Beauty standards and how they’re affecting Americans


This picture shows Cady Heron trying to fit into the popular category from “Mean Girls.”

Estefany Mendez, Investigative Reporter

When the only day you’re in a good mood to shop with your friends arrives, the day is ending and they decide to check the last store out. At this point you tell them that you’ll be waiting for them outside because of how tired you are. All of a sudden you decide to walk around and you begin to window shop. A few windows later,  you stop and admire a pretty dress that seems to grab your attention. The excitement leads you to check if there’s enough money for it, and then you decide to take a last glance at it and your reflection is the only thing you see in the window. You then begin to think if you would fit into the dress just like the model in the store’s advertisement does. Now the focus is more on the model’s shape, size, lips, eyes, tone and other features that excludes all your unique and beautiful features. After those thoughts, the dress is forgotten and you head back to look for your friends.

Did you ever stop and think about how often we are told to change our appearance?  Magazines constantly offer tips about how to lose weight “in days,” appear slimmer “instantly,” and hide our “imperfections”… without actually knowing anything about us, much less our appearance.  This is one example of body-shaming, and it is everywhere.

Recently there has been a demand for beauty by society which strongly influences the decisions of the young ones. Nowadays, a lot of teenangers also struggle through everyday life because they don’t or can’t match up to what everyone wants or demands to see. Therefore, anyone that doesn’t have these ideal physical beauty that society wishes upon is considered freaks, or outcasts. The notion of beauty in today’s society has been misconstrued to mean slim bodies, flawless skin, etc.

Sitcoms so frequently use overweight characters’ bodies as the basis of many of the show’s jokes.  It has become the norm to criticize aspects of our bodies as some type of bonding experience with friends – if we all hate our bodies; it somehow makes us feel connected and united.  Body-shaming can lead to a vicious cycle of judgment and criticism. Messages from the media and from each other often imply that we should want to change, that we should care about looking slimmer, smaller, and tanner.  And if we don’t, we worry that we are at risk of being the target of someone else’s body-shaming comments.

Ashley Scantlebury, a former seventh grader from Arts and Letters, loves watching Netflix shows with her mother. She realizes the importance of “not letting anything get to you when it comes to beauty compared to those shows that enhance the idea for both women and men, but mostly women to be exactly how they are expected to be seen.”

She explained how much she loves watching vampire Diaries, Riverdale, and Gossip girl that she wished to look somewhat similar to her favorite characters.

One afternoon she decided to head to the hair salon and have her hair done blond just like Jenny Humphrey (gossip girl character) to demonstrate how someone with long blond hair would make them “beautiful and superior to others,” as she stated. For her that wasn’t enough to put the whole look together. A few weeks later, Ashley had decided to get blue eye contacts and had bought makeup which she said, “was lighter than my skin tone.” Although her friends found it pretty, her mom had a different thought.  

Madison Scantlebury, Ashley’s mother, enjoys spending her time with her daughter by watching those shows, but she never expected her to go that far. Madison because her daughter was not being herself and was sure that her own daughter, “is more beautiful than the characters themselves.”

Ashley now believes her mother more than anyone else about her natural beauty so she left her Jenny Humphrey look behind to learn from it that, “just because you see someone nice-looking in a show, that doesn’t mean that anyone has to be just like them…to the point where they begin to change things about their body. These shows project a demand for a beauty like the characters and not our own.”  

Feeding insecurities

It’s one of the sinister aspects of advertising: manipulating our greatest fears and insecurities to make us part with our money. From billboards to TV adverts, mainstream media is used to tap into our weak spots, with women in particular seen as easy targets for brands to part with their cash. Women are used as objects to spread the idea that they are the most vulnerable when it comes to having self-esteem.

The two photos that people answer questions about; Gigi Hadid and Kerry Washington from the Uptown Magazine.

