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

Grazia Middle East - - CONTENTS -

SHAZAIRA

“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.”

RHEA JA­COBS

“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.”

TAMILA KOCHKAROV

“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.”

SARA ELSAYED

“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.”

PARVANÉ BAR­RET

“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.”

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