For a long time, we have seen the fashion and beauty industries being questioned and even attacked in the media for their low moral values when it comes to depicting the beauty ideals, especially towards young women.
Numerous fashion brands as well as cosmetic companies have not been concerned by the effect of depicting underweight or simply over-retouched models portraying something far away from reality. This has resulted in an increase in anorexia and other eating disorders, as well as men and women of all ages growing up with a feeling of not being good enough and not fitting in.
Some cosmetic brands, fashion houses and magazines went, for a while, to the other extreme of only using models that were the opposite of the absurdly unnatural ideals, and this change often resulted in less sales of their products.
So, what is the solution?
Well, the so-called solution is not a linear answer of “this is right, and this is wrong.” The missing element, until now, has been one that I divide into five different qualities or elements that will bring out the true beauty of anyone being photographed, which is far greater than skin-deep beauty, and much greater than the type of beauty being dictated by the mainstream media.
Vulnerability, authenticity, non-conformity, non-pretentiousness and the courage to choose what’s best for you are five elements that, when used by anyone in front or behind a camera, will create something totally different.
The result of using both models and photographers that work with these five qualities in mind will be that they will shine with immense purity and authenticity that will sell anything in the photographs. As an added bonus, any company that also works with photographers that empower their models to use these five qualities and are not over-retouched in Photoshop will show very high Corporate Social Responsibility, making them stand out of the ever-growing noise of visual marketing and advertising.
Here are the top five qualities that can transform the industry:
1. Vulnerability: There are few things as attractive as a person with all of their emotional barriers down. When you have somebody in front the camera who is willing to let the shields come down, to be vulnerable and let all of themselves be seen, it’s truly amazing and all of a sudden the pictures shine authenticity. People would rather buy a product from someone being genuine and authentic than from someone fake, and the models in advertising campaigns are the ones selling the products to the masses.
2. Authenticity: Beauty means being willing to play with all aspects of your personality and exploring even those parts of yourself that are not socially acceptable. People should be more playful about who they are and allow themselves to ‘act out’ on occasion. For example, look at the divas of Hollywood’s Golden Era. They would stamp and pout if the occasion demanded it. Why not allow the models to play with that part of themselves? Over-directing the models destroys authenticity.
3. Non-conformity: I am eager for people to reject the ideals offered through the media and social pressure. History shows us that the things we regard as beautiful now could be judged as ugly in 25 years. And vice versa. Importantly, he wants people to understand where fashion and societal trends actually begin – with the individual.
Fashion is not actually about creators. Fashion designers are just spotting trends; following other people. The creation of fashion truly starts in the streets. We create new trends and ideals. It starts with us … if we are willing to be creators, not followers.
4. Non-pretentiousness: I believe that there is never any need for exaggeration or aggrandizement. Your beauty speaks for itself. Don’t try to show off or exaggerate who you are. Don’t act; just be the greatness that you are. In my experience, dressing down – in any form and any facet of your life – is just as appealing as being dressed to the nines. This does not mean that the models depicted in the advertising campaigns, or the brands themselves should be “dressed down” or that exaggerating is wrong; it means that by allowing the models to be themselves in front of the camera, much greater results will be obtained. And this also applies to how beauty companies portray themselves as a brand.
5. The courage to choose what’s best for you: In my own life I experienced a ‘dark period,’ dealing with a divorce, a business failure and looming bankruptcy. It was at this time that I realized everything in life was a result of my choices, and that I had the power to choose greater things for myself.
I began to see these experiences as points of creation and not destruction. They set me free and gave me total liberty to choose for myself, no matter what.
We all have that that choice – and it is truly beautiful when you see people take responsibility and start choosing what’s best for themselves.
When a company works with models that have been empowered to use these five qualities, they will create something much greater for the brand, as well as a better and healthier environment in the beauty business.
Andrea Belluso is an award-winning fashion photographer, creativity and empowerment coach, and certified facilitator of Right Voice for You, a specialty program of Access Consciousness®.