Thursday, November 4, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

Blog 10: Madonnarama!

This week I decided to connect my blog to Elijah Sarkesian’s blog Madonnarama, even though it looks like he is no longer in the class as the last blog update was in September. Madonna has had such an influence on pop culture, not only for her music, but for her ever changing look. Now, I  am not going to say Madonna is the best singer but I love her music and do have a slight obsession with her. Hence my little collage of Madonna looks.
Madonna has influenced many people’s style. Whether it is a celebrity, a Halloween costume, or someone stuck in the 80s, she has had enough looks for someone to take notes from.

When Madonna first came in the spotlight in 1983 she had bleach blond hair with black roots. She looked somewhat like tomboy and definitely had attitude. As she got older she changed her style more times than I can count. She was virgin Madonna, Catholic Madonna, sexy Madonna, disco Madonna, and Hindu Madonna.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Blog 9: Femininity, Drag Queens, and Drag Kings

Traditionally women are supposed to evoke the feminine prototype that was placed upon us from the dawn of time. We are the passive, feminine homemakers and the men are the aggressive, masculine providers. As stated in Tania Modleski's essay, "Femininity as Mas(s)querade: A Feminist Approach to Mass Culture," 'masculine=production and work; feminity= consumption and passivity'.

In the realm of makeup and beauty this still rings true. Makeup is typically seen as a woman's only thing and a way to enhance your femininity. However, guys have been getting in on the action too. Drag Kings have increasingly become prominent in pop culture. Quite possibly the most well-know drag queen is RuPaul.

More drag queen images:

And quite possibly my favorite drag queen. The sweet transvestite from Transexual, Transylvania (lyrics from the movie, not my own personal description of the character), Dr. Frank-N-Furter from Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The taboo of dressing and changing your appearance to change your social gender roles isn't restricted to men dressing like women. Although they are not as prominent in pop culture as drag queens, there are also women who dress and make themselves up to look like men. Drag kings. 

As mentioned in Judith Halberstam's essay, "Drag Kings: Masculinity and Performance," "Drag queens have been the subject of mainstream and independent movies, and straight audiences are, and historically have been, willing to pay good money to be entertained by men in drag."

However, drag king performances are typically less successful than drag queen shows. Even in the beauty industry, you will see more guys applying makeup to look like women than you will a woman applying makeup to look like a man.  

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog 8: The Politics of Makeup

So, I could not really figure out a correlation between this week’s readings and my topic of makeup.  I came closest in finding a topic in Tricia Rose’s essay, “A Style Nobody can Deal With: Politics, style and the Postindustrial City in Hip Hop,” however, what I got from this essay was how hip hop developed from the postindustrial cities in New York in the 70s and 80s when the urban areas were basically left with a less than desirable economic situation, and how the youth of New York took these experiences and hip hop blossomed. To sum in up.  This, however, is not something I want to address in terms of beauty and makeup. So instead, since politics is mentioned in this essay, I am going to write about a recent political issue that was recently raised in the beauty community.

“MAC collaborated with designer brand Rodarte to release a collection called Rodarte, which they claim is inspired by the ‘etheral beauty of the towns that border USA and Mexico.’ In particular, they named two of their nail polish colours Juarez (a pale pink) and Factory (a pale green). These two names in particular received much backlash, as people accused MAC of exploiting the controversy and violence there for their own profit. In particular, Juarez and Factory were really offensive to many girls, because Juarez is pretty much a poster child for violence, drug crimes, cross-border trafficking, and border-town factories.”1 But the main crimes in particular that are associated with this Mexican city are femicide and rape. Many women in this town are raped and go missing every year with little to no report of these crimes.

Even MAC’s campaign photo for the collection is quite disturbing:

If you look at the photo, the model is quite skinny, pretty much emaciated, and her makeup is done to make her skin look extremely pale, her eye shadow is just a ring of dark shadow around her eyes, and her face is contoured to make her cheeks and face look even more sunken. If you look even closer, on the left of the ad, you can see an outline of a women. A ghost.

