THE IDENTITY ISSUE
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF NISHITA NAGA
CREATIVE DIRECTOR BAWILA IDRIS
MANAGING EDITOR EMMA KOLAKOWSKI
SOCIAL MEDIA EDITOR CHLOÃ‹ FELOPULOS
FASHION EDITOR BRAYLEE LECLAIR
BEAUTY EDITOR EVELINE MURPHY-WILSON
CULTURE EDITOR MARINA VERGARA
OPINIONS EDITORS NISHITA NAGA & EMMA KOLAKOWSKI
ASSISTANT FASHION EDITOR SHAYLAH LLOYD
ASSISTANT BEAUTY EDITOR STEPHANIE SABIDO
FUNDS MANAGER SRUSHTHI KSHIRSAGAR
What exactly is Identity? A rather cliché question, the search for an answer seems to be the breath of fire that continues to drive the change around us. I wonder if our current generation has become obsessed with the individual, as though manifesting ourselves and our beliefs in their truest forms is the answer to peace. After all, the rights of “the individual” is what drives our notions of equality, and acceptance, consistently relevant themes in ongoing societal discourse. The collective serenity begins with the peace of each and every one of its parts. Perhaps turning the Identity Issue into a compilation of unique voices was inevitable. In the attempts to encapsulate what identity may or may not be, each page contains fragments of a unique personality – a glimpse towards the answer to our driving question. It would be far too perfect to explicitly define the colloquial term “identity” on this page or any other. How can something so beautiful and varied be pared down to one or two simple sentences? The Identity Issue does not seek to answer or fully attempt to answer the question of what identity is, but stands as an amalgamation of tools to aid the reader’s exploration of themselves. As one decade comes to a tumultuous end, we begin the next by asking the questions that will take us, the collective, somewhere better through the self-discovery of each individual. It is with both hope and a heavy heart that I welcome you, the reader, to FLASH Issue 13: The Identity Issue. With Love,
THE IDENTITY ISSUE
5 CON TENTS EDITORIAL LIGHT
63 A L L L AYO U T D E S I G N WA S D O N E B Y T H E CREATIVE DIRECTOR UNLESS CREDITED OTHERWISE
89 CON TENTS OPINIONS
77 THE IDENTITY ISSUE
Words and Graphics by: Bawila Idris Author Note: This article is strictly commenting on the role social media plays on the action of these artists. I am in no way disrespecting any of the groups mentioned here, but simply holding some fans accountable for not educating these artists. - Thank you
It’s everywhere. Western culture has
Now, the blame is not to be placed on these idols
found its new obsession with the overarching
as American history and history of other coun-
genre branded as “K-pop.” K-pop is exactly what
tries isn’t the main curriculum in South Korea,
you think it is--a bunch of superhumanly attrac-
and they are not necessarily obligated to know
tive East Asian (Thailand included)
the specifics of everyone’s culture. However, the
dancers, and rappers who dress to the nines and
issue with this is it is still cultural appropriation.
flawlessly perform songs on TV. In fact, k-pop
And you would think that “Twitter stans” who live
has evolved into not only a place for new mu-
all over the world would recognize and reach out
sic to heard but now has sparked a movement
to their “faves” and try to shed light on the situa-
on what experts like to it, the “Hallyu Wave” or
tion by educating the idols as well as fellow fans
the “Korean Wave.” Korean culture has spread
right? Wrong. Most of these fans fail to address
rapidly across the globe and has seamlessly
these issues and even turn a blind eye to them in
assimilated into daily life without a hitch. While
order to keep the “illusion” of these idols in pris-
garnering fans all over the world old and young,
tine light. This results in the perpetual disregard-
this has sparked the massive overhaul of these
ing of problematic behaviours that k-pop idols
so-called “Twitter stan accounts” which have
may do and pretending as if nothing happened.
taken over the conversation of all things k-pop. With k-pop idols having incredibly interactive
social media accounts, fans stay updated on
they are amazing vocalists, they have been at
their day to day lives. However, this increase in
the center of several cultural appropriations and
popularity and fans always being “in the know”,
borderline racist controversies. Around 2017,
it’s hard for these idols to stay under the radar
the group released a parody music video at their
especially when controversy arises.
concert of Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson’s song
Take the k-pop group Mamamoo. While
‘Uptown Funk’. It seems harmless, right? UnforAn enormous aspect of Korean pop mu-
tunately, the way they decided to present them-
sic is that it takes huge inspiration from not only
selves included them dressing up in blackface
western hip hop and R&B sounds, but recent-
to look more like Bruno Mars and the rest of the
ly sounds from Indian culture, Middle Eastern
cast of the video. They soon apologized, but
culture, Traditional African beats, and Hispanic
their downward spiral does not end there. Just
and Latin beats. Alongside the sound mixing,
this September Mamamoo member Hwasa per-
fashion plays a huge role in the overall vibe of
formed on a Korean music survival show called
each performance or music video. This, unfor-
‘Queendom’ wearing a durag. The song she per-
tunately, leads to stylists taking the concept of
formed was Caribbean inspired and could have
their songs quite literally by styling them in at-
been done without wearing a durag “because it
tire that directly connects to a specific culture
There has yet to be an apology and a ma-
K-pop idols are just as the name entails.
jority of their fanbase has refused to acknowl-
Idols. At least in the eyes of some of their fans.
edge the situation correctly or use the apology
These “perfect” beings with clean white slate
from 2017 that Mamamoo gave as a justification
and no flaws in sight are proving to be the issue
of their actions.
at hand. Breaches like cultural appropriation go unnoticed because fans don’t point them out the
Another girl group that has been consis-
way they should. These “icons”, held on an al-
tently stirring the pot of controversy is (G)I-dle.
most superhuman pedestal, have so much pow-
They are notoriously known as the “monster
er over how something is presented, especially
rookie group” and have been topping the charts
on social media. They can control hashtags,
since their debut in 2018. However, the bulk of
trending pages, perception, etc. with a click of a
their buzz is centered on their concepts being
button. The facts do not stand as an attack to
based on different cultures. For their debut song
the groups necessarily, but to condemn these so-
‘Latata’, there were repeated usage of henna
called “fans” who these idols see as a “family” as
tattoos, traditional Indian garb, middle-eastern
to why they won’t speak out and educate them.
sound, and even award show stages which show
Are you truly part of their “family” if you don’t ac-
the background being a mosque. For their song
knowledge the good and the bad?
‘Senorita’, the entire theme of their music videos, outfits, and the song was “Latin based” even though the instruments used are more traditionally found in Spain.
Just recently on the show ‘Queendom’,
(G)I-dle member and leader Soyeon trended all over social media when a clip of her on the show broke out. She described to fellow members that for their next performance “traditional African war chants” and “African drum sounds” should be included. She then proceeded to call it ‘Ethnic Hip’. Just like Mamamoo, there has yet to be an apology and most fans wholeheartedly defend and fail to educate these idols.
