Best Summer Beauty Secret!!

Are you hot, or not? This question obsesses our culture from the billions we spend on cosmetic products to the massive social networking platform originally used–and still today–to rate the hotness of college co-eds, known as Facebook. Take a quick spin through your local mall, or better yet, television dial and our addiction to attraction is everywhere.

But what makes one person beautiful and another…well, less so? The truth is beauty is not a constant but a concept which varies widely based on place, time, and a host of cultural values. What is beautiful now is not the same as even a few years ago, and of course, the idea of a beautiful woman is different around the globe.

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The Marquardt Beauty mask, a mathematical rendering of symmetrical features, applied to three races

Its safe to assume that ideas of beauty are as old as humans–beauty is, after all, in the the eye of the beast: animals use visual cues to chose and attract potential successful mates. In humans, some of the visual markers of a desirable mate are symmetrical features, clear skin, and less facial hair, “child bearing hips” and cues of youthfulness, indicating overall health.

tumblr_myj3854fM91rcei4io1_500The human focus on breasts butts are also leftovers from mate selection.

-1Other visual cues, like red lips, may be evolutionary adaptations to attract mates when humans began walking upright, obscuring visual displays of genitalia….or not.

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We’ve come a long way from needing these cues. With 7 billion humans in the world, we’ve masted the mating thing, so the need for these visual cues is less, even as our ability to mimic these cues increases. Want to look young with plump youthful skin?

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full red lips

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Juvedrem Ad

and an attractive breast to waist ratio? All you need is cash and recovery time.

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If you’re looking for something less drastic, try the latest make up craze–contouring.

Miracles-of-Makeup-ContouringBefore and after shots show the difference that a complex make up job “photo-ready” make up–originally popularized to deal with the improved picture quality of high definition cameras and video–can have . The celebrity Queen of illusion, Kim Kardashian, is of course, an early convert:

8312247449_fdfaab2079_zWe know that many of our favorite stars look more like us without their team of makeup artists and stylists than they would like us to know. Are they more beautiful? Not necessarily, but what they are is highly constructed. If we were to apply the same techniques used to change media personality on normal people, we know we would get similar results

Artist Esther Honig recently asked 41 freelance graphic artists around the world to Photoshop her image to make it beautiful. What results is 41 variations--darker or lighter skin, varying eyebrow shape, degree and style of make up and addition of clothes and accessories–of Honig (click the link to see all 41). Each picture is also a lens into the particular standard of beauty in each county.

channel-curation-featured-wide-largeIn both of these interesting media samples, we are challenged to see these variations in defining beauty. Going further afield, we find lots of conversation about accepting a wider variety of body types and ages as part of what we consider beautiful.

women's+ideal+body+size+for+menEven with a wider definition, our cultural obsession overemphasizes the construction of our outer appearance as beauty, but isn’t beauty more than skin deep?

2a42f69ef80ababf5b941e6c7127c0b5I remember watching TV with my father one day, when I was about 14 or so. In a commercial, there was an old woman with a weathered wrinkled face. I remember my father saying, “Wow, what a beautiful face!” I was struck by his exclamation–the face I saw was completely different from what every woman’s magazine was telling my adolescent self: that beauty, judged by men, hinged on having a completely polished and refined exterior, one that would cover any individuality blemishes and mask them as something more desirable.

Look at the real women–and men–around you: your parents, your children, your friends. You don’t love them because they’re sexy. In their faces, in their features, no matter how symmetrical or misshapen, is a lived experience, a real life complete with laughter (lines), sadness (and eye bags) and not a few days outside. It’s not their polished mask, but the very blemishes that track the life we have shared with them that makes them beautiful to us.

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Chemical consequences of beauty products

What if they forgave your freckles and dark spots? Better yet, what if they loved you because of the laugh lines and crows feet that make you you? Would you have more time and money to spend doing what you love if you didn’t have to polish your mask so much? What if living your best life was enough to make you beautiful?

acceptBeauty, like the face of an old woman, is a life well lived with love given freely. Love costs nothing, contains no harmful chemicals, and doesn’t need to be removed before bed. Take off your mask, go live your life, it’s guaranteed to give you a healthy glow.

 

 

 

 

Big Fish and Dog Licks

I’ve noticed a lot of ads for mobile games like Bubble witch, Pet Rescue Saga and Papa Pear.  All three are games produced by King, the company that created the wildly addictive Candy Crush Saga.

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If these games are your fave, you’re probably not the typical gamer.  Kings target audience is women, particularly 20 something and up.  This strategy has made King one of the hottest internet game companies.  While King’s IPO didn’t thrill at a little over $20.00 a share, it’s still holding on as a multimillion dollar publicly traded company.  Not bad money made off of virtual lollipops and donuts.

candy_crush_saga_tipsBut with Candy Crush’s popularity waning, it should be no surprise that Big Fish games is circling like a shark.  Big Fish has an ad with a particularly feminine flair–check it out:

Okay, is it me, or does the ad scream “I’m the perfect game for lonely dog/cat ladies doing nothing at home”?  And if you are that dog/cat lady, please know that playing slots on your iPad will not result in a Sex-In The-City life .  You’re going to have to put that cat on a leash and leave the house if you want to meet hot guys.

 

Pretty…Smart

Verizon is at it again this week with an interesting ad.

While Girls in elementary school like math and science at rates close to their male counterparts, by the time girls reach collage the gap has widened considerably.    Encouraging girls to focus on outside appearance instead of intellectual pursuits not only affects the girls themselves, but all of us–you, me and your kids, too.

