Why I Want to Reframe Beauty

I have been an actress in Hollywood for a long time, over 30 years, and how I look has been an issue that has plagued me my entire career. I’m not famous, I am a working actress and I have questioned my every move by thinking that if I could only get my hair perfect, maybe I’d work more. Or if maybe my nose was smaller (yes, I had a nose job) that would be the answer….or if I was somehow more beautiful in any number of ways, maybe my life would work out. And most recently, why even bother, because I’m a woman over 50 and I’m invisible. This beauty quest has been sometimes very sad and sometimes really funny, and it’s one of the reasons I created The Hollywood Beauty Detective.

That…and the fact that I have a daughter, Sasha, who will turn 18 on November 28th of this year. I’ve had the privilege of watching her grow up into a young woman. I have seen her friends grow up as well, and sometimes I have witnessed the effect that our culture has had on them. And it’s no longer just about me. The thought that my daughter would experience the level of insecurity that I have about how she looks makes me ache. It makes me ache to see how much pressure is put on women and girls to look a certain way…more than any other time in history.

Here’s a scary fact: by the time the average American girl reaches the age of 17, she’s seen more than 250,000 commercial messages aimed at shaping her appearance. How about this: over 80% of 10 year old girls are afraid of being fat. Or the statistic Dove came out with that only 4% of women worldwide consider themselves beautiful.

How can this be? Well…we’ve been manipulated by advertisers, we are inundated with images of a beauty ideal, and it’s gotten out of hand. We’re seeing really radical digital plastic surgery. It’s moving towards the Barbie doll model of what a woman should look like — big breasts, tiny waist, ridiculously long legs, elongated neck. All the body fat is removed, all the wrinkles are removed, and the skin is smoothed out.

It’s an image no one can live up to – not even the models themselves, because it isn’t real. We are striving to look like these unattainable and impossible standards that are, by the way, set by men, because the advertising industry is a male dominated industry.

And this pressure isn’t just limited to our culture - in cultures all over the world, the Western Beauty ideal is a huge influence, creating a $10 billion industry in skin lighteners and skin bleaching products alone in the US and Europe.

So…how do we navigate this untenable situation and how can a web-series called The Hollywood Beauty Detective change the way we look at beauty?

By creating awareness. That’s how. By exploring the issue. By education. By busting it open and creating something we can all get behind.

We start by taking apart the false and narrow view of beauty we have been given. We question it. We examine it. We start by honoring other versions of beauty that on first glance may not seem beautiful to us. We begin by learning what other women have to say and we open ourselves up to other versions. Then and only then can we start to affect change.

We need to decide for ourselves what beauty really is, and we need to see a more diverse view of it to save us and our daughters from further physical and psychological toll.

You know, the scope of beauty in our world is so very immense and complex and is influenced by so many more things than the Western Beauty Ideal.

There are global influences like religion, history, culture, and place. Wouldn’t it be glorious to have other versions of beauty to look to and to understand them rather than judging them? Because truly, what is beautiful to a woman in Los Angeles, California may not be beautiful to a woman in Cairo, Egypt. What looks beautiful to me might look ugly or even offensive to you. I mean, you may hate my outfit and the fact that I wear red lipstick (I love red lipstick).

But it’s my right to look however I want, isn’t it? Not only is it my right, it’s a way of expressing myself. Of saying to the world, “This is who I am…I am a reflection of my inner spirit…of what I believe in. I am a work of art…and, yes, I love red lipstick.”