What’s going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between.
Moral of the story is, carry your freckle cream with you at all times: Evidence for proclaiming that Amelia Earhart landed and died on an uninhabited Pacific island grows, this time with found remnants of a glass jar that, when reassembled, matches up with the container used for Dr. C.H. Berry’s Freckle Ointment. (Earhart was apparently known for disliking her freckles.)
Death by newsprint:
“A fish pedicure shop has been forced to close
because reporting of the industry in a national newspaper allegedly ‘killed’ the business, just when things were taking off.”
…And Everything In Between:
Procter & Gambled:
I’ve been trying not to overdo it here on the trial of Rajat Gupta, the former Procter & Gamble exec currently on trial for insider trading, because I know its prominence may seem disproportionately large to those of us who track beauty companies—this is pretty much the closest thing to a scandal I’ll ever have to report, especially since I started blogging after the height of the Avon bribery fiasco
. But! New York magazine has vindicated my interest in this case, with a piece titled “Why the Rajat Gupta Trial Is a Big Deal.”
It’s about time:
But it shouldn’t require a breakdown piece to let you know why it’s a big deal that Procter & Gamble recently named Lee Sue-Kyung as head of P&G Korea
—the first time the company has named a Korean woman to a position that oversees products aimed toward…Korean women (and men too, but you get the drift).
Regardless of whether the “lipstick index” really is true
, a recent study indicates that at least the theory behind it is: Being primed to think about economic woes didn’t make women want to buy more of anything...except beauty products.
Shades of gray:
The “gray market” for salon hair appliances—that is, professional-level appliances like curling irons, blow-dryers, and beard trimmers, intended only for salon use by professionals and not the layperson—grew nearly 27% last year
, while products intended for the masses grew at a far more modest rate. Seems everyone wants to feel like they’re using an “insider” tool, which is logical but also makes me wonder A) what the difference is between regular appliances and pro ones, B) if it’s not a “gray market” after all and instead is actually a part of the overallmarketing scheme for a product, to label is for professionals only but actually be argeting the public too.
Kappa kappa dosa:
Interesting profile of Shahnaz Husain
, a woman from India whose eponymous line of products introduced the idea of ayurvedic beauty internationally. In fact, it was through beauty products that I first learned of ayurveda, so when the article laid out what should have been obvious but wasn’t (to me)—that ayurvedic doctors are as skeptical of ayurvedic beauty as plenty of western doctors are of, say, Clinique—it was a good reminder of how marketing relies upon things like Orientalism to get their message across.
Launceston Elliot, 1896 Olympics weightlifting champion
Two excellent pieces of commentary on celebrity body worship. Peter at Male Pattern Boldness looks at the bodies (and treatment of bodies) from erstwhile matinee idols
and compares them to the way we look at men’s bodies today—I’ve seen this done with women’s bodies, often with an undertone of snark about women who don’t have a lot of curves, and while I appreciate the sentiment I’m sort of over it. (I mean, sure, my body more closely resembles Marilyn Monroe’s more than it does Kate Moss’s because I’m not rail-thin, but it’s not like I look at a picture of Marilyn Monroe’s va-va-voom and think we’re body doubles.) And Caitlin gets to the root
of the tsk-tsking over Beyoncé’s lettuce-and-treadmill comment—what matters here is not what the celebrities are doing or saying, but the ways that we’ve transformed celebrities into objects. It’s a case study of culture-wide objectification: “Listen, I enjoy pop culture. I like movies and television, and I like pop music, and I love pop stars. I like watching them perform. I like when they wear sparkly clothes. But I also recognize that this does not mean I can lay claim to some kind of ownership over them.” (Thanks to Sally
for the link to Peter.)
Great piece at Deadspin about the use of code words to talk about female gymnasts’ bodies
, now that the field (at least in the States) has made significant progress in not stigmatizing athletes built like Mary Lou Retton and Shawn Johnson. They’re no longer “stocky”—they’re “athletic”! “Plenty of lean, flexible gymnasts have nothing in common with dancers in terms of musicality and interpretation. We call them artistic because we can as easily imagine them in a tutu as in a leotard.” I remember feeling uneasy about this sort of thing with the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding showdown: Commentators talked about Kerrigan’s “grace” and Harding’s “athleticism”—and certainly Harding is athletic. But you know who else is athletic? Um, Nancy Kerrigan. It’s the fucking Olympics! And certainly Harding couldn’t have gone as far as she did without being rather graceful herself. Ugh. (Thanks to reader Willa for the link!)
When coalfield activist Maria Gunnoe
went to testify in Washington about the environmental devastation caused by mining, in her presentation materials she included a photograph of a girl bathing in a tub filled with water that had been turned brown because—well, because it’s poison. She was told the photo was inappropriate, and was questioned by the police about child pornography. Now, I’d never suggest that a little exploitation here and there is justifiable in the name of the greater good (see also: PETA’s legacy of lady-hating
), but that’s clearly not what’s going on here. I’m with Aaron Bady when he asks: What’s the real obscenity here?