Sharing your Story
Words by: Sophia Ortega Graphics by: Bawila Idris
Circularity, 3-dimensionality, and momentum. These are the three main elements of movement in Jon Lehrer Dance Company. Lehrer identifies the company’s style as “organically athletic,” wowing the audience with dynamic moments and elegant agility. During their New York premiere on October 19th, Lehrer spoke briefly about the history of the company in between each piece. Mixing his own qualifications with the impressive credentials of his company, Lehrer made a strong first impression in front of a crowd of both peers and competitors. He discussed the importance of community, collaboration, and embracing the dance community here in New York City. I left the theater feeling inspired by Lehrer’s boldness in the face of intimidation, having felt similarly at one point in my life. Being almost 3,000 miles away from my home in California, New York City seemed unbelievably daunting. I knew that New York was the hub for concert dance, but was well aware that it could be isolating. Luckily, the opportunities here in New York outweighed my fears. Now, Manhattan not only feels like home, but the perfect stage to share my story. When I slipped on my first pair of ballet shoes, I was four years old. I attended class once a week at my local studio, mingling with the other young girls who were, unlike me, being forced to attend dance class. If anything, I was eager to put on my pink tights and black leotard each week. But for most of my friends, ballet was something you were supposed to grow out of.
Take a few classes and perform at one recital, just to have a video of yourself stumbling on stage in a tutu to look back on fifteen years later. However, fifteen years later, I am still putting on my ballet shoes every single day. Dedicating your life to an art form may sound mundane to some people, but I have only grown more passionate about dance as I continued my training. My time spent in the dance studio and on stage has been full of self-revelations and struggles that ultimately has shaped me into the person I am today. Dance has grown up with me; it has picked me up at my lowest and stayed constant during the chaotic changes of my life. It has been my greatest teacher and biggest critic. As I continued to learn more about myself, I learned how to tell a story through movement, emotion, and technique. Even if the audience did not understand my story, being a dancer has taught me how to believe in myself and my goals despite constant criticism. It has taught me that failure is the most essential ingredient in the recipe of success. Most importantly, dance has given me a platform to step out of my comfort zone. Sharing your story can be scary – especially in front of an audience. Being the naturally introverted person that I am does not help either. When asked to speak in front of a room full of people, I feel overcome by fear and shyness.
However, when asked to dance for a large audience, I find myself feeling at home on stage. For some, standing on a stage with blinding lights beaming down on them sounds terrifying. But I am able to find a hidden peace within vulnerability. Others claim that a professional dancer is not a â€œrealâ€? job and is ultimately unattainable. Some question why I never grew out out of ballet like all of the other four year olds. Nevertheless, I realized that listening to what others had to say about my passion would only bring me further away from the person I wanted to become. Everyday I push past judgement, reminding myself of the unparalleled feeling of freedom under the blinding lights. Dance has taught me that sometimes your identity lies outside of your comfort zone. Your true passion may only be accessible after conquering your insecurities and fears. Jon Lehrer shared his story bravely, inspiring me to do the same. I chose to continue chasing my goals and move across the country to step on stage here in New York City, all in the pursuit of my identity as a dancer. Once I step on stage, I feel like I am four years old again, full of confidence and joy. Following what brings you joy will not only help you write your own story, but share it too. Although dance is only a small chapter in the book of who I am, I am grateful to have this artform to express myself as I continue writing the next pages of my story.
The Impact of the “Ideal Woman” on Identity Words by: Jaclyn Skrela Illustration by: Sofia Riley
Images of women are constantly depicted in today’s society: on billboards, in magazine spreads, as statues at the Met, on television screens, all over Instagram feeds, and the list continues. It is nearly impossible to consume any sort of media or entertainment without being exposed to the image of a “typical woman” at some point. This reality might seem like beneficial representation at first, but the constant image of the “ideal woman” portrayed in media proves a harmful stereotype. The raw truth lies underneath the media’s shiny exterior that the women we see aren’t true reflections of most women.
The women that are shown to society are simply versions of women that are supposed to be seen, and really, the ones that are meant to be emulated. In many cases, the ideal woman is feminine, beautiful, gentle, and passive. This is shown through the makeup and clothing that is meant to make the models of the ideal woman seem more conventionally attractive, as well as through the posing that gives them the appearance of being soft and inviting. By American beauty standards, all of these traits are also represented by a woman who is usually long and lean and white. This shows that the representation that women are receiving is illusory, existing based on an unattainable image of what the perfect woman is supposed to look or act like. Think of the women that are presented in media or entertainment. Take commercials for women’s razors, for instance, and consider how in almost every one, the women are seen shaving perfectly smooth legs. The advertisement alone, often featuring thin, beautiful, happy women, displays how a lack of body hair is almost a necessity to acquire all of the traits that these women embody. For women in general, body hair is seen as being symbolic of manliness, laziness, or just a lack of hygiene altogether. Furthermore, women with body hair are regarded as being radical in some way, for choosing to go against the societal pressures to shave.
The fact that body hair cannot even be shown before it’s removed proves how uncomfortable society is with something that is a natural human attribute. This idealized version of a woman can become even more toxic when it is applied to women of color, due to racial biases. In Western media, beauty is often equated, at least to some degree, with whiteness. Typically, the women of color that appear in fashion or beauty adverts are ones with lighter skin tones and more Euro-centric features, and they are most of the time still thin and tall. Ultimately, by constantly promoting and displaying this idealized version of women, society implies that women who do not fit into this predetermined mold are unworthy of attention. Gradually, however, progress is being made towards more accurate forms of female representation. In films like Lady Bird and Eighth Grade, teen female protagonists have skin dotted with a variety of bumps and scars, quintessential markers of adolescence, rather than the sanitized and unblemished features that are often the norm in any teen-led film. British illustrator Polly Nor focuses her work on women and their demons, both literal and figurative.
Nor proudly displays women in all states, whether they’re vain or lustful or even just mediocre at cleaning up their bedrooms. In 2018, fashion brand American Eagle launched their #AerieReal campaign, which featured unretouched photos of women of different sizes, ethnicities, and even women with differing disabilities, as a way of promoting body positivity for all women. Hopefully, these are just the humble beginnings of a much larger movement to come — one that provides women the freedom to shape their own identities. American media has provided women with only idealized versions of themselves. This failure to present women in a realistic way has been brought about partially through a lack of diversity in models when it comes to race, height, weight, and ability. Additionally, this glamorized portrayal of women has also upheld societal notions that equate womanhood with docility and passivity. That being said, there have been changes made in recent years to include more inclusive and honest representations of women in the media, art, and entertainment. This shift helps to remind women that they do not need to be the “ideal woman” that society tells them that they should be. Rather, what women should be is simply themselves, in whatever form that might take.