Coming from an uber, major makeup company like MAC, I think they should know better and I find this extremely stupid and ignorant on their part. Yes, some companies like to push the boundaries such as NARS naming a couple of their blushes orgasm and deep throat, but they did not come out with an entire collection based on sex or porn. Even if they did I think it would have been less offensive than this Rodarte collecion.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Blog 7: Appealing to the Lowest Common Denominator

This week I will be drawing my inspiration for my blog entry from the following two quotes from Paul Willis’ essay “Symbolic Creativity”:

1.   1. Oddly and ironically, it is from capitalism’s own order of priorities, roles, rules and instrumentalities in production…that informal cultures seek escape and alternatives in capitalist leisure consumption.
     There is a widespread view that these means and materials, the cultural media and cultural commodities, must appeal to the lowest common denominators of tastes.

2. How this relates to makeup is exactly the same. The creative directors of these beauty companies have to appeal to both the upper class who supposedly have the high end taste, but also to those who are considered lower class.  There are a few ways the companies do this, but I will be focusing on two.

One way these makeup companies appeal to “the lowest common denominators of tastes” is by releasing products under different brand names that are their daughter and/or sister companies. Estee Lauder, for instance, is the parent company to both MAC Cosmetics and L’Oreal Cosmetics. Estee Lauder is also the parent company to many other brands, but these are the most known and best representations of the high, middle, and low ends of the company in terms of marketing.  You will never see an ad for Estee Lauder in a gossip magazine or a magazine like Seventeen. Just like you would never or rarely ever see an ad for L’Oreal in a magazine like Vogue.  Both brands are of the same company, yet marketed to different demographics.  One of the main reasons they do this is because the brand that is marketed to the lower end of the market will undoubtedly sell more products than that which is marketed to the higher end of the market. This is because, in reality, there are more people in the world who can afford L’Oreal than those who can afford Estee Lauder. This also happens in any venture in production and marketing. Many celebrities who choose to come out with their own line of products choose to release them in department store like Macy’s or supercenters like Walmart and Target. This is because it makes the product more accessible and more people can afford it, therefore, you sell more and make more money. 

For those who “seek escape and alternatives in capitalist leisure consumption,” may find MAC Cosmetics more desirable because it has the tendency to appeal to both higher end and lower end consumers by being priced and marketed to what is considered “middle range”.  Although for some of us MAC is still considered pricey, it is not as pricey as its sister and parent company, Bobbi Brown and Estee Lauder. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Blog 6: Teens and Makeup: How Soon is Too Soon?

Once I had an idea of what my blog post would be about this week, I decided to look through a Seventeen magazine to see how many thing I could find dealing with beauty and makeup. And yes, I do still receive Seventeen magazine. Do not judge me. I did not have to look far because right on the cover was "Look Pretty Now!" and "653 Fashion and Beauty Secrets!" On a side note, I have always wondered why there is an excessive use of exclamation points on and in magazines. Must you yell everything at me? But, I digress. In this particular issue, there was a total of 11 beauty ads. This does not include the many other skin care and fragrance ads that were also in the magazine. All makeup.

As we watched the "Merchants of Cool" documentary in class on Tuesday, there was one scene that stuck out to me. There was a girl at a modeling expo being interviewed by a modeling agency. When they asked how old she gets mistaken for she says 16-17 years old. When they asked what her real age was, they were shocked when they found out she was actually only 13. Although the girl was only 13, she had on a lip color that a woman in her twenties would not even wear. Well, at least I wouldn't. I am personally not interested in looking like a 40 year old woman. 

When I did a search for teen makeup on YouTube, there were 2,990 search results. Many of these results were smokey eyes or some other form of heavy makeup like the video below.

Now, I know the title says "Teen Makeup or a Night Out," but, honestly, why would a teen need to wear that much makeup on any occasion? 
However, I did come across this video a while back when it was originally posted back in September of 2009. I think he has the right idea when it comes to teen makeup.

But the one scene that stuck out to me the most in the "Merchants of Cool" documentary was when the teen girls were in their hotel room putting on tins of makeup and one teen girl, Barbra, says she has to, no, needs to look good for people or else it will ruin her day. This is very disturbing to me. Not only are they too young to have on all of that makeup, but it should not matter how people perceive you. You should not want or feel you need to look good for other people. Yes, I do wear and love makeup and believe it can enhance what is naturally there, but I'm 20 years old, not 13.

