Eight Middle Eastern influencers changing the face of beauty
FROM DESIGNER ARWA AL BANAWI TO MODEL LANA AL BEIK AND PHOTOGRAPHER TAMILA KOCHKAROVA, WE ASKED EIGHT OF THE REGION’S INFLUENCERS TO WEIGH IN ON THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY OF HOW INSTAGRAM IS SHAPING PERCEPTIONS OF BEAUTY
“I think Instagram has had both a positive and negative effect on influencing our perception of beauty. It’s become more progressive, in terms of inclusivity and acknowledging that there truly is more than one ideal standard to emulate or idealise; however, it’s also romanticised this notion of having to ‘look good’ all the time, and has played a part in normalising a distorted reality. We’re constantly inundated with images which have been retouched, presented with faces and bodies that have been resized or enhanced. While everyone should feel empowered to portray themselves however they wish, I think maintaining a level of reality when it comes to Instagram is so important. Let it inspire you, let it teach you, but be able to detach once your thoughts turn unbecoming to your self-worth and self-confidence.
True beauty will always delve well beyond the superficial outward appearance; no amount of concealer will ever be a substitute of a bright mind or a kind heart.”
“The beauty world today pioneers inclusivity and embracing one’s individuality. I truly believe that social media bridged the communicative gap of this generation to make brands realise that beauty isn’t just one ethnicity, size or skin colour, it’s internationally diverse. Women are no longer ashamed of this realisation; instead we’re now embracing our differentiating factors and – oddly enough – it’s bringing us closer together. It’s a powerful time.
Growing up, I never saw women who looked like me in magazines. It made me feel perhaps I didn’t fit the criteria. Luckily, I had my mother beside me, who helped me embrace my uniqueness and celebrate it. She encouraged me to create my own criteria instead of fitting into another’s. And now by the grace of God today, I am the girl in the magazine.”
“As a photographer, I love where beauty ideologies have evolved to and how a vast majority of beauty stereotypes have been broken. It’s important for me to constantly look for fresh faces and, even though the region still hasn’t evolved as much as the west in this way, I make sure to constantly push its boundaries. Every model I’ve captured so far looks completely different to the rest, which makes me realise on a day-to-day basis how much the standards have evolved and how comfortable everybody feels in their own skin compared to two or three years ago. Instagram has definitely helped with that by
making us see the amounts of out-of-this-world beauty that’s out there that we, unfortunately, rarely see in person. With the way things are progressing, I’m looking forward to the next two, three years and seeing how much further we’ll evolve.”
“The media has always played a pivotal role in our perception of beauty – moulding the image of the ‘perfect’ female according to what was deemed appropriate and profitable. An image so deeply ingrained within us that we failed to question it. Instead, we straightened our hair, starved ourselves in anticipation of that lean body, and even bleached our skin. Then came Instagram, a platform showcasing carefully curated content, where one picture out of 1,000 attempts would be ‘feed-appropriate’. Luckily, with time, people have become more aware and outspoken. These beauty standards have been shaken and infiltrated, giving more room for women of different shapes, sizes and colours to be part of the idea of the ‘perfect woman.’ It’s slowly becoming an inclusive space where more women have a chance to shine.
We’ve also seen the beauty industry slowly change, with brands catering to various skin tones, and the fashion industry taking part in the growing modesty movement. It’s refreshing and empowering to be a part of this era, but we must question the degree of inclusivity of these newly formed Instagram beauty boundaries. Are they only catering to a specific ‘curvy’ woman, a specific dark skin tone, or a specific texture of curly hair? Have we created specific criteria for diversity?
The industry still has a long way to go. The only way forward is to keep challenging it through continuously questioning if this sudden change and element of inclusivity is there for a reason. I certainly hope that this wave of acceptance and stretching of the once-conformist beauty standards is not just a mere trend but is truly a sign of change, acceptance and love; eventually breaking all boundaries.”
“Social media has not only successfully reshaped the beauty landscape, but has also managed to express the diversity and inclusivity that it desperately needed. Just look at Fenty Beauty. With its foundation coming in 40 shades, Rihanna made sure nobody was left out. Her promo video debut on Instagram was also brilliant, featuring models of all shapes and sizes – breaking beauty stereotypes right there! Having a powerful social-media beauty account allows you to speak through pictures, conveying the right message of beauty acceptance – that everyone deserves to feel beautiful.”
THE DINZ SISTERS
“Everyone is allowed to share what they like and what they want on social media. Everyone is entitled to a point of view and an opinion when it comes to beauty or anything else. Like anything with a lot of exposure, there’s good and bad to it. It’s up to us as individuals to choose how we look at things. We don’t feel like Instagram has had a positive or negative impact on beauty, we just feel like it’s caused it to receive a lot more attention and created more business.”
ARWA AL BANAWI
“Instagram is a platform that connects the whole world, which is such a great thing. With that comes a lot of positives and negatives, but I feel that, ultimately, it does indeed breed beauty inclusivity and acceptance. Less about Instagram, I think it’s more about people of influence taking on the responsibility of making a difference and changing the idea of a particular type of beauty, whether it be through social media or magazines.
There are so many women putting themselves out there to portray the message of being unapologetically their natural selves. For this reason, I’ve always looked up to models such as Kate Moss and Kendall Jenner, who propagate the idea of presenting yourself as you naturally are; whether they appear to the public bare-faced or with make-up. It’s something I think we should all learn from, especially in this region; stepping away from the intense contours and highlights and showing and accepting your natural self. It’s so important to me, and I personally try to portray that through my own lookbooks and social media. We’re all in charge of empowering those around us, so we need to be responsible with how we promote our own ideas of beauty.”
LANA AL BEIK
“While still providing a platform for the Eurocentric expectations of women and men, Instagram has really worked towards a great shift for self-love and acceptance. The call for the appreciation of somebody’s own self and their own beauty in a way has become a common concept, and is encouraged. In fact, becoming ‘different’ due to features that would’ve never made it to the magazines in the ’80s has become trendy – something to celebrate among the younger generation. The idea of romanticising imperfection has become something that is appreciated virtually across the world. Even if it is for the trend, and for the edgy, controversial persona, this movement is allowing for girls and boys everywhere to find a way to accept themselves.
I’ve noticed, however, that while Instagram aims to empower the individual, it actually results in acceptance for others, but maybe that’s the way to push it towards self-acceptance. Accepting others will allow you to accept yourself. Wherever this universal self-love journey is taking us, I am excited, and I think this is just the beginning.”