Have you seen the new Star Wars movie yet? I hope so – it was fantastic. As a fan of the entire series, I was very excited for a new chapter and revisiting favorite characters from the earlier movies. Besides Chewbacca, my favorite character in the new episode was Rey. Could not miss her, she was the star, such a likable AND kick-ass character, with humanity and grit.
So about a week after my husband and I saw the movie, I was flipping through my Elle Magazine and not surprisingly, the December cover model was Rey herself, Daisy Ridley. I showed him the cover and he said, “I like her in the movie better.” I agreed it was hard to compare the tough girl running around in the movie to the made-up girl standing here on the cover. No, he explained, here on the magazine she looks like every other girl – in the movie, she looked like an individual, like herself.
Granted, my husband is not one for heavy makeup and ball gowns, preferring a natural look and I appreciate that (and, unsurprisingly, lean that way myself). Or maybe he just likes that post-apocolyptic style of dress (I do!) But overall, it was an interesting thought so let me poke around a bit...
Thought: She looks nothing like herself.
I don't know Ms. Ridley personally, so this is speculation. But I have to guess she does not leave the house to pick up groceries looking like the magazine cover, nor does she always walk around as fresh-faced as Rey. I bet she might look like the photo in the NY Times article - pulled together, rather natural, a regular expression on her face. She looks beautiful on the cover, in the article and in the movie - more of a question of personal taste of which look speaks to you (which is of no concern to Ms. Ridley herself). And don't we expect celebrities gracing magazine covers to be glammed-up versions of themselves?
Well, hmmm. I think for one, we're enamored with celebrity as a culture and we think of them as other-worldly. We'd feel let down if Jennifer Lawrence was in sweat pants with no makeup on the cover of Glamour, "being herself." It's entertainment and also I think we want to feel that aspirational pull of presenting our best selves. (Hopefully in the most authentic way). And also along the aspirational line: which of us wouldn't want a makeover, some over-the-top pampering for a few hours and some gorgeous photos? If I ever am in a magazine, I really would want to look my best - famous people are no exception. But there is a deeper question of, why isn't the natural look accepted as beautiful and that I think is a complex answer interwoven into societal standards that may go back to the dawn of man + woman. Maybe we need a study like this and conversations like these.
Thought: Magazines are selling unrealistic ideals of women.
Yes. I do think that is so. A lot of talk about pro makeup, designer clothes, gorgeous hair, an amazing life. Men get it, too, as you can see from the perfect figures on the covers of Men's Health and GQ. Glossy magazines are in the business of selling an aspirational lifestyle and somewhere along the way, they shifted from entertainment and uplifting to keeping up and feeling less-than. (Retouching photos is a whole different topic). It's not a magazine thing - it's a cultural thing. Get to the root of these negative messages in society and the messengers (TV shows, music, media) will reflect the awareness.
Thought: Is the natural look really something to aspire to?
Again, that seems to be a matter of personal taste. I feel there is room for everyone and every style and we are even allowed to switch as often as we like. I lobby for individual, authentic style. Glamming-up is not the enemy, for sure - it's the messages that sometimes go with photos that have us believe we're not up to par if we don't look like the woman in the photo.
Thought: Is there anything we can do today to start shifting the narrative?
So that's assuming you think the beauty messages we're receiving (at least some of them) have lost their esprit. Style and beauty should be creative, fun, even experimental and you should go for it as a means of self-expression. So I do feel it wanders into negative territory when it turns into just keeping on trend for trend's sake. In that case, I believe the best thing to do is stay true to your own style and own thing, because another voice in this world, a different voice, is just what we need to keep it interesting. Question the things you're hearing and reading and formulate your own opinion. It's not easy, but it's vital.
Thought: We just spent most of the article talking about looks.
Ugh. Good point. I failed to mention what a solid article/interview it was - not only well-written and positive, but Daisy herself seems like a wonderful human being. Out of all the glossies, Elle always felt the most removed from sensationalism and the most supportive of women as women. I really meant this chat about the photos to be a larger conversation of the expectations of women, specifically in terms of beauty - maybe that could have been accomplished by talking about the other upstanding qualities of the actress. But I do think the more awareness we have around the subtle messages - or at least understanding our own reaction to the messages - will only strengthen the narrative of self-love. Love yourself because you are the one and only You and the world needs your perspective.