It is my own personal opinion that 13 is entirely too young to be wearing as much makeup as the girls in this documentary do. I believe at that age it is best to stick with no makeup or just eye liner, mascara and lipgloss at the most. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Blog 5: On the "Scene"

“The terms used in the tabloid press to describe those youngsters who, in their conduct or clothing, proclaim subcultural membership  (‘freaks’, ‘animals… who find courage, like rats, in hunting in packs’) would seem to suggest that the most primitive anxieties concerning the sacred distinction between nature and culture can be summoned up by the emergence of such a group.” –Dick Hebdige, “Subculture”

When I read this I immediately thought of the Goth and scene kids who were once looked at as freaks of nature. They were outcasts because of their piercings, tattoos, and heavy makeup. Apparently people assumed these kids were devil worshipers and troublemakers. As if looking into their eyes would make them be able to cast a spell on you. Because, based on the way they dress and how they look, they all have to be witches and warlocks, right?

For this once small sector of the population, this style of dress and appearance was just a way for them to break away from the “mainstream” and express themselves and be different.  However, these days it is not so uncommon to see this style of dress anymore. It seems everyone either has a tattoo or many tattoos or have piercings in other places than just their ears.

In terms of makeup, it is no longer as offensive to see someone with heavy black eye liner or bright eye shadows. In fact, many higher end makeup companies, have come out with collections and campaign ads that feature “Goth-esque” makeup and more dramatic looks.

Examples of Goth and “scene” makeup:

And of course the ultimate example of Goth, but more like Goth gone wrong is Marilyn Manson:

Major makeup companies have hopped on the opportunity to try to appeal to the people of this subculture while still being able to appeal to the mainstream people who are frequent purchasers of their products as well by focusing on the more artistic side of this underground culture.

In September of 2009, MAC Cosmetics released a limited edition collection called “Style Black”. Below are the pictures from the ad campaigns:

The collection featured darker than usual shades for MAC, even including a black lipstick and lip gloss. The ads are dark and somewhat extreme, but they are still artistic

Another makeup company called Illamasqua, almost always features unconventional yet “artistic” looks.

The Illamaqua ads aren’t necessarily Goth, but they are certainly not the conventional “pretty” or sex sales ads that are normally released.

Aside from makeup, even stores like Hot Topic, which was opened primarily for the Goth or scene teen, has now somewhat become mainstream. It has been featured in magazines like “Seventeen” and have customers who would not consider themselves Goth.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Blog 4: The International Appeal

This week most, if not all, of my blog post is going to be based on Henry Yu's "How Tiger Woods Lost His Stripes," and I will be focusing on the section "National Diversity and International Marketing." The quote, "There is a perverse irony in selling products back to places where capital has gone to find cheap labor,"  is what really caught my attention in this essay. So many beauty companies outsource their products these days. Whether it's for the product itself to be made or just the packaging, you will very likely see "Made in China" somewhere on the box. The beauty industry is a billion dollar industry all over the world in countries ranging from the US, Italy, France, and yes, even China. These same companies that outsource for cheap labor are still able to sell their products in that area.

How do you ask? Through print ads, commercials, and magazine editorials.

Celebrity endorsement ad in Asia
using American actress Angelina Jolie
Celebrity endorsement ad using Asian
celebrities Aishwaria Rai and
Rachida Brakni
Much like with any other product, the best way to sell is through advertising. And the best way to advertise is by using a celebrity. Many companies spend millions of dollars on celebrity endorsers in order to sell their products and reach many different demographics. More often than not the celebrity chosen is usually an American celebrity. While quite a few Americans spend their time trying to look more "exotic" with self tanners and long wavy hair extensions, some women in other cultures, some not all, strive to look like what they consider American beauty. Knowing this, companies use women who fit this ideal image. Slim, fair, and wide eyed. Even if they use a celebrity from their own country, they would still fit this model is ideal beauty.