HELLO MY NAME
IS.... SET 1 PHOTOS BY: BAWILA IDRIS MODELED BY: EMILIA FIGUEROA VALIK, CLAIRE PENNINGTON & ELIZABETH WEINSTEIN STYLING BY: MARINA VERGARA CREATIVE DIRECTION: MARINA VERGARA
SET 2 PHOTOS BY: BAWILA IDRIS MODELED BY: ROXANNE CUBERO, PATRICK GAMBLE, BRYAN HUTCHESON STYLING BY: MARINA VERGARA CREATIVE DIRECTION: MARINA VERGARA
PAINT ME LIKE....
Words by: Helen Spyropoulos
On Dress Photos by: Mary Roseth Modeled by: Grace Pam
The fashion industry began as an elitist leisure activity, involving those who could afford to buy new outfits as trends changed over time. For example, the shift from the empire-waist silhouettes of La Belle Epoque dresses to the drop waist of the late Edwardian era moving into the 1920s, and the necessity of paying a pretty penny to couture designers to access the latest fashions. Modern fashion is still located in the elite; more wealth means greater access to changing fashions and time to invest in the social performance of style. This is not to say that less privileged groups have not adopted their own fashion cultures or contributed to the contemporary institution of fashion, but that the dominant narratives surrounding fashion have almost always privileged the elite. Clothing, though it is often reduced at its core as being purely utilitarian, has proven to serve a purpose that goes beyond the functional. Apart from warmth or shelter from the elements, clothing has been a tangible expression of cultural values. It designated throughout time the aspects of the wearer deemed relevant to the categorization of individuals in their society: status, gender, rank, age, religion, and more. Now that fashion has evolved as an industry to allow at least partial participation of almost every person regardless of class, this expansive institution provides an opportunity for research into fashion as material culture, in that we can understand something about culture by looking at the items of clothing produced for consumption and the discourses of fashion. One might ask the seemingly simple question: why do I dress the way I do? Iris Apfel suggests that fashion is a form of individualistic self-expression, aligning herself with one of the most pervasive obscurities surrounding fashion: the description of it as wearable art that reveals some inner aspect of ourselves. What is rarely considered in this view of fashion is how we as individuals can be subject to fashion, that we are not necessarily the autonomous intellects that express our â€œinner selvesâ€? through styling.
Style is dictated by culture as much as it shapes culture, and it is especially important to inspect how fashion has functioned as both a vehicle of expression and a form of oppression. The most glaring examples of fashion as oppression are of the corset or foot binding in womenâ€™s historical clothing, or the pink triangles and yellow stars in Nazi Germany, all of which inflicted direct harm on the bodies and minds of the wearers. Ignoring the history of fashion as a mechanism for subjugation, oppression, and emotional and physical violence by constantly referencing it in modernity as a form of free self-expression obfuscates the main aspect of fashion as material culture which perpetuates the social structures that inevitably reproduce power and benefit some groups more than others. After addressing the darker social implications of this phenomenon, we can go back to the concept of fashion as identity expression. Acknowledging fashion as a form of expression, we look deeper into what it means to express ourselves through dress. Consumers that subscribe to fashion as wearable art and have the resources to participate in the ritual of fashion might choose clothing items based on their alignment with an individual notion of what is stylish; the garments are visually pleasing. Confusingly so, we choose to wear the garments that we like to look at, so that the only time we are able to appreciate them is when looking in the mirror, seeing ourselves in photos, or hanging them in the closet. This promotes an interesting sort of disillusionment from the self, in which we dress in what looks good to us, but we cannot visually consume what we ourselves are wearing at any particular moment. This implies that, no matter how aggressively fashion is framed as an independent self-expression, ultimately it is a performance on behalf of others (the consumers of our appearance).
“What’s my style is not your style, and I don’t see how you can define it. It’s something that expresses who you are in your own way.” -Iris Apfel
Fashion is social; it is a medium of communication, and in this way our fashion choices are never wholly individual and they can never truly be exclusively self-fulfilling because we must acknowledge that the main audience of our appearance is not ourselves but others. Take the idea of reflexive aestheticism, that as individuals we internalize the gaze of society and reproduce that gaze within ourselves in a self-regulating way even when we are removed from that society. For example, Laura Mulveyâ€™s theory of the heterosexual male gaze suggests that this gaze, when internalized, influences how a woman chooses to display herself even when it is abstracted and not directly dictating femininity. Or, if we take a Foucauldian approach, we can explore the internalized gaze of a system of power (say, that of late capitalism) and analyze how our expression through clothing is regulated by codes of professionalism which dictate what is appropriate and what is not. The challenges to fashion as self-expression raised above highlight the obligations of fashion enthusiasts to expand the nature of the discussions about fashion and to perform more critical analyses of the narratives surrounding it. We can never harness the full potential of dress as an art form, as expression, and as a site for cultural examination and societal change without applying a critical lense to fashion discourse and acknowledging how fashion has served and continues to serve as an instrument of power.
Do clothes shape your identity? probably.
The wide range of New York City style is evident in every street outfit passed during a stroll down the crowded streets. From eclectic to minimalist, and everything in between; personal style has an inextricable effect on our everyday lives. Look closely enough, and an outfit tells a tale about its wearer is and their chosen identity.
Contrasting to Lu, Ethan Sacco is someone who believes what may seem as the opposite. He thinks his clothing makes him feel “put together and confident”.
Lu Aubin identifies with versatility. She states, “versatility is such a big pillar of how I dress because for me if I’m not comfortable with the clothes that I am wearing then I’ll feel awful. If I’m not comfortable in it then it’s done. It doesn’t feel natural”
“It’s pleasurable to see yourself in a good outfit but, you look good and don’t gain anything out of it. I enjoy being mentally stimulated,” Ethan claims.
Lu opens the door to her dorm and I am greeted with, what she describes as a minimalist monochromatic outfit. A cream top and black jeans. It’s beautiful, simple, but displays an element unique to her. Com-
Ethan is someone who, one may argue, does not place as much thought into his personal style.
Ethan brings up a valid point. His opinion highlights a point of view that places less emphasis on clothing, and the prioritization of other sources of pleasure.
Words by: Vicky Carmenate Photos by: Joe Kottke Modeled by: Olive, Ethan, Sarah & Lu
While straying from the “eclectic” side of personal style, Ethan’s self-proclaimed disinterest in clothing still reflects his identity. Opinions of those who do not see clothes as a source of “gain”, are just as insightful as an expressive outfit. Olive Zoda, on a more alternative note, talks about the pleasure she gets from her tattoos. “My tattoos make me feel more confident. I have always been into dying my hair and all that other shit but this is just another way I can make myself me.” Olive’s tattoos allow her to express herself in a way that is different than a traditional sense of “dressing up” that is solely clothes on her body. Her tattoos almost serve a similar purpose, becoming a physical extension of her identity.
