A friend of mine recently sent me this video in which little Sophie, with the help of her mother, sends out an important message via YouTube. The title seems like a big DUH (“Beauty is Not How Skinny You Are”), but it surely is a message we don’t hear enough. The message extends past dissatisfaction with body weight as Sophie asks the audience “Why are you trying to look like someone else?”:
Why are we trying to look like someone else? Why do companies want us to want to look like someone else?
You might think, “I’m not trying to look like someone else!”, but the truth is that social standards of beauty say that we are only attractive if we have certain physical attributes. These physical attributes tend to come from a select pool of celebrities, too.
Just glancing at the magazine racks as I do my grocery shopping, I can’t escape constant reminders that I, too, can get Michelle Obama’s arms, or Cameron Diaz’s abs, or follow Britney’s quick weight loss plan. How do I copy Kristin Stewart’s outfit, or Beyonce’s hair? My complexion is most like Halle Berry’s, and here is a list of lipstick shades she wears! These magazines say that I, too, can be glamorous, and so can you–we just need to alter our appearances to match Hollywood standards.
As technology advances, we are not limited to simply changing workouts or getting new haircuts! A wide array of reality shows about cosmetic surgery inform us that we have new options!
Shows like The Swan (2004-2005), which About-Face protested, and ABC’s Extreme Makeover (2002-2007) portray cosmetic surgery as just another makeover. There is also MTV’s I Want a Famous Face (2004-2005), which documents people who go through surgery and makeovers to look more like the certain celebrities.
As rates of cosmetic surgery rise, more and more people request specific celebrities’ features. The most requested celebrity nose is Jessica Alba’s. Women are asking for collagen injections to get Angelina Jolie’s lips. There are people asking specifically for Scarlett Johansson’s eyes. Would you want to go under the knife to look like your favorite celebrity?
With these shows and ads telling me that looking like my favorite celebrity is as easy as 1, 2, 3, little Sophie’s voice pops back into my head: “Why are you trying to look like someone else?”
Little can remind us more of the beauty of our individuality than a child’s voice reminding us that “You are unique.” Sophie tells the viewer that there will never be another person like them, so why would we want to look like someone else?
“Do you want me to look like somebody else?” she asks. Hearing that from a young girl is almost heartbreaking because we imagine that girls as little as Sophie should be free from the media influences that tell them to change.
If we don’t want Sophie to change and doubt her own uniqueness, why would we want to change ourselves? As Sophie repeats the question “Why do you want to look like someone else?”, I find that I can’t come up with a better answer than “I don’t.”
Do you want to look like someone else? Why or why not?
Tea is a college student in Berkeley studying Art and Sociology. While working at a cafÃ©, she realized there was a lot of negative body talk floating around and wanted to encourage women to rethink the roles their bodies have in their lives. She hopes they would embrace their bodies (and minds!) rather than aspire towards unattainable ideals. What good is a body if you can’t enjoy it? When she’s not blogging for About Face, she writes, runs a photography business, and cuddles up with good books.