Should Inclusive Beauty be Universal?
The call for inclusive beauty has gained popularity in recent years, particularly in western cultures. Everyday there are new brands popping up in both the makeup and fashion industries striving to ensure that every kind of person regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ability or body size feels represented and accommodated. Now more than ever, people all over the world are advocating for a global society that celebrates our differences. However, all of our cultures have concepts of beauty deeply rooted in tradition and history. In a society where the standard of beauty is more rigid to “preserve the culture,” should foreign markets still promote universally inclusive beauty?
In February 2019, Zara launched a cosmetics campaign in China that sparked controversy amongst consumers. In the campaign, model Jing Wen posed for a photo showcasing a bold lip color and freckles that were not airbrushed out. Many felt that Zara’s decision to not retouch Jing Wen’s freckles was a sign of disrespect to the culture’s traditional image of clear, pale skin.
People took to the platform Weibo to express their disapproval, including user Moshiwuchang who explained, "After seeing this ad I have decided I will not buy any products from Zara, not because I think the model is ugly, but because you are discriminating [against] Asians' view of beauty." As well, despite Wen’s appearance, many critics pointed out that most Asians don’t have freckles. Freckles are often seen as beautiful in western societies, and thus Zara was westernizing Asian cultures.
However, many people applauded Zara for their display of Jing Wen’s natural complexion and used this advertisement as an opportunity to comment on the importance of tolerance. TheChineseModels account stated, "Every person has [a] different understanding of beauty and we don't have to have the same view of aesthetics." Supporters also explained that just because most Asians don’t have freckles doesn’t mean that all don’t, and those that do should feel represented in the media.
Zara’s campaign sheds light on the complexity of beauty inclusivity. Companies typically alter their advertisements depending on their audience to be mindful of each market’s sensitivities. Every country has a different view of what beauty is. No one standard is prettier than another, and historical and cultural values should be respected.
Inclusive beauty is about making each person feel accepted so that the next generation of consumers will feel secure about who they are and what they look like. It is a movement that strives to spread self-love and encourage everyone to feel comfortable in their own skin. While every culture should be celebrated, other forms of non-traditional beauty should be given the same respect.
There has been incredible progress made in western cultures’ inclusive representation. Today, we see companies such as the underwear brand Dear Kate demonstrating that every body is a perfect body. Breathtaking models such as Winnie Harlow and Halima Aden teach people across the globe to never be ashamed of the skin they are born in. We are in awe of these trailblazers who continue to break barriers, like the first woman to wear a hijab and burkini on Sports Illustrated. However, if non-traditional beauty was never represented, our society’s views would still be discriminatory and exclusive.
Of course, we should never force our beliefs about what is beautiful on others. In any culture, every individual person has their own perspective. By creating a globally inclusive industry, beauty from all cultures can be represented equally.
If inclusive beauty is the goal, acceptance and respect of all beauty (including traditional beauty ideals) should be the subject of their campaigns. They should definitely be universally shown, regardless of if it is the societal norm for their target market or not.
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