Similarly, Katie Heaton is someone who portrays her identity every day through her sense of style and art. She is an artist and set designer, who describes her personal style as a “confused art kid”. “I just think life is beautiful, and I express life’s art in every aspect of my life.” She states. Katie expresses her art through her fashion sense. I asked her to pull out some of her favorite pieces from her closet and she presented me with a color-blocked jean jacket. On the back, she had painted Jesus. Incorporating her art in everyday life, Katie combines her love for art with her fashion sense to create a style that is unique to her identity.
Walking into Sarah Rapp’s room, I gleaned a different sense of what unique style can mean. She is wearing a light green blazer, big black jeans and a layered “I Love NYC” shirt. With a personal style that she describes as; ever-changing—she presents herself to the world with a mix of femininity and masculinity. This is the type of outfit that she feels most comfortable in. “I love the way blazers make me feel like I am defying something. I get to wear something that not a lot of people might not see me as.” Sarah states as she walks me through her blazer collection.
These blazers give her the strength to feel more masculine, which she believes helps change peopleâ€™s perception of a normal woman. As a gateway to altering societal expectations of gender, personal style can pushing boundaries to create a world where stereotypes are eliminated. Sarah Rapp does not want to be defined by labels, and clothing provides her with the opportunity to describe herself to the world around her. Regardless of how each individual views their own fashion sense, there seems to be a consensus that clothing gives them confidence. When people are confident in the way that they look, it is almost as if the best parts of themselves are drawn out of them as a result. Personal style shapes wearers. It opens a window to strangers on the street. The clothes that are worn every day tell the world who each individual is through indulging in the freedom of self-expression. What is most beautiful about styling is that it can be accessible to all. Everyone wears clothes every day. Adding a personal touch to any look encourages individualism by either placing the wearer in a crowd or setting
High Fashion’s Commodification of the “ Other”
From Dior’s offensive ‘Sauvage’ campaign, which appropriated Native American culture, to the Kardashians and other non-black celebrities donning dreadlocks, the issue of cultural appropriation in our society seems to be everywhere. The presence of cultural appropriation in pop culture feels especially prevalent in the fashion industry. Quite recently, Gucci faced backlash over a black turtleneck sweater that was part of their Fall/Winter 2018 line featuring a roll-up collar with a wide, red-lipped outline that so obviously resembled the offensive “Gollywog” caricature, which features jet black skin and contrasting bright red lips, that many people on social media questioned how the design was even considered acceptable to begin with.
Words by: Madison Leto Collage by: Bawila Idris
It feels as if some of the world’s biggest and most notable fashion brands should be more aware of their offensive designs—especially powerhouses like Gucci, who faced further controversy merely three months after the turtleneck incident when they released an $800 ‘Indy Turban’ on Nordstrom’s website. However, these incidents have come to occur seemingly every day; the previously mentioned Dior debacle took place in late August of 2019, and every Fashion Week is punctuated by new, yet equally appalling, culturally insensitive outfits. Why have fashion brands continue to promote and profit off of the traditions, likenesses, and culture of marginalized racial, ethnic, and religious groups?
The persistent presence of culturally appropriative practices in the fashion industry is directly related to the history of exploitation and commodification of the “other”—that is, any culture that has been subjugated and manipulated by a history of Western colonization. The fashion industry, of course, is still dominated by white designers and models, who, therefore, cannot begin to understand the cultural and historical significance that many of the cultural aspects they appropriate hold. Oftentimes, these articles of clothing embody a valuable spiritual, religious, or traditional significance that has been historically persecuted, oppressed, and even nearly eradicated by a dark history of Western domination. This serves to highlight the ever-present disparity between the ways in which non-Western cultures and peoples have historically been treated by Westerners and the ways in which Westerners have worked to maximize the benefit for themselves through this exploitation.
The irony of these aspects of non-Western cultures being perceived as “ridiculous” or “wrong” in the past and “chic” and “fashionable” in today’s world is crystal clear, but this dynamic has ultimately allowed colonial-esque exploitation of indigenous and marginalized cultures to manifest in the present day. Of course, this is not to say that representations of various cultures throughout the fashion industry are always done in poor taste. For example, in 2017, Jimmy Choo collaborated with an aboriginal Noongar artist named Peter Farmer in order to design a new shoe line highlighting Farmer’s personal, traditional artwork. Likewise, Ulla Johnson’s Spring 2020 collection features recycled glass sculptural flower jewelry that was sourced through a collaboration with Kenyan craftspeople and designers in order to highlight the talent of these Kenyan artisans. However, more often than not, predominately white teams of creatives at high fashion clothing labels continue to miss the mark through their incessant appropriation of ideas, designs, and silhouettes from other cultures for the superficial purpose of “exoticizing” and profiting off of non-Western cultures. It is vital that white creatives and models work to combat this culture of cultural appropriation in the fashion industry and to help the rest of the world—primarily, the Western world—understand the lack of sensitivity evidenced by these practices. In order to do so, they should steer clear of these detrimental mistakes by allowing creatives with a knowledge and emic respect of their own culture to shine. The considerate practices of collaboration with non-Western artists and designers that have been implemented by Jimmy Choo and Ulla Johnson demonstrate the ways in which fashion can act as the perfect platform for sharing and learning about the intricacies of fashion in an array of different cultures, when executed properly and respectfully. After all, cultural appropriation cannot and should not substitute legitimate diversity in the fashion industry.
Fashion without a unique identity â€œWho am I?â€? is a broad and complicated question. In fashion, there is a connection between who you are and your style; you are expected to fit into a single definition of yourself . What if there is no single answer, but multiple ones? Alexa Chung, a fashion writer, and model, once said that clothes are more than what covers your body. Instead, they are a part of a manipulation game on how you feel, how you want to feel, and how you want people to think of you. One day someone may want to feel girly, wearing a pink skirt with laces and bows, and on the other, feel like wearing a 70s-inspired bohemian outfit. Identity is an illusion, and fashion is a game in which you control what character you want to be, embracing a completely unique style with every new piece. The plurality of identities in fashion is a concept developed over time. In the past, fashion was strictly connected with one single identity. In the 20s, wearing black was an indication of a servant position or grief. During the 40s, middle-class women wore light garments, while the wealthy ladies donned voluminous taffeta skirts and dresses. Sporting a headband and a braided beard in the 60s was an indication that you were part of the free love movement and you disapproved of the Vietnam War.
Words by: Brenda da Silva Illustrations by: Bawila Idris
In the 80s, the professional minded woman indicated her way of thinking by wearing shoulder pads or a broad-shouldered suit. Stereotypical identities characterized the fashion of previous decades. But, there were people that, instead of basing their assumptions at the way someone dressed, painted fashion to mean more than fixed labels and people as more than what they wore. Such revolutionary icons were responsible for the new definitions of fashion that we see today. Coco Chanel, for instance, in the 20s, gave the black color another meaning, becoming a symbol of elegance, as she introduced the little black dress, changing the purpose of the color forever. Today, fashion is not necessarily about a unique identity; it is about having several aspects of one and representing each in different outfits. Dressing up is the way many symbolize their feelings visually, surrounded by confidence. When shopping with friends, it is common to hear “that is so you” after they look at a specific clothing item that - to them - represents who you are. Styling can be a game, where you can be a different character and have a distinct identity based on how you are feeling and whom you want to be that day. To play the game, you need to embrace the pluralism of personal identity in fashion and forget about being predictable, embrace the “I can be whoever I want to be” way of thinking.