 Although many women in Asia are naturally slim, not all of them have fair skin and wide eyes. But no need to fret because there are products and procedures for that. Skin lightening cream is a very popular among the women of all areas of Asia. 
Skin whitening ad

Friday, September 10, 2010

Blog 3: Commodity as a Spectacle

"The spectacle is the moment when the commodity has attained the total occupation of social life. The relation to the commodity is not only visible, but one no longer sees anything but it: the world one sees is its world. Modern economic production extends its dictatorship extensively and intensively." -Guy Debord

What I take from this is, in relation to makeup, the spectacle is whatever has taken over as the dominant brand in a certain industry. Whatever sells the most and is used the most.

The spectacle in the makeup industry would be MAC Cosmetics. MAC, a division of $6.3 billion cosmetics giant Estee Lauder, got credited in the company's last annual report for being a significant reason for the parent's 13% net makeup sales increase ($274.8 million). Amped-up sales from MAC's Small Eye Shadow, Studio Fix, Lustreglass, and Pro Longwear Lipcolor products alone contributed $70 million in revenue.

MAC has made more revenue than any other beauty brand on the market. It is used by both makeup artists and regular consumers alike and receives high praise from many of its consumers.

With single shadows ranging from $11-$15.50, lip gloss and lipstick $14.50-$16, and foundations and concealers upwards of $30, the products can get a little pricey. Even a regular face powder brush can set you back $52.  But these prices are just for the regular permanent items. Limited edition items can cost well over $100 on sites like eBay if you are not lucky enough to get them when the collections are first released.

But even with these prices and the many limited edition collections that come out each year, is MAC really the end all be all when it comes to makeup? Is it worth the hype?

Even though MAC is an expensive brand compared to drugstore products, it actually one of the least expensive department store products. Even though MAC’s lip gloss can be as much as $16, companies like NARS and Make-Up Forever charge $24 and $20 respectfully. Even those are cheaper than Dior and Chanel who charge $29.50 and $36.30 for their lip glosses.

In terms of quality, many loyal users of the brand who have been with them for years say MAC’s quality has deteriorated. It seems as the brand grows, it takes a toll on the quality. Some have even said MAC does not care about the customers anymore, they just care about getting as many products out as possible and making more money. Which seems to be true with 30 limited edition collections that came out in just this year alone, many of which received not so favorable reviews.

Below is a picture from a makeup artist’s blog where she swatches the shadow Plum Dressing by MAC.

On the left is the one she purchased in 2005 and the one on the right is one from this year. The pigmentation in the shadow has greatly diminished and she mentions that the application of the shadowed has worsened as well as the formula is not as smooth as it once was.

Even with these faults, MAC is still pushed as one of the best makeup brands and is one of the highest selling brands out there. Even though there are other brands, both more expensive and less expensive, that rival and could even beat MAC as the better brand. This just goes to show that the more a brand is forced on people, the more people will buy the hype.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Blog 2: Makeup Is For Whores!

Okay, the title is a little misleading. However, at one point in time, makeup was seen as something lower class women would wear.

Originally, makeup was worn by the "elite" or royalty. The earliest known makeup was made from copper and lead and worn by the Egyptians, most notably, Cleopatra. Famously depicted in her gold eye shadow and thick black liner, she wears one of the most noticeable makeup looks in history. The trend of makeup being only for the elite continued for a while until around the 1800s when social etiquette became more frigid and makeup was frowned upon.  Pale skin was a sign of pureness and gentility. Around the 1900s makeup was beginning to be worn by the "society ladies" but was still not spoken of. Cosmetics were actually kept under the counter and sold discretely because the ladies did not want anyone to know they were buying let alone using the products. In the 1920s, the ideal image for women was to be slim, completely natural and free of makeup and to keep a boyish silhouette. The 1920s was also the era of the flapper. Flappers were frowned upon because of their drinking, smoking, style of dane, and heavy makeup. Because of this they were seen as lower class. However, around the 40s and 50s, once everyone's favorite movie stars were seen wearing makeup, it was no longer taboo and then became "popular".

Now, that brief history of makeup may not be the most interesting or detailed, but it is just an example to show the cycle of something that is popular. What was once seen as something for the elite and royalty was then turned into something only "loose" or lower class women would wear. And then the cycle continues thereafter. 

