"Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don't have for something they don't need." – Will Rogers

From Newsweek: Generation Diva

Posted: March 31st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: aging, body, children, consumerism, corporate hypocrisy, cosmetic surgery, exploitation, hidden propaganda, KGOY, media, new markets, self-image, skin, teenagers, television, women's magazines | No Comments »

From Newsweek:  “Generation Diva. How our obsession with beauty is changing our kids.” Written by Jessica Bennett.



Girls today are salon vets before they enter elementary school. Forget having mom trim your bangs, fourth graders are in the market for lush $50 haircuts; by the time they hit high school, $150 highlights are standard. Five-year-olds have spa days and pedicure parties. And instead of shaving their legs the old-fashioned way—with a 99-cent drugstore razor—teens get laser hair removal, the most common cosmetic procedure of that age group. If these trends continue, by the time your tween hits the Botox years, she’ll have spent thousands on the beauty treatments once reserved for the “Beverly Hills, 90210″ set, not junior highs in Madison, Wis.

Reared on reality TV and celebrity makeovers, girls as young as Marleigh are using beauty products earlier, spending more and still feeling worse about themselves. Four years ago, a survey by the NPD Group showed that, on average, women began using beauty products at 17. Today, the average is 13—and that’s got to be an overstatement. According to market-research firm Experian, 43 percent of 6- to 9-year-olds are already using lipstick or lip gloss; 38 percent use hairstyling products; and 12 percent use other cosmetics. And the level of interest is making the girls of “Toddlers & Tiaras” look ordinary. “My daughter is 8, and she’s like, so into this stuff it’s unbelievable,” says Anna Solomon, a Brooklyn social worker. “From the clothes to the hair to the nails, school is like No. 10 on the list of priorities.

(Emphasis mine.)

The article continues,

Why are this generation’s standards different? To start, this is a group that’s grown up on pop culture that screams, again and again, that everything, everything, is a candidate for upgrading. These girls are maturing in an age when older women are taking ever more extreme measures, from Botox to liposuction, to stay sexually competitive. They’ve watched bodies transformed on “Extreme Makeover”; faces taken apart and pieced back together on “I Want a Famous Face.” They compare themselves to the overly airbrushed models in celebrity and women’s magazines, and learn about makeup from the girls of “Toddlers & Tiaras,” or the show’s WEtv competitor, “Little Miss Perfect.”

Read the full article here – and check out the interactive chart about women’s beauty spending, from childhood into their 60s. Disturbing stuff.

The Beauty Myth’s Next Victims

Posted: March 4th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: advertising, aging, body, exploitation, hidden propaganda, print ads, self-image, skin | Tags: , , , | No Comments »


What do you do when the home economy is in a slump and sales are stagnating? But of course, expand to foreign markets! New emerging markets = untapped resources.

And so, here we are: Middle Eastern and Chinese women are the next targets of the beauty myth, as beauty companies introduce them to new products, making them understand the capital importance of fighting against – gasp! – evil wrinkles and having glossy hair.

Middle East: “A skincare revolution is launched in Arabia…welcome Pond’s Age Miracle

Most vicious thing about it all: the deception – and the fact a Dubai dermatologist would lie through his teeth. Wonder how much he was paid by Pond’s.

China: “Leo Burnett Elevates Vidal Sassoon in China

Most vicious thing about it all: if the images below are taken from the actual ads, the biggest problem is that not a single model is Chinese. They all look pretty Caucasian to me. And all the chatter about self-empowering women. You are trying to sell shampoo!

Sarah Haskins – Target Women: Skin Care

Posted: February 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: adbusting, advertising, aging, body, change for the better, feminism, internet, self-image, skin, TV commercials | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Sarah Haskins is my hero: check out this hilarious Target Women segment:

The Beauty Myth, Male Edition (Welcome Boys!)

Posted: January 30th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: aging, body, consumerism, self-image | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

WebWire: “Clinique Skin Supplies for Men launches new website Cliniqueformen.co.uk


My favorite product: NEW Age Defense Hydrator SPF 15 (see pic above, link here).

Absolute killer: the male voice-over on Clinique’s website, reciting instructions on how to use it – paraphrasing: “if you want to erase fine lines, apply it every morning.”

Boys, men, welcome to the beauty myth. Enjoy the ride.

Airbrushing Double Standard: Brad Pitt vs. Sarah Palin

Posted: January 29th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: aging, airbrushing, corporate hypocrisy, media, print, self-image, sexism | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »


In October 2008, Newsweek magazine put an unretouched photo of Sarah Palin (b. 1964) on its cover – which left quite a few people speechless, and the Republican camp outraged, since 99.99999 percent of photos in print media are airbrushed, to remove wrinkles, blemishes and other “imperfections” common to all human beings.