Colleges are one of the places that students feel free to dress as they please, without thinking about what people will think about their clothes, concerned more with how their clothes make them feel. “For me specifically, I have noticed a big change in the confidence I have to wear what I want,” said Siobhan Cosgrave, a freshman at Fordham College Lincoln Center. “I come from a small town in upstate New York, so I never felt totally comfortable wearing things outside the ordinary. Now, being in New York City, I don’t feel self-conscious when I wear things other people may not because at FCLC, and in Manhattan, in general, it is such a diverse and inclusive place in regards to fashion.”
â€œIdentity is an illusion, and fashion is a game where you control what character you want to be, forgetting about the concepts of a unique style, but embracing a different one in every different outfit.â€?
When everyone is judging you by what you are wearing, the only way to not fit into a single label is to dress with confidence and surprise those around you with your changing style and complexity. As Kenzō Takada, a Japanese-French fashion designer, said “Fashion is like eating, you shouldn’t stick to the same menu.”In fashion, you have the opportunity of changing, exploring different trends and styles, and the most exciting part: becoming an enigma that can’t fit into one single identity. Be a confuser, mix trends and styles, be hippie, girly, and an edgy one in the same week. Use your satin shirt with a leather jacket. Explore your creativity. And express your feelings in your clothing.” In a society where being conventional and blending is the rule, use patterns, colors, create trends, innovate concepts as you express yourself. Break the rules. Explore the many opportunities that clothing gives you of changes. Identities inside styles are always changing. The only constant fact is that it will continuously alternate. You can choose to develop and embrace such plurality. The process of breaking the concept of single labels is not easy, but at the same time is not impossible; it all starts with a new look where you acknowledge that fashion is the celebration of individualism and pluralism. And as you notice that, you have the chance to switch your identity each day, you will embrace the changes, and start looking at your wardrobe and asking yourself, “Which style represents how I feel today?”.
Words and Photos by: Shaylah Lloyd Modeled by: Mohamad Ibrahim
Examining the evolution of pop culture in just the past decade, there have been great strides in the representation of gender, sexuality, and race. It seems that now more than ever, the media is working to become a gamut of diversity. One of the leaders of this movement has been the fashion industry and as new faces, shapes, genders and races debut on the runways and magazine covers, it’s hard not to notice the shift that menswear has taken in just its recent seasons. In the wake of this year’s fall fashion months, 2020 Menswear collections have brought a new wave of femininity down its runways. With fashion houses experimenting in new ways to define menswear, it seems the answer is going far beyond styling men in skirts. The Menswear industry has bloomed into a world of playful colors, texture, fabrics silhouettes and hems, all packed with collections whose designers seem to aim to reverse the typical male archetypes. From Gucci, or Alejandro Gómez’s Palomo to Charles Jefferey’s ‘lover boy’, the menswear industry has become a much freer space in just a short amount of time—a meeting point of cultures, aesthetics, and gender identities. As a result, a lot of today’s most innovative and compelling design is coming from menswear collections. This movement has translated from the runways and straight onto the red carpet. With Camp being the Met Gala theme earlier this year, there was almost no better place for men to exemplify a transcendence from gender normative constructs. Amongst the rated best dressed at the event were, of course, Billy Porter, Ezra Miller, Jared Leto, and Harry Styles, all who favored a more traditionally feminine take on the spectrum of dressing. According to GQ, who recently starred Pharrell, sporting a dress on its October cover, The face of contemporary fashion is changing and it’s never been more acceptable for men to dress with a more androgynous flair. However, amongst these men, there were still mixed reviews.
Billy Porter, who arrived at the Met as a gilded Egyptian pharaoh and the academy awards in a tuxedo jacket and a velvet gown received some harsh blowback. This jarring feedback isn’t necessarily new, last year, Young Thug earned the ridicule of Nicki Minaj in her song “Black Barbie,” for wearing a dress on his album cover. In the same year, while many on social media applauded how Jaden Smith incorporated skirts into his public wardrobe, there was an equal number of questioning brows being raised. It is easy to say that the fashion world is challenging the toxic tropes of masculinity but there seems to be more leeway for white men than black men. How is it that Ezra Miller can walk down a red carpet donning a dress or Harry Styles can wear a floral suit and they can be recognized for their flair while those like Billy porter, Jaden Smith or even Young Thug are ridiculed for doing the same? When evaluating these comments, it seems that some take offense to black men, especially those who are openly gay, daring to do such conventionally un-masculine things both in media or on an iconic and very public red carpet. Some of the loudest racial criticisms didn’t come from where you might expect — racist white people — but from members of the black community. Though where does this thought process come from? Looking back throughout history, there is evidence that the notions around masculinity both in and outside of the black community has, over time, festered and become a toxic ideology.
“So, what is toxic masculinity?”
“Toxic masculinity is a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status, and aggression. It’s the cultural ideal of manliness, where strength is everything while emotions are a weakness; where sex and brutality are yardsticks by which men are measured, while supposedly “feminine” traits—which can range from emotional vulnerability to simply not being hypersexual—are the means by which your status as “man” can be taken away.”
It’s tricky. It’s a phrase that—if misunderstood—can seem wildly insulting. The phrase is designed to describe not masculinity itself, but a form of gendered behavior that results when expectations of “what it means to be a man” go wrong. The Good Men Project defines it this way:
While toxic masculinity can affect all men, despite color, culture or social/economic standing, it is an issue that still weighs heavily within the black community, despite pop culture’s movement to promote change. Historically, black men have been restrained from expressing themselves since the days of slavery and the Jim Crow laws. During these time periods, it was believed that showing fear or emotion would leave them vulnerable and because of this, they became stoic in nature. It is this ethos that gets passed down through generations. One that eventually becomes so interwoven into our culture that many children begin to be taught to take on these ideals while staying true to the doctrine of what it means to be a man. According to Abernathy contributor, Torraine Walker, this mindset that was acquired as a form of survival has become a burden. One so heavy that the acknowledgment of pain and showing emotions is considered soft or feminine, weaknesses to be driven out through beatings and ridicule. This philosophy of how men should act has turned from the suppression of their emotions to the suppression of their creativity, where something as simple as wearing clothes, like skirts or dresses, or even becoming interested in makeup (two categories that have been historically designated for a woman) is unthinkable.
As journalist Jeremy Helli once said, “The emasculation of the black male has nothing to do with what he wears. If we want to blame anyone or anything, we should point a finger at the toxic masculinity that uses fear, shame, and now guilt to push black men — all men — into a box that threatens to suffocate them all.” Yes, society has seen tremendous strides in the reconstruction of what it means to be a modern man, though it is up to the current and coming generations to continue challenging gender norms, in and outside of the creative industry. As most things do, it will take time to unlearn a lot of the things that society has verbally and nonverbally ingrained in the minds that occupy it throughout history. however, continuing to represent men all across the spectrum of masculinity can continue to pave the way towards change.
