An upcoming collaboration by Bond Street’s owner Lauren Donald and makeup artist, Martha Borowska, has made me sit back and really think about what beauty essentially is. The said collaboration is a photoshoot showcasing models who are “essentially different”: not your run of the mill blonde, photoshopped, tiny waisted portrait children of capitalism.

I’d say that we’ve come a long way as a society with what we consider beautiful. The truth is, beauty does not discriminate. Not against weight. Not against age or sex. Not against mental illness. Not against alopecia or physical handicaps. Fine art that is both rare and authentic is worth a hell of a lot, after all. Even so, a decade ago we weren’t exactly putting models with, say, skin conditions on the cover of Vogue. That is changing.

In 2014, Chantelle Brown-Young, a woman with vitiligo, won America’s Next Top Model. Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition that attacks melanocytes of the skin and results in varying depigmentation. Less than one percent of the world’s population has vitiligo. Professionally known as Winnie Harlow, Brown-Young has become known as “the face of vitiligo”. She has spoken on self-confidence at a World Summit meeting and was given the Role Model award at a GQ Men of the Year event. One woman’s confidence was able to progress the global standard of beauty and challenge gender roles.

In 2016, Covergirl hired its first male spokesmodel, James Charles. At the time, Charles was a seventeen year old makeup artist and Youtuber. After bringing his own ring light to a retake session of his senior photos to ensure proper showcasing of his absolutely flawless makeup, he went viral. What difference did his gender make? There was no disputing that his highlight was poppin’. Shortly thereafter, Charles found himself working with stars like Katy Perry, who announced his position at Covergirl herself.

In lieu of both of these events, there was a large outreach from people like them. They were boundary breaking. People with vitiligo and other skin conditions and males who are about that beauty were inspired to connect with each other, experience community and begin to feel validated in popular culture. Winnie Harlow and James Charles both created a domino effect in the beauty industry. Maybelline hired Manny Gutierrez as its first male spokesmodel in 2017. In 2018, Covergirl put out a foundation campaign faced by Amy Deanna, a model with vitiligo. Not even a full day after the campaign was launched, Missguided began putting out mannequins with vitiligo. Is there anything more beautiful than replacing unrealistic standards with authenticity?

Essentially, I think beauty is having the courage to be exactly who you are.

(Laura Powers, 2020). Author retains ownerships; reuse or reprint by permission only.

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