When going into the streets of Times Square, a few questions were asked to anyone who was

willing to answer them about female and male models for designer advertisements and how they felt about it. The first question being, “what do you see?”, most of the people answered “Beauty”, “Thin tall person,” and other answers that made the advertisements sound superior to them.

Others like Rose, who was willing to share her very straight and honest opinion, said, “I see someone who is trying to escape the sad reality of looking a certain way, someone who is just trying to satisfy others expectations, you know, nowadays people think it’s pretty to look in such disgusting way that really doesn’t represent what women are in today’s days.”

Like any other young person, nineteen year old Crystal Brown stated the exact opposite of Rose’s opinion. She responded with the following, “This ad is just saying how we as women can look by expressing our inner beauty from the outside, there’s nothing wrong with this model if that’s what you trying to say, all I see is beauty and perfection which we again need to learn how to be like that.” It is clear that the opinions varied between being influenced and being ashamed for the message that the photos were conveying.

Women’s bodies being treated in this unrealistic fashion is a major contributing factor to the increasing amount of eating disorders around the world. Most models are already obscenely thin, and are further skewed to look even more appetizingly small. Advertising is thus not only helping promote a distorted feminine ideal, but it inadvertently contributes to societal problems like obsession with slimness and youth, leading to growing rates of plastic surgery, anorexia and other eating disorders and, in its extreme manifestation, violence against women.

For many who strive to be in the modeling industry, eating disorders are a way to keep jobs coming. One Woman’s Story Victoire Dauxerre, who was a previous model in Paris, began her work with Elite Model Management at the age of 18. She wrote a book about her experiences and reports that when she started modeling, she was 5’10” and weighed 56kg . She was told by the fashion industry that she was too big for the sample clothes, and needed to lose at least two inches around her torso to fit. Dauxerre stated that this started her battle with anorexia and bulimia. After losing a significant amount of weight in two months, the modeling agency celebrated her weight loss and told her that she could wear any clothing they had and to begin work. Also in her books, she states that many models use both eating disorders as well as drugs to control weight.

According to Mirror Mirror, an eating disorder help organization, notes that, “Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness (1). An estimated 0.5 to 3.7 percent of women suffer from anorexia nervosa at some point in their lifetime. Research suggests that about 1 percent of female adolescents have anorexia (2). An estimated 1.1 to 4.2 percent of women have bulimia nervosa in their lifetime.” Over the course of time there has been a major influence that comes from advertisements that have negatively impact the lives of the young ones.

Just as it may affect any other person in the world, some live a sad life. It is said by more than just a few models that their agencies have told them to lose some weight in order for them to fit into the promoting clothing. A study found in 2017, summarized by seventeen magazine that sixty two percent of models have been told by their agencies to lose weight. It was found that, “The way the industry is structured, a model can’t book jobs independent of her agent so they are her only access to employment — if the agent refuses to book her unless she loses weight, this creates an extremely coercive and dangerous work environment.” Unfortunately modeling industries keep implying the loss of weight among their models more often to demonstrate that there’s only one body type that could represent their community. It clearly shows that people are paying mind to it due to their own body expectations.

Eating disorders occur in people of all genders, ages, races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses. However, they are more commonly diagnosed in females. This map demonstrates the increase of eating disorders among college students.

Harsh measures

There is a well-known phrase: “Beauty is pain.” The phrase is used simply to justify women taking extreme and often harmful measures in hopes of meeting the societal expectations with which they are constantly bombarded. Women have been trained to believe they will never be enough, and that there will always be something else they must do in order to keep up with the ever-changing trends.

Whenever people have the need to look better than how makeup can make them look, they quickly come up with this idea of having surgery performed on some part of their body. Although that could be the best thing they could think of, there are always up and downs of any surgical performance that sometimes doesn’t leave the patient satisfied with their results. Most recently it has been seen through social media how teenage bodies have changed due to surgical and other cosmetic performance.

