August 26, 2019

Can beauty truly be inclusive?

Anastasia Garcia // WTF BEAUTY

Anastasia Garcia creates images featuring women across the spectrum of shapes, sizes, races, ages and abilities.

Her work has been featured for brands including Chromat, Amazon and Lane Bryant and in the documentary “Straight/Curve” about the body image crisis in fashion. When she thinks What the Future, she asks, “What if we eliminated beauty standards?”

WTF: Should health factor into beauty standards?

Garcia: What is health? Should health matter when it comes to representation? The most common hurtful things I hear as a fat woman come from people who claim to care about my health. “You’re promoting obesity, and obesity is unhealthy,” is the most common response. Body positivity is for everyone. Some people will never be healthy. Some people have a chronic illness. They have a disability, whatever it may be. Does it mean that they’re any less beautiful? Does that make them less worthy of representation? No.

WTF: So, if everybody is beautiful what does beauty mean?

Garcia: What a wonderful question. To be defined simply by one’s outward appearance is problematic because beauty doesn’t necessarily correlate specifically to the way someone looks. Beauty is about somebody’s heart. It’s about somebody’s kindness, their spirit. It’s determined by the way somebody moves through the world as much as it is about how they look. Beauty is just such an abstract thing. What is beautiful to me may not be beautiful to you. That’s exactly why we must open the range of what is celebrated as beautiful.

Anastasia Garcia

Anastasia Garcia, fashion photographer and body diversity advocate.


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“Some people will never be healthy. Some people have a chronic illness. They have a disability, whatever it may be. Does it mean that they’re any less beautiful? Does that make them less worthy of representation?”

Family and friends have an outsized impact on our ideas of beauty.

To what extent do the following influence your idea of what makes a person beautiful? (agree net)

U.S. Canada

Magazine Photos Magazine Photos 24% 23%

Catalogs Catalogs 20% 19%

TV shows TV Shows 29% 25%

Movies Movies 29% 24%

Tv Commercials Tv Commercials 26% 22%

Your family members Family members 50% 47%

Your Friends Your Friends 49% 48%

Social Media Social Media 23% 24%

(Source: Ipsos survey conducted between May 16 and 20, 2019 among 1,201 adults in the U.S. and between June 19 and 21, 2019 among 1,003 adults in Canada.)

WTF: What did the results of our survey tell you about beauty standards?

Garcia: It says that our family members and friends are the most influential in how we define beauty. If anything, it’s become apparent to me, working in the body positive space, the deep impact that particularly mothers have on their daughters. Mothers directly influence how daughters will perceive their own bodies and their own beauty. But what is informing their mothers? The idea of what’s beautiful between my mom’s generation and mine has shifted significantly. So, there’s something else that’s informing the beauty ideal, and I’m really curious what that is.

WTF: What do you think will drive beauty standards in the future?

Garcia: I see the future of media coming directly to people through their phones, even more so as time progresses. Social media is going to play a larger part in that, more so than traditional media.

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WTF: How will that influence what we consider beautiful?

Garcia: On the one hand, I find the concept of curating your best life moments and then Facetuning them and creating a picture of this perfect life really problematic. Another part of me sees women honestly baring their bodies, showing their scars and their stretch marks or their acne and being honest about disabilities. A lot of the fat influencers, fat bloggers and plus-size models sharing those images and being authentic are really inspiring people to reclaim their own narrative. It’s showing them that they’re not alone. As a result, I’m seeing more brands committing to limited retouching and honest representation. I’m a board member of an organization called Consider the Image, which is committed to creating imagery that isn’t so manipulated. I hope more of that will continue on social media.

WTF: Do you think brands are starting to see that body diversity is profitable?

Garcia: In the past, the idea was that if you told people they weren’t good enough, by creating this aspirational messaging, they would constantly be spending money buying your product to try and be good enough. But the truth is, you don’t have to make people feel like crap to buy a product. If you celebrate people, they’re going to want to buy into that product. And companies like [lingerie retailer] Aerie have had a very successful run of being more inclusive and showing stretch marks and bellies are seeing massive financial growth; they’re a pretty good example of that.

WTF: Will we see more plus-size beauty models in the future?

Garcia: Sephora has started to do it, which has been amazing. I’ve loved seeing Revlon collaborate with [plus-size model] Ashley Graham. Fat women wear makeup. Fat women buy makeup. And plus-size models look incredible in beauty campaigns. Why aren’t beauty companies celebrating that? Because
of fat phobia? Hopefully we’re able to continue to put the pressure on, and that continues to change. Because your body type, age, race, ability, sexual or gender orientation should have zero bearing on how beauty products are worn or sold.

WTF: What are you seeing now that’s signaling the future of beauty?

Garcia: It’s hard for me to see past the implications of our political climate, but I hope that the future is one where women are empowered, celebrated and able to have bodily autonomy and autonomy over their appearance. Where people of color are celebrated, respected, paid equally and have the same opportunities. Where people respect gender identity and gender fluidity—and where trans people, especially trans women of color, aren’t killed simply for trying to express their gender identity. To me these don’t seem like hopes, but these are my hopes.

Black, Hispanic and Asian people have stronger reactions to seeing people like them in the media.

I feel beautiful when the people with... like me are portrayed in a positive way in advertising and media.

U.S. White U.S. Black U.S. Hispanic U.S. Asian U.S. total Canada total

Body size Body size 47% 54% 52% 51% 49% 46%

Skin color Skin color 29% 67% 55% 49% 40% 32%

Age Age 59% 61% 54% 56% 54% 47%

Race/ethnicity Race/ethnicity 31% 70% 56% 51% 42% 31%

Gender Gender 36% 48% 44% 46% 40% 36%

Reality (e.g., cellulite/toothgaps/scars/gray hair/wrinkles) Reality (e.g., cellulite/toothgaps/scars/gray hair/wrinkles) 47% 58% 56% 43% 51% 48%

Source: Ipsos survey conducted between May 16 and 20, 2019 among 1,201 adults in the U.S. and between June 19 and 21, 2019 among 1,003 adults in Canada.)


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, Fashion photographer and body diversity advocate

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