Hint: It’s not the kid in the bathtub that’s “inappropriate,” it’s what she’s sitting in.
Baby got callipygian:
Professional namer Nancy Friedman asks why Bootie Babe nail polish named itself after booties
—short boots—as opposed to booty
, as in a callipygian eye-feast. (Anecdote about the word “callipygian”: Conde Nast has electronic news panels in their elevators, presumably to eliminate the off-chance that you might speak to a stranger in a shared space. One of the rotating features was “Word of the Day,” and sure enough, callipygian—”of or relating to beautiful buttocks”—was the word of the day once. I started snickering, and then looked around the elevator assuming we’d have a nice group laugh, and everyone was staring straight ahead, ignoring both me and the fact that our elevator was telling us about beautiful buttocks. I remember this whenever I think about going back to a staff job.)
Museum of Beauty:
The exhibits from Philadelphia’s Beauty Showcase Historical Museum
are being relocated to the last cosmetology-barbershop school in the city. I only learned of this museum this week and am eager for it to re-open in its new home—it features antique hair irons, moustache curlers (!), and documents chronicling the tradition of African-American beauty and hair salons in the city.
Miss Pennsylvania accuses the Miss USA pageant coordinators of rigging the system
. Sheena Monnin, aka Miss Pennsylvania: “I believe in integrity, high moral character, and fair play, none of which are part of this system any longer.” Donald Trump responds: “My impressions were she didn’t have a chance of being in the top 15, not even close. And all this is is a girl who went there, lost, wasn’t in the 15, and she’s angry at the pageant system.” Yeah, man! It’s the system.
Apparently spas think that Charlize Theron’s evil stepmother milk bath will inspire non-royalty to pay up to $500 to sit in a tub of milk
Funny face: Elizabeth Greenwood on funny ladies:
“To be a comedic actress in a widely distributed film now, she must be not only hilarious but also porno-chic gorgeous. And this does not bode well for comedic female roles in Hollywood, because only bland, one-note actresses like Cameron Diaz and Katherine Heigl are called on to play these characters. The expectations that a comedic actress must be both sexy and funny result in charmless acting, and the same goes for handsome men like Brad Pitt and George Clooney, who are always vaguely funny in their Coen Brothers roles, but they can never wriggle out of the mold of the leading men they are always destined to be.”
A new app from Revlon allows users to give one another free lipstick samples by “bumping” their smartphones
. Is this a thing? Bumping? It sounds dirty.
“Nose Job High”:
Comic Rose Surnow on the curiously high number of “deviated septums”
at her high school. (As someone who often finds herself the only gentile in the room I’m uncomfortable with the framing of this as something “every Jewish woman” faces—but when I think about people I know who have had nose jobs, many of them did indeed tie it to their Jewish heritage. Thoughts?)
Textured: Moving mini-documentary from filmmaker Zina Saro-Wiwa on transitioning from chemically relaxed hair to her natural texture: “I was forced to confront my real hair. And doing this changed me.”
Honor code: Sally on dressing to honor your body: “[It] doesn’t rely on traditional ideas of figure flattery or femme archetypes, doesn’t mean spike heels and red lips. Not to everyone. Dressing to honor your body can mean slipping on a silky caftan that makes you feel utterly goddess-like. It can mean wearing your favorite red bra under your sweatshirt as a fun little secret.” I hadn’t realized it until I read this post, but I think that’s what my love of vintage nylon slips is actually all about.
Makeup in public:
The Vagenda looks at questions of the transparency of beauty work
, hinging upon that ridiculous “waitresses who wear red lipstick earn more tips
” (in one cafe, in one part of France, where tipping is unusual, but who am I to get all nitpicky about SCIENCE?). “If ‘womanhood’ is the constant covering up of the tricks of the trade, a blanket denial of imperfection, then I think i’m doing it wrong.” Bonus points for including something I wrote a ways back about applying makeup in public, even as I think my perspective was a tad misconstrued. (I want
to be pro-transparency, believe you me.)
“Was this an act of prostitution or a canny business move or both?”:
The dialogue on sex worker blog Tits and Sass about the Mad Men episode
where Joan sleeps with a client in exchange for a partnership is awesome. The only way to understand what concepts surrounding what some call “selling your body” means is to listen to the people who are supposedly doing so, right? Exhibit A: Many commenters on this episode took the Jaguar tagline—”Something Beautiful You Can Truly Own”—to mean that Joan was now owned, but Tits and Sass offers this inversion: “And isn’t it great that the slogan SCDP came up with, ‘Something Beautiful You Can Truly Own,’ contrasts with how Joan is now a position to be owned by no one?”
The beauty of Islam:
Muslim feminist blogger Nahida on modesty:
“I love hair flowers and hi’jab pins and the ‘camel hump’ and other decorative ornaments that make hi’jab ‘immodest’ and ‘invalidate’ the purpose. … I like slitted skirts because I think they are attractive. And I wear them. I even wear them to look attractive, to smile when I pass by a mirror. I love them because I love beauty, and because it was once Islamic to love beauty.”