Diversifying Beauty

Commentary on the absence of diversity at the recently-ended Fashion Week, from a post entitled "Beauty According to Whom?":

[...] from the images I’ve seen, the majority of the young women chosen to represent the world's most celebrated event in beauty and fashion looked nothing like the world. In fact, they had one thing in common: blond hair and blue eyes.

Now let’s be realistic here: In 2012 in New York City, are you trying to tell me there's a shortage of working models of color? I beg to differ.
Read the full post here: http://bed-stuy.patch.com/articles/beauty-according-to-whom.

The post focuses on the under-representation of non-white runway models as a manifestation of our culture's limited appreciation for a wide spectrum of coloration and features.  It's a good article, which I agree with and recommend.  I'd like to add, though, that from my perspective, even the blond-haired and blue-eyed models look "nothing like the world." At least one blonde on the runway achieves an unreal look by not even being woman.

A model of any race or ethnicity may certainly have smooth even skin, a tall slender body, and the grace and stamina for the hard work of runway modelling.  The fashion industry can and should do a much better job hiring from a wider pool. But, how much does increased racial and ethnic diversity among runway models make fashion reflect reality?  A beautiful woman of any race or ethnicity is more likely than not to have acne scars, wrinkles, less-than-perfect teeth, a figure that does not fit into an off-the-rack size 4, or any other number of individualistic characteristics that make her look unique.

Then again, is this true diversity right for the runway?  Probably not.  The individuality promoted at fashion shows is not that of models, but of the designer; models generally function as a blank slate onto which a designer's creative vision can be projected.    While beauty is a requirement for modelling, the particular brand of preternatural beauty favored by the runway is deliberately unreal.   Intriguing idiosyncrasies in a runway model's appearance may occasionally help her career, but are more likely to be a hindrance.

While diversifying the ranks of runway models without question makes a positive contribution to diversifying fantasy representations of beauty, it's not a big step toward widening the appreciation of individuality.  Changing the culture at large ultimately means fostering an appreciation of the transcendent spark that may illuminate each of us--the inner beauty that transforms true individuality in all its permutations of shape, size, color, facial structure, and hair texture, so-called "flaws" and all, into an expression of the beautiful mystery of life itself.

Is this "real" beauty less compelling than the fantasy images of haute couture?  As something that can't effectively be sold or bought, it's certainly less compelling from an advertiser's perspective:  every woman and man can choose to take ownership of "real" beauty, simply by claiming it and acknowledging it in others.  But, once seen as the true, lush, rich experience of life, it touches in a way that fantasy can not.  We're equally entitled to enjoy beauty where ever we see it, in both real life and fantasy.  As authors of beauty, we should put no limits on our imaginations (and the images that inspire them).  My suggestion is that we we are most enriched when our appreciation of beauty encompasses the diversity of the natural and preternatural alike.