Lily Cole Says Media’s Definition Of “Beauty” Is Too Narrow

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Lily Cole just said in an interview with the Guardian what we’ve all been thinking for a long time: that the standards of beauty which exist today are mostly BS!

The British model and actress spoke about her role playing Helen of Troy in a West End production, and how exploring strong female roles throughout history has changed her perspective on a concept that has been shaped by the fashion industry which she started out in.

She spoke about initially not wanting to wear makeup playing the role of the legendary Greek woman, because she didn’t want it to get in the way of such a powerful story. In the end there was makeup, but the juxtaposition of being a household name in the fashion industry, and now playing the complete opposite type of female character is not lost on her. The 26 year old says it was one of those “ah ha” moments.

“I think it [makeup] signals something. I mean, it does make me more beautiful in a really momentary flash and that is someone’s first impression. I actually considered not wearing any makeup at all for Helen. I didn’t want that mask of beauty. I love it when people don’t wear makeup. It suggests internally they’re so cool and comfortable with themselves,” she said.

She expanded her thoughts on how beauty has not enhanced us in anyway, but has narrowed our views on women, sadly, with hardly any room for unique qualities to be lauded.

“Our concept of beauty is so restrictive. We treat it like it’s got an eternal truth to it when it hasn’t. It’s relative to the country we’re in and time period. And the media reiterate that idea again and again through visual culture and that becomes “beautiful”, and women aspire to that image as opposed to realizing that how we are naturally is very beautiful.”

Delving into history and learning about other cultures has made her more aware of the views on femininity throughout the ages, and how it has changed, especially in regard to Helen of troy.

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“Seeing the depiction of women for hundreds and hundreds of years, many more women have been depicted than men, so even the fact that a woman is seen as a beautiful thing to paint [was interesting]. There aren’t that many images of Helen of Troy but it’s interesting to see how different painters have interpreted her over the years.”

Lily has been modeling since she was 14, and was asked about the controversial issue of underage models being used in campaigns targeted at adult women, an in effect sexualizing young girls.

“I didn’t do very sexualized imagery until I was a bit older. There were some publications such as Vogue, for example, that don’t use girls under 16,” she said, before adding her thoughts on what the main problems with the “beauty” industry are.

“The way we present images in general bothers me. So the way that beauty is understood often as being largely Caucasian and largely young is inherently problematic. And the idea of what is fashionable, of what is hot or not, and that being applied to young girls is also hugely difficult. I know how I was when I was a teenager and how insecure most teenagers are.”

In an interview with the Daily Mail in 2012 Lily openly dissed the advertising industry and why it can be damaging for young girls. She said the concept of what is being taught is dangerous.

“I absolutely don’t believe in perfection, I don’t believe it exists and I don’t believe it’s necessarily interested. I’ve put myself under a lot of pressure in the past, too  skinny or too fat in terms of intellectual pursuits or career pursuits. I’ve come to realize that it can be quite a destructive way to live life.””A lot of advertising can make people think you’re not enough as you are, you’re not enough until you have that or look like that.”

Perhaps we need to get rid of the idea of “perfection” altogether. Who is to say what perfect even looks like? The less we focus on trying to be that, and spend our energy being the absolute best versions of our unique selves, we won’t need to subscribe to an outdated, superficial and restrictive notion of beauty.

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9 Comments

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  2. While the opinions in this article are true, it’s obvious she is only proclaiming it now that she is getting older.

    As almost everyone knows, Lily Cole is extremely attractive. She is basically the definition of beauty in Americans’ eyes. Basically she is saying:

    ‘”I used to be young and even more attractive than I am now, and I am used to being catered to because of my looks. Now that I am getting older, I expect myself to be treated the same way I used to be when I was even more attractive. So, lets broaden what perfection means so I can always be included and catered to. These images shown to young girls are TOO perfect. There should be more of people like me.”

    She wasn’t proclaiming these opinions at a younger age, she was content to let everyone else go on with their lives, but since she is starting to get older and wrinklier, she wants the standards of beauty to expand with her. It’s kind of selfish.

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