That question was part of a ’90s social marketing campaign created by Concerned Children’s Advertisers and Health Canada. In the clip, two young girls are walking through a “boutique” that offers products and procedures to help consumers change their appearances and personalities.
“Don’t settle for just being yourself,” a woman’s voice says as one of the girls is examined by a makeup artist who covers her lips with bright red pigment. “Why be you when you can be me?” she says.
The ad campaign seems more relevant now than ever, with that question representing exactly the type of attitude social media is perpetuating: Why be you when you can be like all the popular, beautiful people, like Kylie Jenner?
Social media influencers these days are starting to look like beauty clones. You know the look: a full pout, perfectly arched eyebrows, maybe some expertly applied eyeliner, topped off with a healthy dose of highlighter and cheek contouring. With a few makeup brushes, a contour palette and some matte lip color, you can be well on your way to looking like everyone else.
Why, though, is looking like everyone else something we aim for? There are a number of factors that play a part, including a possible desire to fit in and a tendency to mimic celebrities and influencers.
Others have written about what has been dubbed “Instagram makeup” and “Instagram face” before, but the trend is still going strong. HuffPost spoke to Rachel Weingarten, a beauty historian, Renee Engeln, a psychology professor and author of Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession With Appearance Hurts Girls and Women, and Dr. Michael Brustein, a clinical psychologist, to get some answers.
So, How Did We Get Here?
In the days before social media, as Weingarten explained to HuffPost, our beauty habits were defined by factors like geography and ethnicity. For example, she said, if you lived in a certain part of Asia, you may have used skin whiteners, or if you lived in France in the 1700s, you probably powdered your wigs.
“It kind of was isolated to a moment and a place and maybe your religion and beliefs,” she said, adding that around the late 1800s and part of the 1900s, magazines were opening people’s eyes to new things.
“But the time that things really started to affect beauty was probably the ’40s and ’50s, when celebrities started to show up in magazines as beauty ideals,” she said. “Then everybody started copying the celebrities.”