Beauty Ads: Trickster Consumerism or Positive Empowerment?

By Ashley Begley

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We’ve all seen them. They pop up on our TVs every few minutes. They invade our Netflix relaxation seshes. You know it—the dreaded beauty commercial. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been told to wear this eyeliner or try that foundation so I can instantly become more appealing. Case in point, check out this ad:

Video: Maybelline New York Adriana Lima Commercial Color Sensational Creamy Mattes

Because, duh, the good lord knows I wouldn’t want to be caught dead without the perfect crimson pucker—heavy sarcasm alert! Actually, let’s back up. I’m not advocating for or against makeup. If you want to rock it, by all means go for it, girl! Not so much into the makeup-y thing? That’s just as cool. It’s your choice. All women are beautiful, with or without makeup. I am beautiful, and so are you. Beauty is a state of being; it’s not about how you’re supposed to look.

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Now that we’ve gotten that cleared up, let’s point out that some recent advertising campaigns are playing a significant part in exploding society’s stereotypes about beauty….


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The epitome of iconic beauty, Barbie has always had bouncy blonde hair, the slimmest of torsos, and perfectly poised feet. However, Barbie has always encouraged young girls to dream big (I’m lookin’ at you Doctor Barbie) and, in this era of diversifying beauty, this encouragement has only expanded. Just last month, Barbie revealed a Zendaya doll complete with stunning locs.

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When I was little I couldn’t find a Barbie that looked like me, my…how times have changed. Thank you…for allowing me to be apart of your diversification and expansion of the definition of beauty. ~Zendaya

But Barbie didn’t stop there! They recently launched their IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES campaign that encourages young girls to, you guessed it, imagine what they want to be when they grow up. Get ready to say, “Awwwww!”

Video: Barbie: Imagine the Possibilities


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Easy, breezy, beautiful, and empowering! Known for its gorgeous and all around cool cover girls–think P!NK, Ellen DeGeneres, and Queen Latifah–COVERGIRL is also on a mission to empower young women with their #GirlsCan program. Their goal: to inspire young women to “overcome barriers, break boundaries and be the next generation to rock the world.” Visit the COVERGIRL News Room for more information about the organizations that COVERGIRL sponsors, like Girls Who Code, The Starfish Foundation, Step Up, and Dress For Success.

Kick ‘can’t’ to the curb – for good. ~ COVERGIRL

Video: #GirlsCan: Women Empowerment

M.A.Cnificent ME

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The authority on all things makeup, M.A.C.’s newest ad campaign features body positive images with models who deviate from the tall, blond, and effortlessly sexy ‘norm.’ Luzmaria Vargas, who describes herself as a plus-size woman, hopes that her participation in this campaign will inspire other women to get out there and “just go for it!”.

Celebrate your style, heart and soul. ~ M.A.C. 

Video: M.A.Cnificent Me


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The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty was one of the first advertising initiatives that championed women’s self-confidence. That effort has broadened to the Dove Self-Esteem Project, which includes educational programs (go to for resources) and ads that specifically address girls’ body image and confidence level.

A girl should feel free to be herself. ~ Dove

Video: Dove Change One Thing


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In Always ads, too, girls and young women are encouraged to love themselves and their abilities. As advertisers “rewrite the rules” of female beauty through the #Like A Girl female-empowerment campaign ( ), girls are encouraged to put their fabulousness out there—without holding back!

Video: Always #Like A Girl

Do we limit girls and tell them what they should or shouldn’t be? Do we box them into expected roles? ~ Always

Video: Always #Like A Girl Unstoppable


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Another hefty dose of clever advertising, for HelloFlo Period Starter Kits ( ), makes getting your period seem like, well, a whole ton of fun “vagical” fun. In a hilarious and surprisingly sweet spot (sorry), a young girl goes in search of the Period Fairy, who helps make a girl’s first period a positive experience. Hey, when life hands you menses….

Video: The Period Fairy

But, hold up. You didn’t think we’d let you get away without starting a conversation, did you? Something as pervasive as beauty and feminine-hygiene ads need some problematizing, even the ones that are meant to empower. All ad campaigns are brainstormed in corporate conference rooms of companies that, in fact, want to make money—and let’s make it clear that we do not deny them that right to receive financial abundance.

So we want to give you the last word. What do you think? Do execs care if we, as young women, love ourselves—or do they just want to pluck at our emotions so we buy their products? And…does it matter what corporate intentions are if even one young woman is inspired to run like a girl at her next track meet or command the room during her next class presentation?

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Define your beauty. Then have fun.


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