Beauty: In the Eye of the Beholder or Country?


What is beauty? Who is considered beautiful? What determines beauty? Magazines, critics, men….. the list is endless. I am increasingly fascinated with the pressure that is put on women by society, the media, more importantly, themselves to constantly remain in shape, without wrinkles, and with perfectly coiffed hair, high heels, and perhaps even surgically enhanced body parts.

The image we impose on the next generation, our daughters, our friends, our world is a sad one at best. I am all for looking stunning, but at what cost? Are women — who work full-time, raise children, clean house and run errands – also supposed to look like Gisele on her worst day?

Esther Honig, 24, journalist and blogger from Kansas City decided to test this idea of image and what beauty looks like to each of us globally. Having sent an image of just her head and shoulders for photo-shoppers to play around with, people from 25 countries (including India, Pakistan, Morocco, Greece, UK, Ukraine, Vietnam) had the opportunity to portray the image as they would display it in a fashion magazine of their respective region. As you can see, the definition of what beauty is to each of us from around the world is completely varied.

Esther’s ‘Before & After‘ project has set out to challenge what beauty truly is and question whether it is something inherent. It also calls into question Photoshop’s pivotal role in portraying unobtainable beauty. If you change the image entirely, when is the image simply no longer you, but simply airbrushing and touch-ups?

From Honig’s website:
“In the U.S., Photoshop has become a symbol of our society’s unobtainable standards for beauty. My project, Before & After, examines how these standards vary across cultures on a global level.
Freelancing platforms, like Fiverr, have allowed me to contract nearly 40 individuals, from more than 25 countries such as Sri Lanka, Ukraine, The Philippines, and Kenya. Some are experts in their field, others are purely amateur.

With a cost ranging from five to thirty dollars, and the hope that each designer will pull from their personal and cultural constructs of beauty to enhance my unaltered image, all I request is that they ‘make me beautiful.’”

See below for the various images Esther received from around the world which depict their idea of ‘beauty’.





I am all for doing what makes you feel better and more confident about yourself however at what cost is enough actually enough? Don’t the wrinkles on your face tell a story? Doesn’t that scar remind you that you healed? Knowing that you are beautiful on the inside allows one to radiate and emit that beauty on the outside. One shouldn’t allow the fashion magazines, the media, the modeling realm or anyone else to compromise your self worth or appearance.

My only question is, when will men face the same scrutiny that women are subject to? Yes, even the good looking, non-photoshopped ones….

Photos via Esther Honig. All rights reserved

By Mademoiselle Wanderlust, a regular contributor to the Markets Media Life section.


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