The entertainment industry has a tremendous influence on how we view ourselves as females in society. From the images we see on our screens, to the articles we read on magazines and even the music we listen to, females are constantly bombarded with subliminal messages “instructing” us to conform to modern societal beauty standards.
“We all consider ourselves to be unique individuals with our own set of personal opinions, preferences, habits, and quirks. Indeed, all of us are unique, and yet most of us share many feelings, beliefs, and habits with most of the people who live in our society”.
One of the most vigorous instrument that the entertainment industry uses to achieve this level of influence is through advertising. In his book Cultural Anthropology: Toolkit for a Global Age, Guest K.J defined advertising as “a powerful tool of enculturation, teaching us how to be “successful” in consumer culture, how to be cool and normal”
Advertising is effective because it assures women that if we look a certain way, have a certain body type, and so on, that we will be more popular and accepted in society. This why advertisers use well-known celebrities to be promote their products, they are further inculcating women that if they own this certain product they will be just as popular and accepted in society.
Since not all women will fit into the defined societal standards of beauty there is understandably a growing animosity from women who feel misrepresented, among particularly black women. The influence of the entertainment industry on the black community is quite evident, the idealized beauty standards is: light skin, an hour glass figure, and the use of artificial hair. These modern idealized standards of beauty have sparked controversial discussions on colourism, body-shaming and natural versus artificial hair .
The issue of colourism and its effects, namely the enmity it causes amongst women and self-hatred that misrepresented women feel. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines colourism as “prejudice or discrimination especially within a racial or ethnic group favoring people with lighter skin over those with darker skin.”
For example in the music industry, artists predominantly showcase light skinned women in their music video, one could argue that being light skinned is prerequisite for being showcased. As a result dark skinned women feel as though they are ugly or simply not good enough. It creates self-esteem issues for which lead to self-hatred and even enmity for light-skinned women. The bone of contention has ignited animosity amongst most women, even celebrities.
A feud that epitomize this is a TWAR (Twitter War) on the 28 March 2019 between two well-known celebrities, namely Pearl Thusi and Bonnie Mbuli. Pearl Thusi ( a light-skinned actress , model and radio personality) complained on Twitter about not getting some roles because she doesn’t look African enough this then evoked a responds from Bonnie( a dark-skinned actress and presenter) who went on to write :”So when a light-skinned actress complains about the one or two roles they didn’t get because weren’t dark enough, I’m like but the part your crying about was being the slave who gets raped and beat up in the thing, people who look like you have never had to be in that position to begin with.”
To which Pearl Thusi respond by: “You have absolutely no clue which other parts I didn’t get, but because it makes you feel better to believe my acting career is working out only because I’m light skinned. And for someone who survived depression and wrote a book about it you sure love spreading negativity.”
This exchange of words between these two well-known celebrities brought to light that even people in the entertainment industry are affected by the existing standards of beauty.
The self-hatred that most dark-skinned women seem to suffer from can also been seen by the increasing demand for skin lightening products. Most dark-skinned women grow up hating themselves, they feel unaccepted and unappreciated for not fitting in with the idealized beauty standards. Growing up I used to hear my family gossip and laugh about how ugly and dark my cousins were, so I never really saw colourism as an issue, I just thought that was just how society operated but I later realized just how degrading and harmful it really is. Looking back I remember how my cousins grew up hating themselves and their skin tone, they would constantly refer to themselves as unworthy of appreciation and acceptance simply because of their skin tone and they would praise me for having light skin and whine about how unlucky they are to be born with a “cursed” skin tone, but I never really saw it as issue until high school. My eyes were finally opened in my matric year (2015) to the effects that colourism had on dark skinned women. I witnessed a surge of beautiful young dark skinned women buying creams and products that promised to lighten their skin, learners in my grade desperate to meet the standards put forth by the entertainment industry desperate to attain the perfect look. At the time I did not understand why this was happening until I spoke to one of my friends who was also taking part in this. She made me understand what colourism is and how I (a light skinned women) benefit and wouldn’t really understand the persecution that dark skinned women go through every single day. She briefed me on how dark skinned women have a hard time being accepted, she believed that by lightening her skin tone maybe just maybe then society will accept her. Her word made me reflect on my cousins and how they viewed me (a light skinned woman) and how they viewed themselves.
