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Has America Become More Beautiful? Why You Should Care and Why It Matters

As a self proclaimed "people watcher", I have observed the shifts in society's focus from true human related issues to those related to beauty and physical appearance. This got me to thinking about what the social outlook on beauty really is, and who sets the standards of how we should look? Why not ask Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Professor of Psychology at California State University? She believes, “Beauty is associated with numerous outcomes - psychological research shows that we imbue attractive people with more positive characteristics across the board -and assume they are wealthier, healthier, smarter, more successful - the list goes on. So if you achieve beauty - you also imply those other things about yourself. The standards get set by those who have access to airwaves, media etc – and that means corporations, the wealthy, and the powerful. So we are trying to look the way the 1% tells us to look.”

The M Dress by CuteCircuit- It's a cellphone!
The M Dress by CuteCircuit- It's a cellphone!
cutecircuit.com/collections/m-dress/
2014 Beautycon in Los Angeles California
2014 Beautycon in Los Angeles California
Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for ELLE

According to the Texas Workforce Commission in 2013, 16,030 people have the highest paying jobs, 159,860 have the lowest paying jobs and making under $19,000 a year. This excludes athletes, real estate brokers, musicians, and a few more occupations paying an average of about $54,000 per year. Yellowpages.com lists 837 clothing stores, 247 Day Spas, 267 Medical Spas, and 448 Plastic Surgeons in Dallas. Dallas is home to the third largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the nation. This shows an obvious opportunity to buy into fashion trends and the accepted perception of beauty and the availability of money to do so, resulting in the power to influence others who watch them. Celebrity Stylist at Krave Magazine for many years, Willie Johnson, says that "The style of any Dallasite is very trendy conservative. So i'm always looking for anything that's a classic edge." This is how living in Dallas influences how he styles a shoot. The list of 50 Signs You're Officially a Dallasite leads one to believe that they are known for being wealthy with high societal expectations. Another term associated with Dallas is Parkie, which is defined in the Urban Dictionary: A term used to negatively refer to the people who live in either Highland Park or University Park, Texas. The people there usually follow these stereotypes: "The girls are beautiful, the boys are well-groomed and cocky. The women are nosy and annoying (especially if mothers), and the men are aggressive and self-affirming." Everyone has a lot of money, and no minorities live there. This is not the place for you if you are at all "different".

In response to my question, Hedy Popson, chief marketing officer for leading national talent agency Productions Plus - The Talent Shop, former Miss Teen North America and former pageant coach and judge says, “Before the internet, models and celebrities on TV shows, movies and magazine covers were the widely-available benchmarks that people used to define attractiveness. But with the advent of social media, now anyone and everyone can be the media, and have the power to influence societal ideas on what is beautiful.”

Time is the one measurement that defines everything, so it makes sense that beauty in the past would be different than the idea of beauty today right? Dr. Gayle Carson, CSP CMC, as seen on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and in the WSJ, USA Today, Newsweek, Author of Best Selling Books “Big Ideas for your Business”, “Winning Ways”, and “How to Be an S.O.B--A Spunky Old Broad Who Kicks Butt” and Creator of Living Regret Free has a controversial take on beauty. “Frankly, I think the glamour of the movie stars were much more beautiful than those of today who are much more natural but also a bit messy. I had a SAG-AFTRA talent agency and it really was the era of the All American girl. I accepted people based on what I knew the demand was. However, I did register others just in case. Whenever I thought there would never be a call for a "type" the next week, there was.” She offers this advice for women over 60 on how they can reinvent themselves and embrace aging without falling into the stereotypical realm of trying to “act young” or pretend to be younger than they really are. "I work with women over 50 on how to reinvent themselves and/or their business. There are all kinds of things that can be done, and many women are doing it. You may not wear a bikini but you can dress in great colors and styles, redo your hair and makeup, learn new skills, join new groups, learn a language or musical instruments."

