Until recently, we really only saw cookie-cutter versions of beauty. Everywhere we turned, we’d see the same looks, the same body types, and the same images of what others had defined as “beautiful” — a vision that excluded a large swathe of America.
Although the average American woman is a size 14, the average model is a size 2. Similar discrepancies of age and race also exist between the images brands portray and their actual target audiences. One study shows that female consumers’ purchase intentions increase by more than 200 percent when they see advertisements with models reflecting their ages and shapes, making the disconnect even more astounding.
Now — tired of being ignored — content creators and influencers of all ages, sizes, genders, and cultural backgrounds are shaking things up. Thanks to them, designers are showcasing transgender models like Hari Nef, Siobhan Atwell, and Andreja Pejić, and Twitter campaigns like #EffYourBeautyStandards and #DropThePlus have gone viral.
The American beauty industry has finally started to take note of diversity and embrace it. Content Is Creating a New American Conversation Content creators have been at the forefront of this cultural shift. Makeup entrepreneur Michelle Phan and YouTuber and actress Teala Dunn started this dialogue with their fans years before it entered the collective consciousness.
This illustrates why the digital space is so special — it provides a safe environment for the important conversations that mainstream America hasn’t quite provided the space for yet, and it isn’t about politics. It’s a cultural conversation — like sitting in your living room and chatting with friends about the things that matter most to you.
Just look at the ways digital influencers are changing everything Americans thought they knew about beauty:
1. Influencers are obliterating assumptions about beauty. Not long ago, beauty was an exclusive, inaccessible industry. With Millennials at the reigns now, the conversation is being steered toward issues that matter to them, making the field more inclusive. They have real power, too; the 45.3 billion beauty video views on YouTube last year drove trends and generated millions of dollars in revenue.
Whether they’re disrupting the makeup industry like Phan or celebrating alternative subcultures like Bunny Meyer, influential people who don’t follow traditional beauty standards are being empowered and are, in turn, empowering others. By celebrating their own innate beauty, they give their fans the confidence to do the same. So what if you aren’t model-thin or don’t have the perfect jawline? You’re beautiful, too.
2. People are “making themselves up” for different reasons. Influencers have dramatically changed how people approach making themselves up. While it was once about concealing flaws or getting closer to some unattainable ideal, it’s now about using makeup to amplify your inner exceptional-ness. Millennials, as they explore their identities, are coming to see that makeup can be a tool of self-discovery.
3. Content creators are examining larger questions. Influencers use beauty to examine larger questions about sexuality and gender, expanding what and how we think about those issues. For instance, male makeup artists and entrepreneurs like MAC Daddyy show an entire generation that it’s okay for men to be interested in beauty.
What’s more, some YouTubers have even used their channels to come out as members of the LGBTQ community, spurring public conversations about acceptance. Influencers like Gigi Gorgeous regularly talk about gender identity; huge charitable organizations like ONE and the Ad Council’s Creators for Good program are working with YouTuber SunKissAlba, comedian Grace Helbig, and others on everything from bullying to financial responsibility — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Digital is vital because it’s a space where you can talk about anything. When influencers discuss an awesome new lip line or the basics of contouring, they’re also talking honestly about how beauty has helped them feel better about their sexuality, appearance, or self-esteem.
Moj Mahdara is the CEO of Beautycon Media, a global community of content creators redefining beauty. Mahdara is an entrepreneur interested in staying ahead of the curve and has personally invested in a handful of startups that have grown to become household names. Moj’s successes have been recognized nationally; she’s been named in Cosmopolitan and Marie Clarie’s “Top Female” lists in 2015, as well as Fast Company’s “Most Creative People” list in 2016.