Living

The ideal beauty

Updated 0114 GMT (0914 HKT) April 7, 2012
Share
1 of 11
A 20th century layout of the ideally beautiful face, 1933: "The young looking face ... that's the face with the larger eyes relative to the frame, that's the babyish look -- people like to see that," said Sybil Geldart, associate professor of psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University, who has conducted research on perceptions of facial beauty in infants. "We also know that our facial attractiveness is guided by experiences and familiarity. The more we can boost exposure, the more we can find attractive. My own view is that visual exposure will allow us to change our perceptions." Getty Images
British model Twiggy poses in the studio, 1966: "This push for the perfect body has not gone away, it's a national obsession," said Joan Jacobs Brumberg, author of "The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls." Although Twiggy is often blamed for making a slim body trendy, Jacobs Brumberg said the trend started in the 1920s. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Supermodel Kate Moss appears in a fashion show, 2000: "We have dominant norms in social class now determining a certain level of thinness," said Maya Poran, professor of psychology at the Ramapo College of New Jersey. Poran says those norms -- like Moss' "heroin chic" look of the 1990s -- affect people of all races and ethnicities. AFP/Getty Images
Michelle Obama at a state dinner, 2010: "The first lady is held up as this ideal of American beauty, one who is just as thin, if not thinner, just as fit, if not more fit, just as tall and well put together than many white women," Linda Blum said. "We can say that's wonderful, that's positive, but there's a bit of a contradiction and downside if now then the standards of thinness are going to become as stringent in the African-American community." Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images
American pop singer Marsha Hunt wears an afro, 1969: "It began with women of color to realize these appearance issues were a part of the civil rights movement, a part of racial identity movement," said Linda Blum, associate professor of sociology at Northeastern University. "Knowing that history is empowering. We can do some consciousness raising of how far we've come. These standards weren't always so unattainable and were confronted." Getty Images
Models Candice Swanepoel, Alessandra Ambrioso and Miranda Kerr attend the Victoria's Secret Beauty Heavenly Flowers launch, 2010:"Moving forward as we go into the future, we're going to see much more in terms of the models and celebrities who are idealized -- they'll be ethnically vague," said Kristin Perrotta, executive editor of Allure magazine. "You can't tell if they're really black or white or Hispanic, it's going to be this mixture. Everyone can see a little bit of themselves in these people rather than the classically Anglican features, or classically black features." Getty Images
Miss Korea and Miss Hong Kong try out Top Shop wares in London, 1977: "Koreans seem to be more focused on beauty within the face, where Americans are more focused on the body," said Jennifer Ko, a 25-year-old Korean artist who says bleached skin, long hair and eyelid surgery are thougtht to be tools of beauty. "Physical beauty is so important in our culture, especially today. If you are physically beautiful by society's standards you may feel more important and accomplished." Getty Images
Spanish contestants smile before the Miss International beauty pageant, 2002: Poran said Latinas' ideas about beauty are often caught up in discussions of black and white -- "Black women ... are often used as a paradigm for information on race, ethnicity and the body," Poran said. "It is clear that even though Latinas are being included in body research, it is still white women's concerns that are defining the area and contextualizing Latinas' responses. YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images
Sarah Makandura represents Sri Lanka during theMiss Asia USA pageant, 2010: Skin-lightening creams like Fair and Lovely decrease melanin in the skin and are used by men and women in many South Asian countries. "It frustrates me because there are a lot more important things than the color of your skin," said Rezwanna Sattar, a 22-year-old Bangladeshi woman. She has a darker skin tone and has used Fair and Lovely. "When I was younger, I thought about why light-skinned is (considered) beautiful." AFP/Getty Images
Pageant contesants complete in Miss Philippines, 2011: "I've always been aware that I'm Filipino and that I don't look like all of the other Filipinos," said 27-year-old Leslie Rosales. "I've been to the Philippines six times and their perception of beauty as opposed to what I grew up learning in South Central [Los Angeles] is completely different. Filipino beauty is lighter skin, a small frame, (and) black silky hair." AFP/Getty Images
All women are beautiful: A protest against the Miss America Pageant at Atlantic City, New Jersey, September 6,1969: A woman walks past with a sign reading 'All women are beautiful'. Getty Images