a 25 year-old.  No one has any of the features that distinguish them as women, such as breasts or hips. These girls and women are alike in their androgeny. Case in point: one of the biggest models in the runway world right now is Andrej Pejic, a gorgeous Serbian who has walked numerous high-end women’s runway shows this last season. He is a man. Looking at him in the stream of other models, one would never guess he was any different from any of the female models on the runway. It is bizarre that designers believe their clothing looks best on women who look nothing like women at all, but instead like prepubescent children.

So why is hiring very young celebrities for designer ad campaigns any different? First, my soapbox: In general, I think that the modeling world is very hard on young girls, and when a teenager is put in a position where her success is based solely on how she looks, it can set her up for a lot of disappointment, rejection, and self-esteem issues. It can also send the wrong message to girls regarding what is really important. But if a parent wants to allow her daughter to model at a young age, I think it is important to look at the appropriateness of each job with respect to what that girl is selling and how she is selling it. It’s appropriate for a teenager to model a teen clothing line. If a teenager is modeling for an adult line and she is made up to look like an adult as many teens can, it may be appropriate as long as she is not placed in inappropriately adult or sexualized poses. When it comes to celebrities, these girls are household names. People are aware that they are young, underage girls, so automatically people are going to question the appropriateness of hiring them for adult clothing lines, even if they are made up to look older. The reality is that for a lot of these campaigns these girls are purposely painted and posed in order to highlight their youth and innocence. They are put in pretty dresses, or in silly, childish poses. In some of the more sinister photos, such as the Lola perfume ads featuring Dakota Fanning, there is a juxtaposition of Dakota’s youthfulness with her ‘sexuality’ where she is sitting in a cute frilly dress looking innocently at the camera, holding the bottle of perfume with a large flower top in between her legs. There are other ads that use a similar juxtaposition showing extremely youthful celebrities wearing very adult clothing and posed in a very adult manner. The Lola perfume ad was banned in the UK for sexualizing a child. The company that makes the perfume, Coty, responded that it did not feel the perfume was inappropriately sexualized because Fanning is over the age of consent (16), and also because no body parts and no sexual activity is shown. To them, the ad is “provoking, but not indecent”. Hmm. A Miu Miu ad featuring Hailee Stenfeld was also banned in the UK because it showed her wearing a very short skirt and sitting on a train track. It was banned not for the skirt, but because it showed the child in a hazardous or dangerous situation. They are referring to the railway track and not the fact she is 14 and already a sex object.

Casting a celebrity for an ad campaign is very different from hiring a beautiful yet unidentifiable model. When hiring a model, the designer is only looking for the person whom they feel will best showcase the brand. Is she beautiful? Will the clothes look great on her? When hiring a celebrity, that person will be recognizable to the general public. Celebrities have predetermined reputations to take into account, and designers have to additionally think about whether the person will affect the integrity or image of the brand. Often that is why celebrities are used, to reach their vast number of fans and help to expand the brand’s consumer base. One has to wonder what a designer is thinking when he decides to hire a child for a women’s clothing campaign. What message is it designed to send, and what message are women receiving? I can only speak for myself, and when I see a 14 year-old in a dress on a billboard, it doesn’t make me want to go out and buy that dress. It might make me say “Awwwwwww…”, but I don’t know any 30 year-old women who want to show up at a party in the same dress as their 15 year-old niece. Are these designers then trying to reach out to a younger client base? Are they trying to expand to the preteen/teen crowd? This could be a risky move. While these starlets will likely attract the attention of girls in this age range, I don’t know that a lot of them will have the allowance to purchase the digs from Marc Jacobs, Miu Miu, or  Burberry. The demographic most likely to buy these brands would relate much better to actresses that have been in movies that do not begin with Twi and end in light. Many women who covet these labels may not even know who these younger stars are, and therefore would not be swayed by their use in ads. It has been suggested that a reason for using such young stars in ads is because our culture is obsessed with youth. There may be some truth to that. But I certainly have no desire to relive my teenage years. Looking at a girl in an ad campaign who is 13-17 years of age doesn’t make me think: “Oh, to be young again”. It makes me think: “That poor girl, she doesn’t know what’s going to hit her”. (I mean emotionally, as in those hard teenage years, not literally, as in that train that is apparently going to hit Ms. Steinfeld on the railway track). Show me a 20 year-old in an ad with gorgeous, wrinkle-free, flawless skin, hair that shines, and a radiant, youthful glow, and yes, I’ll buy what she’s selling. I may even get the urge to run to the next Botox clinic. But when I see a kid gyrating against a bottle of perfume in a magazine? I just want to call her mother.

Chloe Moretz for Max Mara