Brad Pitt (b. 1963, thus a year older than Ms. Palin), recently grazed the cover of W magazine – close up, unretouched. I didn’t see any people running for cover. Or claiming this was outrageous. To the contrary, there seems to be something valiant about Mr. Pitt’s “rebelling” against Photoshop.

Could it be that there is a gender double standard at play? When was the last time we saw an unretouched photo of a woman, close-up, on a mainstream magazine cover? I can’t possibly think of any examples…

Why should we be shocked/outraged/or downright embarrassed for a photo of a 44 year old woman with a naturally wrinkled face and not have the same reaction when it comes to a man?

(You ask me, Sarah Palin looks beautiful in that pic, and Brad Pitt looks like he belongs to a different – older – generation compared to her.)

UPDATE: 01/30

The current issue of the Atlantic Monthly has a close-up picture of President Obama (I just love saying that) on its cover. It is unretouched – and thus shows all of his face’s fine lines. I didn’t read/hear about anyone objecting to it. Again, gender double standard at play here?


Her Power, Defused

Posted: January 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: aging, body, cosmetic surgery, exploitation, health, media, music videos, self-image | 1 Comment »

Every morning I have a ritual: scanning the press (American, British, French and Italian) for news about the beauty industry, mass media, and advertising. Recently, I jumped on the Google Alert bandwagon and now my job is far easier: emails about “plastic surgery,” “dieting,” “airbrushing,” and “KGOY” (Kids Getting Older Younger) neatly make their way into my inbox, sending me off in unexpected directions, making me check out sites all over the blogosphere and from small newspapers I didn’t previously know about.

This morning, I received an alert about “breast implants” that directed me to a blog – Boy Culture – which had a post about unretouched photos of Madonna from a Steven Klein photoshoot (original post here). By digging through the site’s archive, I found a previous post with more photos from the same photoshoot (you can find it here).

Now, what impressed me the most was not Madonna’s unsightly appeareance – the blog author doesn’t spare compliments, saying, ” Madonna looked like sh*t in a freezer.” I didn’t gasp at the uncomfortable poses, age-inappropriate outfits, or at her wrinkles. No. What shocked me the most about these photos was a palpable sense of vulnerability: she looked raw, exposed, weak, offering herself up to the photographer’s lens. Her eyes just about killed me. They seemed to be pleading, “I’m 50, please make me look good.”

I remember how fiery and feisty she was throughout 1990s. Then came a revolution in Hollywood and a newfound cultural obsession with teen stars. And Madonna, chamaleon-like, kept reinventing herself to appeal to a young public. And she hasn’t stopped. Now at 50, after a career of extraordinary commercial success in the music world, and iconic status for many followers, she is still selling herself as a sexual object. And looking increasingly out of place.

When I saw the photos, I though of an Ariel Levy quote (from her book Female Chauvinist Pigs):

“There is a disconnect between sexiness or hotness and sex itself. [...] Our interest is in the appearance of sexiness, not the existence of sexual pleasure. [...] Passion isn’t the point. The glossy, overheated thumping of sexuality in our culture is less about connection than consumption. Hotness has become our cultural currency.”

Why? Because I remember Madonna’s controversial statements in the 1990s, her provocative music videos, her book Sex, her album Erotica. Back then, she was talking about sexual pleasure. For marketing purposes, sure, but still, her message was about sex itself – just think about her video for the song “Justify My Love.”

Well, now I feel she is virtually indistinguishable from other musicians thumping sexuality in a completely superficial way, merely selling the appearance of sexiness for visual consumption, as Ariel Levy would say.

At 50, she should have known better.


I’m eagerly awaiting for a day when girls will have a young positive female role model who is not a singer or an actress. Someone known for her intellectual acumen – not her body. Somebody fostering a real change in the world. (I nominate Naomi Klein).

The Atlanta Journal Constitution: HDTV drives search for complexion perfection

Posted: January 12th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: ageism, aging, airbrushing, body, censorship, image manipulation, media, self-image, television | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »


Actors, models and television personalities are accustomed to leading on-air lives in soft focus. But with the advent of all-digital television next month, the stage is set for unforgiving high-definition broadcasts, and even everyday people want to look airbrushed to perfection.

In our hyper-magnified world where HDTV, HD camcorders and point-and-shoot cameras with auto-airbrushing functions are becoming the norm, a blemish here, a pockmark there or even a wisp of a wrinkle is unacceptable.

In theory, the sharper images transmitted over high-definition digital television mean the skin has to look almost perfect. Which is to say that it has to look natural, fresh and dewy, not powdery and masklike as it did in the analog days.

Full article here.