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More than skin deep: Changing the perception of beauty

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Gayatri Shrikhande, writer and brand ideator, chlorophyll brand and communications consultancy.

Gayatri Shrikhande, writer and brand ideator, chlorophyll brand and communications consultancy.

Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Sunscreen song’ is filled with advice to the youth, as relevant today as it was in 1999 when he released the single. One of my favourite lines is “Don’t read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.”

A lot has been written about the artificial portrayal of beauty in our culture today. How ‘size zero’ has led to eating disorders in young girls, how India’s obsession with fair skin is heightened by fairness creams and how ‘real women’ are barely ever seen on screen.

All this changed with Dove. Yes, the women in their communication do have very shiny hair, constantly glowing skin. But believably so. They are fit, but achievably so. The unruly but healthy locks could be yours, as could the mischievous grin. As the brand becomes more and more popular, it’s original ‘real beauty’ ad, featuring a line of women with different body types, hasn’t yet been erased from our memories. The communication has gotten glossier, the girls prettier, but not enough to give the viewer an inferiority complex.

What we haven’t seen in India yet, is how brands can change our perception of differently abled people. A German apparel brand, Modissa, teamed up with Pro Infirmis, an organization for the disabled. In an attempt to make a group of physically challenged individuals see the beauty of their own bodies, Modissa took their measurements and proportions and made each one a special mannequin. These unique mannequins were then dressed in glittering clothes and placed in the shop windows for passersby to see. Their reactions, and those of the individuals themselves, are beautifully captured in this film. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=E8umFV69fNg)

As it went viral, it opened our eyes to a new definition of beauty. It also sets a new standard for conscientious brands. Brands that make a difference in society, despite the industry they belong to. The fashion industry has never been forgiving of anything less than perfect. Modissa claims no one is perfect. So who are we to judge?

As the year comes to a close, this film gives us a hopeful look into the future. Perhaps more such brands will broaden their horizons and change perceptions. After all, beauty does lie in the eyes of the beholder.

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