Evidence for the influence that the entertainment industry has on beauty standards can be seen on how common it has become for dark-skinned women to try and lighten their skin. The amount of dark women who wish to bleach their skin to look lighter is alarmly high. The skin bleaching industry has made lots of money from this demand of skin lightening products. Young women go out of their way in order to purchase products that promise to lighten their skin regardless of the side effects. Some of these products are dangerous and can erode the skin but the demand is still increasing. It appears meeting the societal beauty standards supersedes the well-being and health for most women. This is a very dangerous way of thinking. The study of lightning practices: an epidemiological study of South African women of African and Indian ancestries conducted by N.C Dlova, S.H Hamed, J Tsoka-Gwengweni and A Grobler in the British Journal of Dermatology( 173, 2-9, 2015) concluded that : the lighting of skin has indeed become a common practice among dark-skinned South African women. The research asked six hundred women to complete a questionnaire of whom 32.7% reported using skin care lighting products, that’s more than a quarter of women who feel uncomfortable in their own skin.
The effects of the entertainment industry’s influence on this beauty standard has caused a lot conflict and enmity among women. There should be a change on how the entertainment industry treats and views dark skinned women. Solutions must be devised on how to eradication the self hatred and enmity among women. The use of uncontrolled skin lighters further enforces a message that dark skinned women must physical change their skin tone to be acceptable in society that is very demeaning to say the least. The entertainment industry is responsible and thus it is their duty to end this stigma on being dark skinned. Dark-skinned women should also be appreciated just like every other woman.
Body shaming is another topic that has caused a quarrel amongst women. The Oxford dictionary defines body shaming as: “The action or practice of humiliating someone by making mocking or critical comments about their body shape or size”.
“Cultures have always been influenced by the flow of people, ideas, and goods, whether through migration, trade or invasion. Today’s flows of globalization are intensifying the exchange and diffusion of people, ideas, and goods, creating more interaction engagement“.
A reality television star has been used as a symbol for what women should ideally look like. She fits societal standards, she has .an hourglass figure, a small waist and a large posterior. She even brought back waist trainers and popularized them. She is a huge global influence and because of that many women look up to her for inspiration. Since seeing Kim Kardashian wear a waist trainer, a lot of women have made them a necessity. There has been a change in how black women have changed their understanding of beauty.
It showed that basis on this project which explored differences in women’s attitude towards weight loss and dieting, this article looks at black women’s changing perspective of beauty as well as body image. Young black women in particular have a yearning for a ‘slim-thick’ appearance. This type of body is embodied by Kim Kardashian. When we take a close look at this type of body, we realize that it’s a combination of a black and white beauty standard. Kim Kardashian has influenced many young women on what they see as attractive.
Kim Kardashian has encouraged the desirable body type. On top of that she has done this by operation as an exotic ‘other’, she is seated between black and white beauty standards. She has managed to create a desirable body type for different racial groups. Kim Kardashian and her body type offer us with an’ example of cultural assimilation. Cultural assimilation, and yet she also works to exaggerate cultural stereotypes, encouraging a notion of beauty that is out of reach for an ordinary, everyday woman. I am one of the women who has been influenced by Kim Kardashian, I bought a waist trainer because I wanted to fit in, be attractive and desirable. I wanted people to look at me and see perfection. This has taken a knock at my self-confidence and my diet. I am slowly going back to appreciating myself just the way I am.
“A significant effect of globalization on culture is that the increasing flow of people, ideas and products has allowed worldwide access to cultural patterns that are new, innovative, and stimulating”.
There has been an ongoing debate amongst black African women as to what type of hair is the “right” hair. The entertainment industry often showcases artificial hair as the right type of hair. As of late, women are challenging this standard. Although a huge amount of black women wear artificial hair, but that is now being questioned by women who prefer natural hair. “Aesthetics in this this period was based on a definition of blackness which stressed naturalness and the rejection of hair straightening and skin bleaching (Weekes 1997, Banks 2000). Women who continued with this practice were seen as victims of self-hatred.
In conclusion this essay has demonstrated the ways in which the entertainment industry influences female beauty standards. Through quotes, examples, as well as studies one has solidified they way in which the industry affects beauty standards. One showcased on which beauty standards are popular, skin colour, body type, there were even conversations about which type of hair is the right hair. Even though there are idealized beauty standards, one can see that these standards are being changed. This was shown in an example about how black women are deciding to wear their hair natural, even stopping the use of skin lightening products. This essay has shown that the standards of beauty in today’s society can be hard to reach for ordinary women. This in particular was shown with the introduction of the “slim-thick” body type and waist trainers.