Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saturday's Best of Blogs

Jezebel paid $10,000 for an unretouched magazine cover. The winner is Redbook's July issue with Faith Hill on the cover. Check out the before and after here and never compare yourself to a magazine photograph again.

This has been making the rounds all week, but in case you haven't caught it, Bazaar magazine took The Simpsons to Fashion Week. Via Fashionista.

Beauty Addict is a fan of Estee Lauder's Idealist.

Meghan O'Rourke of Slate has an interesting article on the history of Crocs, the most heinous of footwear.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday Finds: Gladiator Sandals

When I first came across this picture of Mary Kate Olsen wearing these sandals, my only thought was to the poor gladiators who must be offended by being associated with such hideous footwear, which more closely resemble a giant game of calf tic tac toe than anything a real Roman would wear. And can you imagine the tan lines?

I've been seeing versions of the knee high gladiator sandal everywhere lately. Personally, I'm turned off by any shoe that resembles a torture device, but there's no denying that the gladiator is back and bigger (literally) than ever.

In trying to decipher what would motivate designers to create the scariest leather concoctions not available for purchase at a fetish shop, I did a little research into the history of the gladiator sandal. The obvious first stop was IMDB, where close examination of still shots from the 2000 classic "Gladiator" proved that not only did Russell Crowe not wear gladiator sandals, he wore closed-toe boots. It makes perfect sense to avoid the open-toed look when your job is not to get eaten by a large, hungry tiger.

Historical accuracy aside, there's absolutely no excuse for a Mary Kate-style gladiator sandal, especially when there are so many cute, less extreme, versions available. I love these sandals for their strong, masculine overtones, which work so well when paired with a feminine, pretty outfit. They're practical for walking and look great with shorts or miniskirts to tone down to sexiness of showing off a lot of skin. And they're versatile enough to dress up or down, depending on your mood. For those of us who prefer battling makeup meltdown to live animals, it's a great shoe for feeling like you could conquer anything. Here are a few of my favorite styles:

Athena Alexander "Ava" Sandal, $79.95, from Nordstrom

Dolce Vita "Athens-12" Thong Sandal, $69.95, from Nordstrom

MICHAEL Michael Kors "Alexandra" Toe Ring Sandal, $108.95, from Nordstrom

Frye Lola Gladiator Sandal, from Piper Lime, $140.00

Anthropologie Olympia Sandals, $58

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Analyzing Celebrity Flaws- Good or Bad?

In an article in Sunday's New York Times, Virginia Heffernan criticized our obsession with scrutinizing celebrity beauty, contrasting the prevalence of blogs and websites that allow anonymous readers to analyze every aspect of a star's visage with the practices of old Hollywood media. In the old days, there was an unspoken understanding that the media would help protect the secrets of the beauties that graced their pages, and the public was never given a glimpse into how these stars really looked.

Eventually, someone realized that consumers were far more interested in seeing celebrities at their worst than looking their best, and gave up on protecting the celebrities. With the widespread availability of high-speed internet access, it's nearly impossible to prevent a damaging photo from being uploaded onto millions of computers within hours of its release.

In her article, Heffernan seems to long for the days when actresses were mysterious, their incredible beauty undeviating and unreachable, while we treat today's starlets like specimens to be examined and dissected ("a brow lift here, a boob job there"). The Marilyn's and Ava's and Joan's existed in a fantasy world separate from our own, while the public breakdowns of Lindsay, Paris and Britney highlight that the rich and famous are human like the rest of us (and sometimes make even bigger mistakes).

Initially after reading the piece, I agreed with this analysis. There's no mystery to celebrities anymore, as they're more than willing to expose themselves (emotionally and physically) to the public for a short turn in the spotlight. We know their diet, beauty and relationship secrets. Celebrity interviews often resemble therapy sessions, with Oprah and Barbara Walters showing us the way into a celebrity's soul. Maybe a little fantasy, leaving something to the imagination, would be nice.

But then I considered how empowering it is to know that these gorgeous women aren't naturally flawless. As women, we understand that these starlets represent society's standard of beauty, and that we're constantly being compared to their airbrushed, surgically-enhanced faces. Knowing that these women barely resemble their photographed selves when they're without makeup somehow makes the pressure a little more bearable.

I think it also has a positive effect on men, who are so often totally oblivious to the fact that the woman in the Maxim spread doesn't look that hot when she rolls out of bed every morning. Even guys who don't read celebrity blogs and magazines can't escape the paparazzi images, and eventually it might set in that the photographs lie, and they can't compare every woman to a photoshopped model in a men's magazine.