In the 1900s, makeup was originally colored creams, waxes and flower petals for blush and lipstick and burnt matchsticks to darken the eyelash area. In 1909 the first known cosmetic company was started. This company was and still is known as Max Factor. Although there were other local companies that sold "makeup", Max Factor was the first company to distribute outside of their local area in 1927. Due to his strong connection with the film community Max Factor was able to use celebrity endorsements in advertising his products. This definitely came in handy when appealing to the masses. 

The same thing happens today. When someone sees their favorite celebrity wearing something whether it is clothes, makeup, or a hairstyle, they try to copy it. Think of Jennifer Aniston's hair from when she played Rachael in the shoe "Friends". That was the most copied celebrity hairstyle at that time. If you search "celebrity makeup tutorial" on YouTube, you will end up with over 2,600 results.

This boom in the interest of makeup has been very beneficial for the makeup industry. The billion dollar industry is able to market products for the "high end" clientele with the most expensive beauty product (a $600 for 1 oz. skin serum) to the lower end of the spectrum with products you can pick up from the beauty supply store. Even though now makeup can be and is for every woman, the industry still finds a way to divide the masses.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Blog 1: Welcome!

As you can tell by the title I have decided make my blog about the beauty industry and how it relates to pop culture. This blog will most likely appeal more to my female classmates, but I am sure the guys can get something out of it....right? My blog will mainly focus on the makeup part of the industry but I will also focus on art, fashion, hair, and Hollywood and how they all link back to makeup. Like I said, this might might not be the blog for guys. 

Beauty, or something that is considered beautiful, is different for everyone. Hence the saying, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."  However, when it comes to pop culture, beauty is in the eye of the masses. When you think of the "popular" celebrities, do you find any of them particularly unattractive? Well, maybe I should not word it that way because there are a few celebrities that I do not get what all the hype is about when it comes to their looks, i.e. that guy from the Twilight movies (whatever his name is). But that is a different story. Most celebrities are famous mainly for their talent. Oh, who am I kidding. Most celebrities are famous mostly for their looks. Like one of my favorite celebrities for example. She is kind of a guilty pleasure of mine since she really does not have any talent, but I still find her intriguing. The beautiful Miss Kim Kardashian. The Arminian Princess as she calls herself.  If you look at older pictures and videos of her when she first was thrust upon us thanks to a certain sex tape, and look at current videos and pictures, you can notice a definite change in appearance. Assuming she has not had plastic surgery, we can thank this change in appearance to the magic of makeup. When she first appeared in the limelight her makeup artist was Stephen Moleski, however, in the past 2 years or so, she has switched to makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic. In the pictures below you can see the difference between the two makeup artists' techniques. 

On the right, you can see she has a more youthful and more natural looking appearance and on the right she looks like sheaway and had a facelift. This is due to the fact that her current makeup artist, Mario, is a little too heavy handed with the concealer and under eye highlight. For you readers who do not know what concealers and under eye highlights are, do not worry I will fill you in. away and had a facelift. This is due to the fact that her current makeup artist, Mario, is a little too heavy handed with the concealer and under eye highlight. For you readers who do not know what concealers and under eye highlights are, do not worry I will fill you in. 

Concealers are used to block out any discoloration on the skin. Specifically under the eyes for "bags" and dark circles. An under eye highlight is usually a powder, but can also be a cream or liquid, that is placed under the eye, on the top of the cheekbones. You can also highlight the bridge of your nose, the cupid's bow of your lip, and the chin. The highlight is usually used in conjunction with conturing. Conturing is taking a pigment that is a few shades darker than your skin tone, either powder, cream or liquid, and shading the face. The contours are the temples or forehead, hollows of the cheeks, and jawline. By creating light and dark on the face, you are creating dimension. Think of a painting. When an artist paints, does he use only one shade or green for the trees and only one shade of blue for the sky? No. He uses multiple shades of color to make things appear further away and closer to the viewer thus making it appear more realistic.

I hope someone aside from myself finds this blog at least somewhat interesting as I am sure I will have fun writing.