Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall…Part 2

The Dove campaign called Real Beauty Sketches was released last week and garnered a lot of attention, both positive and negative.  I even blogged about it here, and in one sentence, said that it made me cry because it’s true.  After watching it again for the second time just before writing this, it brought tears to my eyes again.

A few days after I first saw it, I then began seeing critical reaction to the piece.  Some said it had more white people than colored ones, and if there were colored people in them, they were simply added in, as if as an afterthought.   I’m definitely not white, but did I notice that in the piece?  No.  

Some said that it was pure manipulation (hel-lo, everything we see on media is manipulation.  Get with the program already), that Dove is just doing this for publicity (again, see the previous comment).

Some said that the piece focused only on the outside beauty and at this point, I basically just stopped reading what everyone else was saying because somehow, they lost the whole point of the piece.

To me, it was about beauty, plain and simple.  And beauty is in the eye of the beholder – us.  Beauty may be simply skin deep for some, and more than skin deep for others.  But the bottom line is this – what we see when we look in the mirror may be beautiful to us – or it may not be.

That the idea of beauty have been dictated by others throughout the years is nothing new.  All you have to do is look at the evolution of art through the ages, and you will see how beauty was perceived then.  And how beauty is perceived now.

There’s some difference.  And then there’s not.

Many years ago, I was lucky enough to attend a curated exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art entitled The Ghost in the Machine:  The Photography of the Human Soul, 1850 – 2000 by Robert A. Sobieszek.  It was amazing.

Companion book
Companion book

There was one particular artist whose work really stayed with me.  Her name is Orlan.  She is a French feminist performance artist who uses her body literally to display art.

In this case, she, in following the concept of beauty through the ages, subjected her body to what was considered beautiful according to pieces of art like Mona Lisa and Venus in “Birth of Venus”.   She was conscious through most of the surgeries and documented her whole process of healing and transformation here.

Orlan, Entre-Deux, 1993. (v / in: Sandra Gering Gallery, 1993): 1. 21. – 24. november / Novembre 1993. 2. 29. november / Novembre – 2. december / Decembre 1993. 3. 15. – 18. december / Decembre 1993. 4. 27. – 31 december / Decembre 1993. Iz / From: Robert A. Sobieszek, Ghost In The Shell, Photography and The human Soul 1850 - 2000, Los Angeles Country Museum of Art and Mit Press Cambridge Massachusetts London, England 1999. Str. / pp. 273, 275, 279, 282, 283.
Orlan, Entre-Deux, 1993. (v / in: Sandra Gering Gallery, 1993): 1. 21. – 24. november / Novembre 1993. 2. 29. november / Novembre – 2. december / Decembre 1993. 3. 15. – 18. december / Decembre 1993. 4. 27. – 31 december / Decembre 1993. Iz / From: Robert A. Sobieszek, Ghost In The Shell, Photography and The human Soul 1850 – 2000, Los Angeles Country Museum of Art and Mit Press Cambridge Massachusetts London, England 1999. Str. / pp. 273, 275, 279, 282, 283.


She acquired Mona Lisa’s high forehead and if I remember correctly, Venus’ lips, among others.  I think she ended up with nine different surgeries with the last one being the most controversial one because no surgeon (mostly men) would willingly do it simply because it went against their idea of beauty – and that was to put two bumps just above her eyebrows that aren’t exactly horns but basically could be interpreted as such.

When she finally found someone willing to do it (probably a woman, I can’t remember now but do correct me if I’m wrong), it reinforced the belief that beauty through the years have always been dictated by men.


So where does that bring us women?  When we look in the mirror, by whose standards do we view whether we are beautiful or not?  Do we look beyond what lies under the skin – at qualities that do last a lot longer than firm and dewy looking skin, the perfect eyebrows and nose, the full lips?

One of the things that worried people back in the day when photography first emerged was that photographs would capture their soul and bind it.  Through the years, there are photographs that do grip us, that bring up so many emotions in each of us.

What if we were to look at our own photographs for a change?  Will we only see the little stain on our shirts the day the photograph was taken?  Worry that we didn’t wear any make up and hence look “horrible”?  Will we see the soul that the camera captured or simply stop at skin level?

So for me, the Dove ad was about this:  It’s about how we really see ourselves, and about how we can sometimes be harder on ourselves than on others, especially when it comes to the outside beauty.  It’s also about how we determine our own idea of beauty and not let some media entity do so.