Stephanie Adams-Nicolai, Former Elite/Wilhelmina/Playboy Model expressed to me, “Since I first started modeling over 25 years ago, beauty standards were set to predominantly young, tall, skinny, blonde haired, blue eyed models. Well, tall is still preferred. However young is not the only option, as 40+ models are not only still stunning, but often desired for bookings. Whereas what was once considered perfect was the only choice, more unusual yet natural looks are being appreciated. And slowly but surely, well extremely slowly, more ethnicity and variety, often models of mixed heritage, is becoming a reality in the magazines as much as it has become in our society.” Interestingly enough a former SAG-AFTRA talent agent says the look of today is messy, and a former Playboy Model says it is natural, which raises more questions. When i turn on the TV, visit a web page, check my email, or go to my Facebook page, i am bombarded with advertisements that have a clear cut intention to make me buy new clothes, shoes and bags inspired by celebrity looks, diet pills, hair products, "age defying" skincare products, or undergo some procedure to change my appearance by drilling images and catch phrases meant to mainpulate my view on the things I need as opposed to what I can really do without, into my head. So it seems that we have a “chicken and egg” situation here. If the media sets the standards, and now the people are the media, are we not just regurgitating what we were already shown, and not actually setting a new standard?

Fortunately, as a Designer, I am able to utilize my imagination to create, rather than follow trends, with the hope that others will like my designs and ultimately want to wear them because they believe that once they have them on, they will like what they see in the mirror. With me being a "take the road less traveled" type of person, and pretty safe from being influenced by the media, (because I recognize the intent and are comfortable with the way I look) i decided to ask renowned Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert, SRTT therapist, Author, and anointed “The Woman Expert” by WGN Chicago and syndicated TV show The Daily Buzz, Patrick Wanis, PhD, who's featured on Fox News and CNN, "Patrick what drives people to want to change their appearance according to what others believe to be beautiful and where does that come from?" He had this to say.

"None of us have our own individual opinion of beauty. Our so-called individual opinion of beauty is determined and created by what we are told. What we are told from the moment we're born by our parents and by our caretakers. Even our relatives will say, “Oh you look so cute in that dress. Oh you look so wonderful in those pants.” etc. We go to school, and people around us compliment us or comment on the way that we are dressed, the way that we look. Their comments also come from their exposure to their parents, and ultimately to the media. Before kids go back to school, they're told what they should wear. 'Look great in these back-to-school shoes and these back-to-school bags.' So we are constantly being told, 'This is what you need to do. This is the way you should look. This is the look.' Ultimately it's a singular emotion, or a singular motivation. That desire or that motivation is, 'I want to be approved. I want to receive approval, also I want to be accepted. I want to be liked. I want to be able to connect with other people. I want to belong to the group.' So the desire to connect with other people, the desire to be liked, approved, and accepted, drives [them] to do whatever will be necessary to be liked, approved, or accepted. Parents will decide to a large extent what the children's definition is of beauty.” The parents definition can clash with the media and even with the child's peers, but the child will be affected more by what the parent says than even by what the media says. In working with clients, some of them who are models... while the child was being accepted by their peers and generally by the sociocultural aspects, the child was being rejected, criticized, and condemned or judged by the parent, and that had a greater impact on how that boy/girl felt about him/herself and how they then grew up to become an adult. Whether they are well adjusted or whether they felt good about themselves or bad about themselves.”

