I Want to Look Like You
The desire to adapt your makeup look to emulate your favorite celebrity is certainly nothing new. Movie and society magazines at the beginning of the twentieth century started the preoccupation, and it’s a trend that appears to have reached its feverish height over the past decade. It’s difficult to log onto the Internet or pass a magazine rack without a Copy the Look‚ headline screaming out.
This tribal mentality of wanting to belong is also nothing new why we were swayed to buy that new pink lip gloss, or indeed why we put it on at all, is something anthropologists and academics have been sweating over for years. One of my favorite secrets, Man as Art, features beautiful photography of tribes in New Guinea studied by anthropologist Andrew Strathern. Strathern examines the incredible rituals and elaborate face and body paint various groups use, and says in his intro: Face painting is . . . a serious exercise, and its designs mark out male status as against that of females.‚1 In other words, beyond superficial beautification, adornment in this way is about sexual attraction as well as communicating a group identity.
The group identity, feeling as if we belong to our tribe,‚ is evident in makeup use worldwide. As teenagers, didn’t we all want to belong? And depending on our generation, we expressed this desire through Debbie Harry-style blush and lip gloss or an emo smudged black eye. Whether we want to look like our favorite screen idol, celebrity, model, or singer, we are communicating something about ourselves to the outside world, displaying that we belong to a group.
Somali supermodel and entrepreneur Iman sums it up in her foreword to photographer Art Wolfe’s Tribes: From the runway of a haute couture designer to a tribe in the depths of the Brazilian rainforest, we all share in common a basic human desire to present ourselves as something beyond what we are. Our worldly conditions may differ dramatically, but as human beings we are comprised of stock impulses, no matter what our level of industrial revolution.‚2 Our gut instinct to look our very best is driven by our primal instincts to reproduce.
The modern-day face of beauty in the cyber age is that of digitally enhanced flawless perfection, from Hollywood A-listers to the filtered and smoothed-out social media photos posted daily by millions of young women all over the world. Technological advances in makeup and beauty products allow us to adjust our skin tone, texture, face shape, and identity with comparative ease. Whether we look to the East or the West, the lines between race, gender, and status are becoming increasingly blurred. There is a move toward a homogenized, globalized beauty ideal, where perfection is more important than individuality.