I'm conflicted on what's better, the way we viewed and understood celebrities in the Golden Age of Hollywood, or the age of Perez Hilton. What do you think?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Reader Question: Covering Tattoos

I recently received the following e-mail from Adriana regarding products that cover up tattoos:

Hey Meg,

Hope all is well. I have a quick question for you. I am looking for a product to cover tattoos, like a foundation but more lasting and better coverage. I've heard some people recommend Dermablend, but I don't know anything about it. I read about one that a magazine tested and gave a great review about a year ago and of course can't find the article now. If you or fellow readers have any suggestions, I would gladly take them!



I went through a phase in high school where I was determined to get a tattoo upon turning 18, something really cool and intellectual, like a quotation from my favorite book wrapping around my ankle. Luckily for my parents, who were never too keen on this idea, I lost interest by the time I hit college and decided that it was far more rebellious not to alter my body with tattoos or piercings, at least at Smith College. Plus, I had to admit that while tattoos totally "work" on certain people, I am unfortunately not one of them. I'm just not cool enough.

Because I don't have the first hand experience, I thought I'd pass Adriana's question onto you guys. Anyone have recommendations for a concealer that's heavy enough to cover tattoos?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Are Beauty Brands Racist?

I wasn't at all surprised to read that French courts found L'Oreal guilty of racial discrimination. In hiring saleswomen to demonstrate and promote their Garnier Fructis shampoos, the company stipulated that the women be between the ages of 18-22, size 38-42 and BBR, a shorthand for "bleu, blanc and rouge" (the colors of the French flag), a codeword meaning white. When recruiters recommended that the company choose non-white saleswomen, they were laughed at and told to tell the applicants that the list was already full.

Take a quick look through at the beauty advertisements in women's magazines and you'll notice that there are very few non-white models. If it's an ad for a body moisturizer or a face wash and there's a group of women, an African American or Asian girl might slip in, but otherwise it's a sea of smiling white faces with glowing hair and beautiful skin.

When advertisers and brands cast for models, there are four different categories: general market, which refers to any model who is white or does not have strong enough ethic features to identify her as non-white, African-American, Asian and Latina. (One note- I'm referring to ads that will run in the U.S. and Canada. When casting for other countries, there are different categories).

The choice of which race to use in each ad is dependent on a few factors. First, the brand thinks about who the target market is. If they notice sales are lagging among Latina women, they might push for a Latina model. Next, they take into account where the ad will run. If it's targeted at African American women, they're likely to run it in publications like Essence and Ebony and they'll choose a woman of African descent. Finally, they consider the product and what it's supposed to do. If it's a product that promises volumizing, they're more likely to choose a woman with straight fine hair than one with coarse, thick hair, and are more likely to pick a white model

The default is always general market, which is why you see so few non-white women in beauty ads.

I have a few theories for why this exists, and why L'Oreal would want to hire only white saleswomen.

The first is that as a society, we're not as colorblind as we claim to be. Subconsciously, I think a lot of people, if not all people, look for visual clues to understand what products for them and what places they belong and feel comfortable. Sadly, race is one of these external cues that many people use in processing an individual advertisement.

Advertisers understand that when flipping through a magazine, they have just seconds to grab a reader's attention to convince them to read what you have to say and motivate them to buy the product. If the reader gets the impression that the product isn't for them because the model looks nothing like them (again, due to a number of factors including race), they're not going to stop and learn about what you're selling.

I think L'Oreal had the same thought when hiring saleswomen, that it would take extra effort to convince white French women that Garnier shampoo was for them if someone with a very different hair type and texture was selling it. I'm not at all saying that I think this is acceptable, I just have a hard time seeing how it's different from L'Oreal hiring white models 95% of the time for their advertisements in non-specialty women's magazines.

I think this is a self-perpetuating situation, where marketers continue to hire women on the belief that women are only attracted to ads featuring models of their race or ethnicity, and magazine readers don't pay as much attention to ads that feature models of other races because they assume they're not targeted at them.

Hopefully L'Oreal will learn their lesson and will be more conscious about having a greater variety of women representing their brand, but I'm not optimistic about seeing any major changes. It's depressing to think that in 2007, a model's race can be such an issue, but it seems to me that the practice of beauty brands hiring predominantly white models and spokeswomen isn't going away anytime soon.