Actor, writer, and comedian Donald Glover (a.k.a. Childish Gambino), once said, “Black men struggle with masculinity so much. The idea that we must always be strong really presses us all down — it keeps us from growing.” Glover continues: “Black culture is a fight. We want to hold on to what we are, but sometimes the things that we are can be totally negative.” The term toxic masculinity has become a punch line in the age of memes, the true implications this still has on young men today are often forgotten. While the stride towards embracing what has been traditionally considered “feminine” has been made across industries there is still a lot of work to be done. As designers look for new ways to define manhood, the black community should take the time to do the same. As younger generations continue to challenge the social norm, it is up to us to push our community to look within itself and finally put down the burden we have held on our shoulders for so long.
Author Note “This article began as a simple inquiry in how or if new wave femininity is influencing the black community and if this could be a stride in the right direction. These are simply my observations/ findings and is by no means an attempt to generalize the black community or the men within it.”
PHOTOS BY: JAKE LEE MODELED BY: MELINA BEZANIS STYLING BY: BRAYLEE LECLAIR & SHAYLAH LLOYD CREATIVE DIRECTION: BRAYLEE LECLAIR & SHAYLAH LLOYD
Whatâ€™s Behind the Makeup Matters Words by: Isabella Sottile Illustration by: Bridget Fong
In the world of beauty, the ability to express our identity manifests in an infinite number of ways. Makeup is a valuable vehicle for that expression, whether it be in a dramatic or natural sense. But an important element of natural identity, skin, creates an industry which is ever-increasing in popularity—skincare. Makeup is marketed to make the wearer feel beautiful, but what is behind the makeup is equally as stunning. As a college student in Manhattan, my life is always booked full to the brim, my Google Calendar overflowing with events and meetings to attend. Making time for skincare can seem to be a last priority at the end of the day. I have no choice but to multitask if I hope to accomplish everything on my to-do list. Why should my skincare products not multitask as well? A misconception has evolved in skincare that we need to use ten different products before we can even begin to apply makeup. All of the toners, serums, and moisturizers can be great, but can also be time-consuming and injurious to our budgets. As a response to this, there has been a move towards simplified skincare routines and multitasking products, making healthy skin an achievable reality for us. One of these multitasking products is a Vitamin E Oil Stick offered by Reviva Labs. The product moisturizes and protects your lips but can also be used under your eyes, on your cheeks, or anywhere needing some extra hydration. Exposed to the pore-clogging effects of city air, we need to be aware of the increasing evidence of air pollution’s negative effects on our skin—premature aging and inflammation. To combat these effects, skincare lines have been creating pollution-fighting products. Drunk Elephant’s D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops offers a rich finish of bronze tint for your skin while providing protection against pollution. And of course, remember to protect your skin from those UV rays. Glossier’s Invisible Shield provides SPF 35 in addition to protection against harmful free radicals from pollution. The current generation’s major role in advocating for the legalization of medical marijuana has borne another brand-new trend. This push has translated into the skincare industry with the rise in popularity of CBD skincare products.
Many attest to the extract’s miracle-like benefits for our health—claiming anti-inflammatory properties because of its antibacterial and vitamin-rich qualities. CBD is one of the many extracts called cannabinoids that comes from cannabis. It is unlike the other most utilized extract, THC, in that it does not have psychoactive inducing properties. The trendy skincare products infused with CBD oil, though sometimes pricey, offer new and naturally powerful solutions for our skin. The brand Cannuka offers a variety of lovely CBD products—a bestseller is their Calming Eye Balm, which treats the delicate skin under our eyes for fine lines, inflammation, and dark circles. Another characteristic inherent to the identity of our generation is a focus on sustainable products, and the skincare industry should be no exception. Most of the waste in beauty products comes from the single-use packaging. But certain innovative brands are focusing their efforts to try and fix this. The brand Lush offers many package-free products in addition to recyclable 100% post-consumer plastic packaging. Their popular Mask of Magnaminty Face and Body Mask is a minty cleansing mask of peppermint oil and Kaolin clay which exfoliates, soothes, and moisturizes. Another environmentally conscious brand, Ethique, makes a Saving Face Serum in bar form with no plastic packaging, made with shea, rosehip, and pomegranate oils to boost hydration. Caring for the environment in an increasingly environmentally conscious generation is an important practice that shapes a large sector of the population, and thankfully there are skincare brands that reflect that expression. As New Yorkers we have exposure and access to a diverse pool of skincare brands and in choosing which brands to support, it is essential that we take into account the factors which define our identity. Our self-expression can manifest in the ways which we care for our skin, and we must be conscious of how our skincare choices affect that. Time management, protection from pollution, natural solutions, and environmental sustainability are just a few characteristics of our generation which should be taken into consideration as you treat your skin moving forward.
Eyes, Hair, Lips, Action! As a ballet dancer for a company that is known for its full length story ballets, I find myself exploring several different types of characters to perform on stage. This past MET season we did a ballet called Manon, set in the late 18th century. Much of the decision making of Manon, the lead character in the ballet, is rooted in her background of poverty. It is said by Sir Kenneth MacMillan, the choreographer of the ballet, that “Manon is not so much afraid of being poor as ashamed of being poor”. She meets a man of wealth, Monsieur G.M., who can give her a life she adores with material luxuries, and a student in poverty, Des Grieux, whom she falls in love with. She must decide between the two of them. There is a theme throughout the entire ballet of opulence and impoverishment. In Act 2 of the ballet, the prostitutes, or the ‘harlots’, played by me and other members of the corps de ballet, are of extreme poverty and attend a party in Madame X’s hotel particulier, where we try to sell ourselves to the wealthy ‘clients’. Truly, the role I played in this ballet has been one of my favorites so far. Preparing for this role was exciting. Being as it was my first time, I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew that each part of the process was going to inform me for how best to depict this character. My friends and I made up names like cupcake, sprinkle, or hot chocolate to separate from our own identities and delve into the new ones we created from our own imaginations. Our costumes were elaborate: first we put our wigs on, a curly hair-do in whichever hair color we were feeling that night: brunette, blonde, redhead. For makeup, our faces almost felt clown-like, the goal being to exaggerate all of our facial features: lips, eyes, and cheeks. We’d do a major smoky eye, fill in the brows, blush on blush on blush, and a sultry pinkish-red lipstick with the final touch being a mole in your desired place. We wore dresses, all of them varying in detail but holding the same structure.
