On Writing About Beauty, Guest Post by Emily Fletcher.
I met this sweet soul three years ago in our first Creative Writing class together; quiet and sincere, she wore grace like the fashion statement forever in style. It is such a joy to welcome Emily to the blog this morning. She has so much experience in both exploring and responding to the beauty-blogging industry. Emily's interest in examining make-up and its impact on the 21st century enables her to address relevant both the problematic and positive aspects of beauty culture in a thoughtful, compelling way, and I cannot begin to recommend her blog enough: emiloue.co.uk.
I remember my first creative writing class at university. We were going around the room and talking about what kind of writing we already do. There were people who wrought plays, poetry, manuscripts of thousands of words, and those who had already been published. When it came to me, I rambled off a few sentences about the fiction I wanted to write (of which I mostly made up because I didn't really have an answer) and then I mentioned that I blog. What do you blog about? Oh, well, it's a fashion and beauty blog.
That 19-year-old sat in that creative writing class worrying that everyone would think she was shallow or ditsy for writing about lipsticks and shoes. She thought that the tutor sat at the head of the table would look up from her notes and utter, 'Well, this class is for serious writers, so you need to leave.' It isn't that I set out to write a blog. I grew up on stories, convinced that one day I would write the next great series. But writing about fashion and beauty came easy to me. If I tried to plot the arc of a chapter I would struggle, but I could write over 1,000 words about the outfit I wore for my mum's birthday dinner two nights ago without breaking a sweat. I found a niche that makes me happy, and although writing fiction (and other kinds of non-fiction) is still a goal of mine, blogging about this hobby felt like the right move.
I think writing about beauty came so easily to me because I've always been interested in it. I would pour over images of Classic Hollywood actresses like Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall, looking at their perfect eyeliner flicks and full pouts. I saw contemporary stars like Lily Collins and Blake Lively wearing effortless makeup one day and editorial looks the next, wondering how I could possibly recreate their beauty. I've never been an artist at applying makeup, but I enjoy the process and I like to think I'm giving whoever reads my blog the kind of chat which I would have in real life. You struggle to find a mascara that holds a curl? Try a waterproof one! You don't like your foundation? Here's the one I got on with!
Even though I grew up with an interest in makeup, I can recognise now that it has become something seemingly impossible to escape. Many girls grow up being told that they must cover their skin, contour themselves a new bone-structure, and become as hairless as a dolphin. Beauty standards are becoming higher and higher, always changing from season to season, and body image is one of the biggest threats to mental health. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing makeup every day, it does upset me when the use of makeup is framed in this way, that is should be used to change oneself. It should be fun to wear makeup, not a necessity. It should be used to enhance your features, not conceal them.
The traditional beauty industry sadly runs on people's 'flaws.' However, I believe that beauty blogging is challenging this way of thinking. I completely understand that at surface level, this kind of blogging can come across as self-obsessed or superficial, but there is an underlying current of self-confidence and acceptance. Beauty blogging is, effectively, a friend sharing their favourites, hoping that you'll like them too. A blogger can self-deprecate in a way that is human, relatable and un-judgemental. A blogger will write about a struggle they've faced, and how they learned to combat it. They have the power to frame their posts with the phrase: 'hey, this worked for me, maybe it will work for you,' rather than claiming that a certain product is something everyone needs to improve their looks.
One beauty brand I think advertises makeup in a lovely way is Charlotte Tilbury. For every 'before and after' photo shown, both photographs are labeled as equally beautiful before and after. Something as small as that can create such a positive impact. A lot of people have a negative relationship with beauty, but if a worldwide brand is conscientious enough to promote their products in this way, hopefully the industry will begin to take note and grow more aware of its influence on the mental health of the customers. Even though brands are beginging to realise this now, I think many fashion blogs and bloggers deserve credit for connecting confidence with not only external, but also internal beauty.
The longer I continue writing my blog-----I'm in my fifth year now----the more I see the impact that beauty blogging has. As fun as it is, beauty really can be such a sensitive subject for some. I see more people increasingly opening themselves up about their own struggles with confidence, and I think, in turn, this has initiated a dialogue about the purpose of makeup-----to enhance natural beauty. I know that, with each post, I may not be writing the most important, influential piece of literature, but when readers thank me for my recommendations because it has made them feel better about themselves, I realise how universal and important my topic of choice is. Now, I embrace writing about beauty. I think there is still a long, long way to go in creating a completely positive outlook on beauty, but I really do believe that this generation is taking a step in the right direction.