The current mentality towards beauty have a list of reasons for its manifestation, beginning at an early age. So is it too late to change? It depends on whether there is a willingness to do so by the people who are role models and play a major part in the development of the next generation. Even with that, it will be an uphill battle when every minute of every day children are being targeted by the media to “do as they say.” As a parent our voices have to be made clear, strong, and supportive before outside forces are able to steer them down the appearance highway to emptiness and unattainable expectations of “beauty” city. Whatever happened to being a good person on the inside and letting that light radiate through to the world? Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I entered into the beauty industry and created Sheshae Couture and Skin Specialists because of a desire to make people feel good about themselves inside and out. I would rather educate a person on how to care for their skin rather than change it to look like someone else. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be better. As a society, I believe that we have an innate quality inside us that drives us to improvement and it is what sets us apart from many other nations. We work hard, play hard, love hard, are fairly intelligent, involved in philanthropic endeavors, place an emphasis on spiritual well-being, live in a technologically advanced society, have access to capital, and yet the majority of us go home at night feeling that we are still not good enough. Many go to extreme lengths to make the transformation from the way they were born, to a fabricated image of what they think they should look like.

Dr. Konstantin Vasyukevich, MD, a well-known Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon in Manhattan, New York noted his experience with clients stating that there are two groups of clients, the ones who just want to make small improvements to themselves, and the ones who want to drastically change themselves. He regularly has to convince patients that the procedure they envisioned is not the one they should receive. "When I perform a facelift, my aesthetic goal is to create a rejuvenated appearance by restoring attractive neck angle, as well as a youthful contour of the jawline. Above all, a facelift result should always appear natural and the facial contour well balanced."

Larry Oskin, founder and president of Marketing Solutions and Fine Art Photographer believes that “Today, it is more important for everyone, not just models, to dress for respect than to dress for success. Beauty may be skin deep or considered important at the surface as well as internally, while ugly is also often considered profound.” What is ugly? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “unpleasant to look at, not pretty or attractive, unpleasant to hear, and offensive or disgusting.”

Being visual beings, our initial perception of whether the image we see is good or bad, is determined by how it makes us feel. Even if it is darkness. Our emotions are linked to our senses and experiences. With that being said, as a society inclusive of people with different backgrounds and experiences, it makes sense that there would be varying views on what is beautiful and what is not. The first thing we see when we look at each other are the clothes we wear. So it is evident that fashion has and always will be the initial piece of the puzzle that determines our acceptance or rejection of a person. With that knowledge, i think it is safe to say that self-esteem is affected by the clothes we wear. The fashion industry is an integral part of the beauty industry. According to statista.com "The U.S. apparel market is the largest in the world, comprising about 28 percent of the global total and has a market value of about 331 billion U.S. dollar[s]" Clothing is no longer made up of only fabrics and trims. Now clothing is actually smart! With the creation of wearable tech, we have entered a whole new era where clothing will have even more of our attention. (If that's possible.) Our wardrobe will make our everyday lives more efficient. The M dress by CuteCircuit, a company that creates clothing using microelectronics, is actually a cellphone with a sim card inside that requires the wearer to speak into the cuff when answering a call. Designer Pauline Vandongen creates Wearable Solar which includes electrical wire and solar cells, powered by the sun. Conductive thread, which carries electric current and can be sewn into fabrics, is readily available for anyone to purchase.

Ever heard of Fashion Psychology? It is a new form of Psychology developed by Dawnn Karen, M.A.,B.A. , Founder of the Fashion Psychology field- NYC Fashion Psychologist who has been featured in Elle Magazine, US, Glamour Magazine Italia, Fashion Magazine Canada, and Women's Health Magazine Australia. I was interested to find out why she felt that fashion deserved to be looked at as a mindset apart from general psychology and what she hopes to do with her newly created field. “Fashion Psychology is a newly applied academic discipline that studies how color and fashion effect human behavior while addressing cultural norms and cultural sensitivity. Fashion Psychology deserves its own branch of discipline because the future of fashion combines the sciences (technology, mathematics, psychology, etc)."

So, as you travel this journey called life, remember that it is most important to feel good about yourself when you look in the mirror. If you make a conscious choice to break from the expectations of others in order to be the best you, you can be, there is nothing that anyone can do to dampen your spirit unless you release your power to them. You may even create something that incites new emotions and set your own standards of beauty.

Stay fabulous! (Whatever that means to you.)