Words and Photo by: Sierra
A corset top that laces up the back, accentuating the waist and bust with an attached skirt going down to the knees. Underneath we’d wear our classic pink tights and pointe shoes and, last but not least, my favorite part, the earrings and choker. Each element of the costume added to the development of my character, and was crucial in helping me to be in the right mindset to portray a flirty, raunchy, hokey, bubbly character. For our entrance, we were called on by Madame X during a trill in the music. We entered, with passion and vivacity, led by the sound of the live orchestra, by opening a curtain and running out to our starting pose: one foot propped on point while leaning over our legs as we waited for the dance to begin. Not much of my part was choreographed, so, most of the time I acted like I was at a party mingling with everyone. Performing this was challenging but also freeing. It was a process to be comfortable with this character on stage and to do it with the integrity of the ballet. For me, it was a matter of finding who I wanted to portray that night. Was I super flirty with everyone, or was I focused on one client? Is my character close with my fellow ‘harlots’ in a supportive sisterly way, or competitive, a little on edge and impatient to find a client? These were all things to think about while getting ready. Rehearsals always play a key role in helping us get comfortable with the choreography. To make it come to life on stage requires another deeper lever that we get to tap into as artists. Getting to add our own personal touches to the characters we portray set us apart from each other and add more nuances to the production, allowing it to come together as a whole.
Unique, imperfectly beautiful and powerful Words by: Brenda da Silva Photos/grid by: Emily Oâ€™Brien
You only get one chance to make a first impression. “Her hair looks good, she must take care of it”, “She is skinny, maybe she doesn’t eat enough”, “She wears too much makeup, her face underneath all that must be full of acne scars” are everyday commentary purely formulated based on a first visual impression. In today’s society, women are taught to wear makeup, to have a thin waist, to live up to beauty standards that are - most of the time - unachievable so that they can be heard, so that their ideas would be considered good enough. Girls learn that “appearance matters” and that your appearance would be what dictates how you are treated. Although first impressions may be compelling, they are superficial; they don’t demonstrate who you are. During Jill Soloway’s talk in the 2017 MAKERS Conference, the creator of the Amazon’s series Transparent recalls about one experience that changed her perspective on the use of makeup, “I was going downstairs to speak to a bunch of people about business, about creativity, about television, and yet here was a man who was sent to draw a new face on top of my face so that my words would be heard,” said Soloway during her presentation in which she explains why she specifies that she should only be wearing the same amount of makeup that they would put in a man to every makeup artist.
Soloway is clear about the difference between loving the process of applying makeup, relaxing, and feeling like an artist utilizing your face is the canvas, and wearing it as a way of being heard, fitting into a standard of beauty that is not defined by you, but by the others. Wearing makeup is not a problem, however using it to fit into what it is expected is an issue. We live in a world where having cellulite, stretch marks, acne scars, not covering your imperfections with makeup, having a curvier body, having flaws, is worth being shamed; living up to an expectation is not a choice, it is a command. Rejecting such an idea is, even though it may seem like a small gesture, is a start in a fight for equality, that eventually will lead to a change in the enormous distance between women’s face and body standards when compared to men’s. It is embracing our insecurities and knowing how to incorporate how you look, however that may be, into who you are. Changing our definition of beauty from being thin, having a small nose, not having marks or scars, having straight and shiny hair, to being beautiful as you are without changing anything.
The use of makeup is not wrong. Wearing makeup should be related to embracing features of your complexion that you love, using because of love, instead of using for hiding or changing your facial features. Cosmedics and aesthetic procedures can not be from where your confidence comes, but they are allowed to make you feel more confident than you already are. Although beauty can’t be found in products or procedures, it does not mean that you shouldn’t play with eyeshadow, highlighter, and face powder if you want to. “Whether I’m wearing lots of makeup or no makeup, I’m always the same person inside,” said Lady Gaga enhancing the idea of makeup as additional, but not essential. Social media, is one of the most significant ways in which insecurities are created. Although they can be used to spread a new concept of beauty, sometimes the effect is entirely different from acceptance. A survey at Fordham Lincoln Center regarding the effect that social media - especially Instagram - had in girls’ concepts of beauty and in accepting themselves as they are, showed that girls are overcoming the harmful effects of social media. Alyssia Schelfaut, a freshman in the Gabelli School of Business, said, “Instagram has been both positive and negative, and has caused me to alter what I post to fit in. Because of the liking system each time I would post, I would be on my phone to see how many people liked it.
Now I have turned off the notifications, and I don’t care as much about likes or living up to people’s expectations on me. I see the positive side, focusing on the nice comments from friends I get on pictures.” Another freshman from the Gabelli School of Business, Beyza Ozgul, said, “I feel the constant need to change and improve because it never feels enough. Even though I realize that social media revolves around the 10% that is considered ‘perfect,’ it is hard not to feel insecure”, showing that the battle of overcoming the perfection imposed by social media is a process that needs time, but that is not impossible. The unattainable standards imposed on women are connected to the outside, on how each individual presents herself to society. Being perfect in terms of society’s rigid definition is harmful, and acknowledging who you are, embracing your true self, is the initial step in the journey of self-acceptance. Starting to do what you love and not what
PHOTOS BY: GABRIEL JUN SHENG LEE MODELED BY: STEPHANIE SABIDO & WILLS LADD STYLING BY: NISHITA NAGA, BAWILA IDRIS & EVELINE MURPHY-WILSON CREATIVE DIRECTION: BAWILA IDRIS & EVELINE MURPHY-WILSON
Addressing Pretty Privilege WORDS BY: EMMA KOLAKOWSKI ILLUSTRATION AND LAYOUT BY: ESME BLEECKER
Humans have cherished beauty since early civilization. The classical Greek and Roman time period yielded full body sculptures with idealized anatomy, resulting in tall and lean bodies complete with beautiful and delicate faces. Flash forward to today, behavioral psychologists have studied the ways in which humans are inclined to prefer and trust people with beautiful faces more than others. They have pinned this phenomena down to a social science, revealing how facial symmetry and proportion signals to the human brain if someone is friendly or not. While deeply rooted in the past, beauty still plays an undeniable role in the way we interact today. Preferential treatment for traditionally beautiful people has manifested in the workplace in large ways. The term pulchronomics refers to the “economics” of beauty; in other words: the way in which beauty carries social currency. The term suggests that a clear correlation can be made between a person’s physical appearance and his or her’s economic standing. Another
way of describing this advantage is the commonly used phrase, “pretty privilege,” which refers to the preferential treatment a beautiful person will receive, perhaps because their appearance is appealing to the onlooker. A person’s beauty can allow them special access to special opportunities, simply because their eyes might be set in a “non-threatening” way, visually suggesting that a person can be trusted. The arrangement of the facial features we were born with can actually denote to others whether or not we are capable of handling certain projects or tasks. In a system where successful careers are just as much developed out of opportunity as they are of hard work, matching the standard of beauty clearly allows for an economic advantage. In recent years, South Korean culture has adopted a pointed solution to the problem of “pretty politics” in the workplace. As a graduation gift, parents have been funding cosmetic surgery for their children as a way of increasing their chances for success in the working world. Much
like other nations in Asia, South Korea places a large emphasis on work and business. Citizens work long hours and endure tremendous amounts of stress, with many psychological studies revealing the extreme pressure placed on individuals to succeed. Thriving in a workplace setting is crucial for financial stability, especially as a large portion of the population enters retirement age and can no longer support themselves. More pressure is being put on young people to provide for their families, and they cannot afford to gamble with the success of their career. Therefore, parents are searching for ways to ensure the economic success of their children, resulting in a growing culture of cosmetic surgery. While cosmetic surgery has the connotation of being shallow
and surface-level, South Korea’s strategic use of the procedure can actually be considered an investment for the family. While cosmetic surgery is seldom used for this purpose in the United States, the nation has found other ways to resist preferential treatment based on appearance. In recent years, the United States has seen a dramatic spike in the number of body-positive marketing campaigns. In the age of a new feminist wave, companies like Dove, Aerie, and Glossier have launched campaigns targeted towards women specifically, encouraging women to “come as they are” and celebrate the way their bodies look naturally. With campaign names like “Real Beauty,” “Real Me,” and “Body Hero,” the natural body is placed center stage as being worthy of adoration and celebration. While
These marketing campaigns are twofold: First, they argue that you should love your natural body, and second, they lightly suggest that you buy products in order to do so. “Embrace your natural curves!” they proclaim, while quietly implying, “But do it while wearing our new bra!” Could it be that the United States’s model for addressing pretty privilege is just a secret way of saying that something still needs fixing? It almost seems like diversity and inclusion is just another fad in a series of marketing campaigns designed to achieve relatability as quickly and efficiently as possible. How can someone be expected to love their natural face when companies are simultaneously pushing them products that inherently suggest consumers are incomplete without them.
