Article CPG

From Jackie O. to Michelle O.: The Changing Face of American Beauty

Aug 11, 2011

Fashion has the world in the palm of its hand. Its’ influence is undeniable. From the clothes we wear, to the cars we drive, to the dishes we eat off of, it’s impossible to ignore the impact fashion has on everything around us. So it’s no shock that you can feel fashion’s gravitational pull on beauty. What models, designers and celebrities wear and use sets a precedent for what does and doesn’t make a woman beautiful. Beauty trends don’t happen in a vacuum.

It was just a few decades ago that Jacqueline Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe set the beauty standard for the American woman—two women who broke the mold with their style, boldness and self confidence. In 2011, the White House and Hollywood still set the beauty bar. Michelle Obama represents Washington D.C. with grace, athletic sinuousness and a statuesque frame. Voted the most beautiful woman in the world, Jennifer Lopez rules beauty in Hollywood with drama, smoldering good looks and societal defiance.

Who would have thought an African American and a Latina would carry the torch for what is considered beautiful? I never would have pictured this moment even 10 years ago. As media continues to validate ethnic women as the “new American” beauty, what these women think, how they view themselves and what makes them feel beautiful should be paid close attention.

This new reality was on display at a recent beauty panel I participated in with one of our key CPG clients. What was on everyone’s minds and mouths? What African American and Latina women are buying and why.

The other eye opening discovery was how concerned Latinas are about hair. Latinas and African American women are, despite the amount of work and time it takes, going back to their roots—literally and figuratively. Rather than straightening, combing and chemically treating their coils into submission, some are opting for natural styles that allow their curls and textured tresses to roam free. In actuality, it’s more time-consuming and labor intensive for women to wear their hair natural than it is to have it relaxed or straightened. In addition, depilatories, eyelash lengtheners and brow enhancers are common speak for these women who are concerned with maintaining the appearance of every follicle on their bodies.

Latinas are also, not surprisingly, very concerned about skin spots and sun damage, and therefore overindex in skincare products and treatments. In fact, the beauty editor from Siempre Mujer magazine relayed that a big topic amongst Latina women this summer was preventing or fixing discoloration and getting evenly toned skin, exemplified by a certain beauty from the Bronx who always sports healthy glowing skin.

Let the numbers tell the tale and all of these anecdotes begin to make complete sense. According to statistics from Global Insights 2010 data, Hispanic households spent $197 billion dollars on personal care products and services or $1,495 per household; that means everything from razors to spray tans. Is it any wonder that J.Lo is the newest spokesperson face of Gilette’s Venus women’s razors? I think not, and in fact, I believe it’s just the beginning.

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