Selena Gomez is looking to combat damaging beauty standards with her new line of cosmetic products, Rare Beauty. In a press release , Gomez was quoted saying:
I created this brand to help break down the unrealistic standards of perfection that exist in the beauty world today.
It’s a noble goal.
But a beautiful is celebrity selling beauty products to help women overcome unrealistic beauty standards. That’s like a tyrant trying to end world hunger by taking away all the food.
Selena’s brand is filled with images that play into the standards she claims she’s trying to break down.
Last year, the U.S. cosmetics industry took in an estimated 49.2 billion dollars . It’s the second largest industry in the U.S., ahead of healthcare, education, and even supermarket/groceries.
Unlike those other industries, the beauty world is based almost purely on perception instead of fact. You don’t need cosmetics like you need a meal. A reason has to be created for you to buy them.
Social critic Christopher Lasch once said,
Modern advertising seeks to create needs, not to fulfill them; it generates new anxieties instead of allaying old ones.
The industry exists not out of necessity, but because it created a problem for itself to solve. A study published in the Journal of Global Fashion and Marketing stated that only 18 percent of the claims made in cosmetics advertising could prove to be trustworthy.
Selena Gomez might market her brand as one that seeks to empower women, but it’s empowering women in a space that is uniquely designed to create flaws in their self-image for capital gain.
Over the last decade, advertising has morphed from something overt into something much more subtle—the social media influencer. According to Forbes, social media influencers now take up an estimated 8 billion dollars of the beauty industry marketing budget.
While traditional beauty advertising might have harmed women’s self-image, social media is even more damaging. Influencers are less accountable than traditional advertisers because their views are toted as specific to them, and consumers spend way more time on social media than they would spend looking at a magazine ad.
According to a study reported by the New York Post , even just 30 minutes on Instagram can make women fixate negatively on their weight and appearance.
Much of this image negativity comes from posts that present themselves as inspirational.
The inspiration begins to ring a little hollow, however, when you realize it’s a curated photoshoot designed to make a millionaire look so good, you must buy what they’re selling. Kylie Jenner on Instagram is the same as McDonald’s or Target. They have an agenda, and, as we’ve learned, an influencer’s agenda can be at odds with the truth.
Selena Gomez is no different than other influencers. She says her goal is to break down unrealistic standards of perfection, but if you look at her Instagram, those same beauty standards are at play.
Like Kylie Jenner or Kim Kardashian above, Selena is still just selling unattainable beauty via cosmetics products and a professional photoshoot. You cannot break the unfair elevated expectations we’ve pushed on women’s looks by playing into those same expectations. It’s a snake eating its own tail.
Makeup can be whatever you want it to be. It can give you a sense of empowerment. It can make you feel good. It can be a form of art. But let’s not pretend to be smashing the status quo by releasing a line of cosmetic products that fit right into the trap.
If you’re looking to improve self-image, here’s an article that can help that has nothing to do with cosmetics.