It seems like both South Korea’s and the United States’s approach to silencing pretty privilege has lead to a culture of artificial behavior in both places. In South Korea, individuals undergo surgery in order to falsify the way their face appears to others. In the United States, individuals resist the notion that their bodies need fixing and try to reject a system that prioritizes the beautiful. In both instances, identity becomes coerced: rather than being used as a method of self-expression, identity becomes a method of self-preservation. This means identity must be adapted and altered to fit the culture it is situated in. “If I don’t get this surgery, no one will hire me,” or, “If I don’t accept my body as it is, I’ll never be happy.” Whether we accept the situation
as it is or we fight against it, we are nevertheless forced into conflict with beauty standards every single day. Struggling to secure our identities in a world which prizes beauty over many other merits, we find ourselves trapped in the cycle of conforming or not. While we scratch our heads and try to negotiate our options for acceptance, the system is perpetuated by our efforts in responding to it. In feeding into the idea that something must be done in order to compensate for our “lack” of beauty, both undergoing a procedure or buying a product can be ways of reinforcing a system which demands alteration of our bodies, our faces, and our form in general. It would seem that the problem lies not in the inward deliberation (“Should I get the surgery or not?”), but rather in our outward response to the issue
of beauty. If we want to be accepted, shouldn’t we be more accepting? If we want to be considered capable, shouldn’t we look for those qualities in others in a meaningful way? We should probably stop buying products and considering surgery, instead thinking about the way our implicit biases have made is illiterate to the capabilities of others. Adjusting our way of thinking will take a lot of realignment, but it holds potential to create a large cultural shift. When scientific discovery proved the earth is round, humanity experienced a cultural shift in the way they understood their place in the world. Ideas are exchanged, discoveries are made, and viewpoints are altered. We have the science to prove beauty is a perpetuated construction; why don’t we use it?
Words by: Nishita Naga Photos by Patricia Angeles Modeled by: Rin Kuemerle Collage by: Bawila Idris
With the increased aggression of the media industry in recent years, oversaturation is part of a greater discussion in censorship, content intake, and presentation. In the case of violence it is always asked: How much can we watch before it stops affecting us? Media images, however, are not only oversaturated with violence. In the age of activism and catalyzing social change, viewers are subject to a mass of images that can convey diametrically opposing messages, and with the highly public nature of media itself, can the constant back-and-forth take its toll on our self-image? Within the past decade, a new wave of feminism has brought even more representative issues to light. Intersectionality has become more important than ever, and the support of young men and women viewing themselves in a less critical manner is one of the essential drivers of the movement. As a result, the public is now pushing companies to truly reflect every type of consumer in their advertisements — the time of defaulting to the straight, white, unrealistically skinny model is coming to an end. However, such a time has not yet fully come to an end, and many companies do not see representation in the same way as their audiences. Either they default to the age-old method of a POC model that passes for white, or they claim, as Victoria Secret’s CMO, Ed Razek, did in 2018 about the casting of plus-sized and transgender models, that “people don’t have any interest.” or that such an image is not part of their brand. It is not unbelievable that comments like the one made by Razek lead to an immense amount of pushback, not only from publications, but from the public, and it is not hard to see why. Misrepresentation in media leads to the convoluted idea that there is a combination of features that can make an objectively attractive person, and anyone who does not embody the same image cannot be “objectively attractive.”
The majority of media propaganda is created based on what “people will like”. Advertisers are looking to create an attractive picture of a brand for their customers, and the easiest way to do so is to create an image that viewers are conditioned to like, resulting in the use of conventionally attractive models to represent the brand. . Viewers are taught to look up to such an image, yet issues arise when the brand’s consumers do not see themselves reflected on the screen. Lack of representation prompts the question: “is this product even for me?” In the past few years, media representation has been adjusting itself accordingly upon sensing a cultural shift. . Marketers and moviemakers are no longer solely looking to appeal, they are looking to join the movement. Through researching their consumers’ behavior in an almost anthropological way, media is slowly learning to represent its viewer in a way that provides them an image to look up to, whether that viewer identifies with the LGBTQ+ community, is a person of color, or is looking for plus-size representation. Larger advertising agencies looking to convey these larger messages through their work, and models and actresses like Tess Holiday and Halima Adden will begin to make all the difference in media image. What we see and are taught to emblemize is a large part in how critical (or noncritical) we become towards ourselves. If we see images that reflect our real lives in terms of diversity, media becomes an agent for change rather than part of the problem.
PHOTOS BY: PATRICIA ANGELES MODELED BY: KATHERINE KUEMERLE STYLING BY: NISHITA NAGA CREATIVE DIRECTION: NISHITA NAGA
PHOTOS BY: ANDREW BEECHER & CAMILLE LEMOINE MODELED BY: PAVEE KUNCHAITHANYA, ALEC SHIMAN, WILLS LADD, HANNAH ZHANG VIBES CURATED BY: EMILY O’BRIEN STYLING BY: CHLOË FELOPULOS & STYLING TEAM, BAWILA IDRIS, NISHITA NAGA CREATIVE DIRECTION: BAWILA IDRIS, NISHITA NAGA & CHLOË FELOPULOS
Welcome to the Identity Issue.