I know we’re only human and we want to fit in, to stand out, to feel special.  But also remember that hardly anything on print and screen is what it really is.  Not everything we see is what it appears to be.

Except that person in the mirror.

That person is real, and if the eyes were the windows to the soul, let your own internal camera capture what resides inside – whether what you see is beautiful or not – on your own terms.

10 thoughts on “Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall…Part 2

  1. I’m so glad to read that the video touched you the same way that it touched me; there was so much negativity floating around about it! those who rebel the loudest are usually the ones it has hit a little too close to home *winks* did you happen to see the spoof that was made about the men? I didn’t find it particularly funny, making the unfair assumption that all handsome men are conceited about their looks, and yet no one seemed offended by that one *scratches head in confusion*

    1. I don’t understand the negativity and don’t want to actually. It just got tiring after awhile and it made me realize then whose idea of beauty we’re really following – certainly not our own. And you’re right about the ones who complain about that video the loudest. But they’re seeing things I don’t see at all.

      I’ll keep an eye out for that spoof 🙂

  2. Yes, I saw the video. You are right that we don’t see ourselves accurately because of the biases we have.If we think we are not beautiful we will describe ourselves in unbeautiful ways. Even if that isn’t accurate. Same goes for internal beauty. We often can’t see how beautiful and unique we are because someone told us we were ugly and we believed it. Very sad. Good for Dove for doing something even though of course it is for consumer purposes. Thanks for your thoughtful post!

    1. Anything a big company will do, even if they do with good intentions, will always have marketing stamped all over it. But the bottom line is that if one person is affected by the video in a positive way, whether they realize how negative their views about themselves are and would like to change that, or if they do realize that they’re more beautiful than they think they are, then that’s all good.

      It’s amazing how powerful words can be. Words can either uplift us or drag us down, years and years after they were first spoken. The first time someone says we’re not beautiful is the one time we’ll believe it and carry it in our hearts. It definitely will affect everything we do. Self-talk is equally powerful, if not more powerful, as well.

  3. The video made me cry and as I watched it again I started to well up, because I know for a fact that I do see myself different from everyone else. I am very self conscious in photos and it is an ongoing joke in my family how unphotogenic we, as a family, are. I know that in times when I have been happyy, not caring how I look and not worried what people think (this can be when Im just in a good mood or if Ive had a few drinks to make me less self conscious) I will have far more attention from people than when Im worrying about what everyone thinks. Unfortunately I often do worry what eveyone thinks. I honestly believe that the way we feel on the inside is projected in our outward apprearance and body lanugae. One of my favourite quotes is from Audrey Hepburn: ‘Happy girls are the prettiest”

    1. I love that Audrey Hepburn quote – and you know, that woman radiated beauty! Because I bet she was happy with who she was.

      One of my friends is 97 years old and she cracks me up with her words of wisdom sometimes. One of them is “people are just no damn good” to which she does the complete opposite of that and helps out anyone she can, even to the point of being taken advantage of.

      But the other gem is “if you think people are looking at you, they’re not,” and each time I remember that, especially said in her 97-year old way with her dry wit, it always makes me realize that I’m worrying over nothing, really. Beauty is more than skin deep – it’s the belief that you are amazing and beautiful.

      One of my favorite beautiful people is Sophia Loren – now that is one beauty that is way more than skin deep. She radiates beauty and confidence and sex appeal. Anyone can be beautiful on the outside, but if you’re not radiating it from the inside, you’re just a mannequin. And no one wants to hang out forever with a mannequin…unless you’re another mannequin LOL 🙂

      1. Couldn’t agree more! And my logical side agrees with you! I just wish I could make my insecure self listen to my logical self! Love that gem from your friend! I may have to borrow that 🙂

    1. You don’t have to be quiet for my sake 🙂

      Seeing the video brought me back to Orlan’s work from a long long time ago, and while there are points to be made against the video, I needed my thoughts clear from all that in order to write this post as The Ghost In the Shell exhibit was almost 10 years ago and though I was fortunate to have the curator give the tour the first time I saw it, I did not need any other distraction at the moment.

      1. To put it briefly 🙂 the video reifies the very notion it contests — by saying “you’re beautiful” to people who have been conditioned to feel that they are not, it reinforces the category of beauty as one to be valued or prioritized. Then it does this on behalf of a commodity it wants us to buy. That’s all 🙂

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