Perhaps it is a bit ironic that The National Eating Disorder Awareness Week commences the day after the Oscars. Or maybe it is well-timed. For one night, millions of viewers tune into watch Hollywood’s elite grace the red carpet. And while it is hard not to get caught up in so much beauty and glamour concentrated in three short hours, it is important to remember that like everything else in Hollywood, it is a product of the hard work and imaginations of an entire crew. Hair and makeup are professionally applied. Stylists are hired to choose the perfect gown. Spray tans are applied. Bodies are dieted and toned leading up to the event. Even the jewelry is borrowed. Not unlike Cinderella, it is all smoke and mirrors. At the end of the ball, all the glitz and glamour suddenly fades away. And even the most beautiful and glamorous must morph back into their original form.
However, that is the side of Hollywood, we never see. The news cameras don’t follow the stars sitting in the makeup chair for hours. We don’t see the false eye-lashes, hair extensions and taped up bodies. Nor do we get a glimpse of our favorite stars sliding into bed wearing flannel pajamas sans makeup. And these were the thoughts that actually were going through my mind while watching the Oscars with my 12-year-old daughter. With her head leaning against me on the couch, I could actually feel her soaking in all the glitz, bling and fabricated glamour of the evening. She was enchanted. And I went into “Mom Mode.” I pointed out Viola Davis’s “real” hair, Octavia Spencer’s stunning dress and curves, as well as Emma Stone’s youthful, yet modest gown. All of these women showed my impressionable (almost) teen as well as millions of other viewers that being a woman doesn’t mean you have to have fake hair, stick-thin figures and/or wear overly revealing clothes to be beautiful. All three women showcased real beauty without resorting to extremes.
As a mom raising two young girls, I worry that role models such as these are few and far between. Idealized beauty is defined by what is depicted on the cover of a magazine or the final scene in a favorite movie. Sadly, not enough attention is focused on real beauty – beauty that is not made up, taped up, overly dieted, exercised daily, stylized computer generated and even fabricated. In fact, in a 2004 study conducted by Dove® revealed that only 2% of women around the world would describe themselves as beautiful. That same year, Dove launched the Campaign for Real Beauty in an effort to start a global conversation about the need for a wider definition of beauty. Not only has the campaign successfully challenged beauty stereotypes, but they have further expanded their efforts to present beauty as a source of confidence. Here is a summary of their achievements:
- 2004: The Campaign for Real Beauty launched in September 2004 with a much talked-about ad campaign featuring real women whose appearances are outside the stereotypical norms of beauty. The ads asked viewers to judge the women’s looks (oversized or outstanding? and wrinkled or wonderful?), and invited them to cast their votes at campaignforrealbeauty.com.
- 2005: Dove® kicked off the second and most iconic phase of the Campaign for Real Beauty in June 2005, with advertising featuring six real women with real bodies and real curves. The phase of the campaign was created to debunk the stereotype that only thin is beautiful and it drove thousands of women to campaignforrealbeauty.com to discuss beauty issues.
- 2006: In September 2006, a news and media furor erupted when Spain banned overly thin models from its fashion runways. The debate spoke to the heart of the Dove® Campaign for Real Beauty mission. In response, Dove® produced a compelling short film, Evolution, depicting the transformation of a real woman into a model and promoting awareness of how unrealistic perceptions of beauty are created.
- As so many girls and young women develop low self-esteem from hang-ups about their looks, and consequently fail to reach their full potential in life, Dove® established the Dove® Self-Esteem Fund. The Dove® Self-Esteem Fund was created to act as an agent of change to inspire and educate girls and women about a wider definition of beauty. This same year, the brand released a commercial called Little Girls during the Super Bowl, reaching an estimated 89 million viewers.
- 2007: Continuing its ongoing commitment to widen the narrow definition of beauty, Dove® launched the third phase of the Campaign for Real Beauty in February 2007. The Dove® global study, Beauty Comes of Age, revealed that 91% of women ages 50–64 believe it is time for society to change its views about women and aging. The campaign celebrated the essence of women 50+—wrinkles, age spots, grey hair and all. It was brought to life through a communications campaign created with internationally renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz.
- When the Campaign for Real Beauty focused on the idea that girls are bombarded with unrealistic, unattainable images and images of beauty that impact their self-esteem, the brand teamed up with the entertainment industry to show that what girls see in movies and magazines represents an unrealistic standard of beauty. Onslaught, an online film dramatizing the barrage of beauty images girls face, dramatized this point.
- In 2010, Dove® set out a bold new vision for the brand with the Dove® Movement for Self-Esteem. The Dove® Movement for Self-Esteem provides women everywhere with opportunities to mentor the next generation and celebrate real beauty. There are many ways to become involved. Dove® invites women everywhere to join the brand in making its vision a reality. Together with experts and key partners (in the U.S., Dove® supports the work of the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., Girls Inc., and Boys & Girls Clubs of America) Dove® has created self-esteem- building, educational programs and activities that encourage, inspire and motivate girls around the world. Dove® has reached over 7 million girls so far with these programs, and set a global goal of reaching 15 million girls by 2015.
- In 2011, Dove® released the findings of its largest global study to date on women’s relationship with beauty—The Real Truth About Beauty: Revisited. The study revealed that only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful, and that anxiety about looks begins at an early age. In a study of over 1,200 10-to-17-year-olds, a majority of girls, 72%, said they felt tremendous pressure to be beautiful. The study also found that only 11% of girls around the world feel comfortable using the word beautiful to describe their looks, showing that there is a universal increase in beauty pressure and a decrease in girls’ confidence as they grow older.
Though Dove® efforts have moved the needle in a positive direction, there is more to be done. Perhaps 2012 will be the year that producers and media remove the beauty myth surrounding Hollywood brightest stars. Because if our girls are going to look up to them as role models, then our girls should be exposed to both sides. In honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I hope we begin to see public figures showcasing their natural beauty. We need rode models that eat balanced diets, dont’t smoke/do drugs and openly embrace their curves and imperfections. We need super models to pose for cover shoots looking beautiful, healthy and real, not fake, emaciated and airbrushed. Finally, we need our beautiful elite to show that beauty is truly more than skin deep. We need more articles about all the leadership roles, smart decisions and philanthropic efforts that so many of these women exhibit on a daily basis.
Last night at the Oscars, Angelina Jolie flashed her leg through the voluminous folds of her desginer dress. So much attention was created by that singular act, her right leg now has its own Twitter account. Perhaps we all would be better served if all her humanitarian efforts were given the same amount of attention. This week hopefully some of those misconceptions will change. Whether you are a daughter, mom, aunt or friend, keep these thoughts in mind. When you look in the mirror, ignore the parts that aren’t your favorite. Instead focus your attention to your legs that ran the 5K last month, the stomach that cradled your child for nine months or the laugh lines etched around your eyes. More importantly, remember to do the same for those around you. Kiss your daughter’s freckles scattered across her nose. Buy your mom a scarf that is the same color as her eyes. Even go as far as to compliment your co-worker for the smart, creative solution she came up with at the meeting last week. After all, beauty is truly more than skin deep. This week, dive into the parts that make you special and unique and feminine. Roll out your own imaginary red carpet and celebrate being a woman and your own true beauty – curves, freckles, wrinkles and all.