Anyone that watched the wonder that was Cosmos learned that there were lots of women in the sciences that made discoveries critical to our understanding of the world.  Diversity of gender–or race for that matter–isn’t just nice, it ensures that our best and brightest get the support they need build us all a better future.

 

 

GOOOAAAL: Respect!!!!

World Cup play has been nothing less than thrilling, with enough drama to fill  Bravo’s TV summer line up.  There’s been overly dramatic falls and equally dramatic play, not to mention a little zombie bite between friends.

130422103717-suarez-bite-ivanovic-story-topWhat is also on display, as it has been so often in sports this year, is gross racism.   And I mean gross not just in the quality, but in the straight-no-chaser approach to ugly racial epitaphs, racist costumes, and hate language.

Brazil v Mexico: Group A - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

Some German fans decided their love for team Germany was best expressed by dressing up in black face.  And to make sure they spread their fan feces beyond the stadium, fans uploaded pictures to Instagram, lighting up social media.article-2665775-1EFFF93000000578-788_634x397

FIFA took note of the racist behavior and vowed an investigation into the behavior.  Of course, race has played a gross recurring role in football.  In just the past year alone we’ve seen fans fight it out and even players taunted on the field.  Is it because football fans are racists, or at least more racist than most people?

no_to_racismFootball, like out own American sports, is more than a game, and the ability to paint our faces and pledge our fealty to the world is an old tradition still much desired even in our modern world.  Sport is an opportunity to rise beyond the day-to-day existence  to strive for a moment of glory and greatness–the hero’s summit at the top of his field has millions chanting his name, etched forever into the record books.

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Sport is also a chance to pledge our allegiance to our tribe, to show off our country’s colors, and to win in competion the right to say our people are the best people.

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Hmm, all that competitive spirit, tradition, nationalism and a little beer–or a lot of beer and capirainnias.  What could go wring?

well there’s this

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mideast-egypt-soccer-riot-390x285and then of course there’s this

1386611588000-RSI-SOCCER-BRAZIL-CHAMPIONSHIP-1To be sure on the other side of the coin, sport also brings us together, yes in pitched battle, but one where the biggest victims are ego’s and pride.

But what do these gross displays tell us about race in this moment in time?  When we look for cultural messages, we have to consider the context–where is the message coming from and what is the culture there?  This question is simplified, as a colleague asked me, “Well isn’t it different because it’s Germany?’

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She’s not alone.  Tweets and not a few twits have used the same argument in dismissing the recurrent use of black face and other racialized imagery in sports and other public events.

The general idea is that since black face–as we know it today– originated in the American south, that it is only symbolically powerful when referring to African Americans, but outside of America, black face isn’t really offensive.  That’s like saying since Hip Hop was created as an expression of African Americans, there can be no hip hop anywhere but in America, despite the fact that people around the world have been exposed to it.  Black face has been exported as has American ideology–and now media–around the world.  Let’s be clear:  black face is offensive, even between Germans and Ghanians.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel posing Black faced magoi for traditional three Kings Day.  Yeah, black face is a thing in Germany
German Chancellor Angela Merkel posing Black-faced magi for traditional three Kings Day. Yeah, black face is a thing in Germany

Black face in it’s American Minstrel mutation is one symbolic representation of brown-skinned people that was part of a much larger, more complex colonial narrative–a story that colonizers told to justify the oppression of colonized people.  Cultural narratives like this are grand and sweeping, showing up in the culture of the time, in literature, art, even science.  The story shows up in entertainment in one mutation as black face.  But that was not the only negative depiction of “others” during colonialism, which operated on all continents.

bri_india02_4074To believe that the message contained in black face –the inhuman and uncivilized dark nature of the  other–was contained in a few short centuries in America alone is to ignore the power and pervasive control of colonialism in all corners of the globe.

conquistadorJust as black face in America today is an echo of the same old racist story born in American slavery, so does the racism on display at the world cup ring the bell of colonialism, and the lingering ideas of racial superiority, poison seeds planted by years of political, social and economic imperialism.

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The games show us that racial conflict persists in our post racial world–even beyond America.  Just as racism in America intensifies as the American population changes, so too with racism around the world.  While America for sure has it’s own unique flavor of racism,  changing demographics and increased mobility are bringing groups of people into new relationships.  To really be a global village that won’t tear itself apart, we’ve got to be vigilant about dismissing the stories of the past so that we are careful they don’t become the stories of our future.

 

I Got Time!

It’s summer, and that means every weekend there are dozens of people in my town who drag all the stuff they don’t want outside towards the street to see if they can convince hapless passers-by to pay for it.  Yard sales pop up like weeds in the driveways all around town, and more prolific than the sales themselves are the signs on every telephone pole and street sign.  Most signs are lackluster at best, utterly ignore-able most of the time….until–this!

photo (4) Clever, funny, well drawn with a solid understanding of pop culture and advertising appeal!  I may not want to buy the dusty crap from your basement, but you win the award for Best Yard Sale Sign of 2014!

Limited Potential

This Verizon ad has been running widely lately, featuring some fine young black artists. The ad was originally developed as part of a black history month celebration.

Extended interaction online and at live events include a health challenge, several videos, and events; though it looks like it hasn’t updated since it’s limited launch in February, while ads are still in heavy rotation.  The whole campaign is aimed at inspiring young people to reach their potential–great job!–by buying their products. #thisisanadnotacharity