Till this day there is no law that prohibits teenagers from getting any type of surgery, however, Healthy Children informs us that, “parental consent is required for patients under the age of 18.” Therefore, the responsibility falls to parents to help their children make the right decisions.

The most common surgical procedures are nose surgery, male breast reduction and ear surgery. Additionally, more than 160,000 non-surgical cosmetic procedures were performed among teenagers. The most common were laser hair removal and Botox injections. Surgeries help fix the features that contributed to the reason of either being bullied or feeling insecure. “It is common to see teenagers in surgical clinics,” said Dr.Tae Ho Kim, a well experienced and well known plastic surgeon from New York City.

Although young female teenagers see this as a normal trend, it has brought  many regrets to their lives. Worldwide there has been a good amount of patients that have either had an infection on their surgery part or have died while the surgery was being performed on them. The majority of these patients are female patients who range from the age of  twenty to fifty seven. Patients die or are severely debilitated because of tissue damage, infections and physiological stress from the procedures themselves. According to PatientSafe Network, particles (emboli) of fat or prosthetic filler can enter the blood system and block the circulation causing cardiac arrest. Furthermore, some people commit suicide because of disfigurement, unrelenting pain, and psychological trauma. They often feel unsupported by those who have carried out the cosmetic procedure.

Twenty five year old Elaine Bennett had a similar experience to those who have had some type of surgical procedure. At the age of twenty-two young Elaine felt insecure about some parts of her body which made her look, “irregular to other female bodies that men would most one hundred percent appreciate,” she explains.

She was willing to have the “most beautiful body, that anyone would wish for,” Elaine noted in order for her to make her and her future husband happy for how fortunate she is to have a body of a “model.” According to her, she knew that great risk that she was putting herself into, but still did it to me more secure about her body and as she said, “and to raise my own self esteem.” A few months after Elaine got her breasts done, she had claimed that she wasn’t feeling how she expected to be feeling due to the pain and other symptoms she felt on her chest. She agreed to the fact that not much attention was put into her own health conditions, but she decided to wait and see if it got any worse.

On June twenty-third right before she was waking up, her niple felt irritated and itchy to the point where she couldn’t stand it anymore. She quickly did what she was supposed to do and rushed to the hospital. On her way to the Woodhull hospital (her nearest hospital in Brooklyn), she was trying to contact her surgeon, but unfortunately he wouldn’t answer. When she was being checked by Dr. Greenwood, he quickly said that her situation was getting worse and that she was in a dangerous situation that she had to be checked by surgical experts.

Due to his response, Elaine was quickly transferred to the Manhattan Bellevue hospital where she was seen right away. After she was checked, one of the doctors had told her the bad news that some of the implant chemical had started to leek. She then was hospitalized and had decided to remove her implants.

Now she claims to realize how important it is to take care of one’s body. Although she may have some scars and rashes, Elaine has learned to love herself just the way she is and said, “our imperfections is what makes us beautiful and unique. If I were to go back in time, I would’ve never done any surgery.” Elaine also included how much she regrets getting her breasts done because she had paid a good amount of money, “just to fill me with regret and disappointment,” she noted.

Leading factors

Although social media has been awarded for being the biggest factor to influence and enhance beauty, there are others that people do not talk or hear about. There has been a good amount of not only teenagers, but everyone who are being exposed to the demand of beauty and case insecurities.

Parents can have a strong influence—both positive and negative—in the formation and maintenance of their teens’ positive body image. Some of the ways parents can affect their children’s views and impressions of their own include struggling “specifically with how to talk sensitively to their teens about weight gain or loss,” according to

Ashley Martinez is currently a seventh grader who loves fashion. She loves how people nowadays are bringing “old styles to today’s fashion,” she says. Although she loves to dress like a 90s celebrity, her parents think that there are other styles that she could “pull up” that matches “her body image” and not make them look “ridiculous” she stated. Nevertheless, both of her partners are supportive about her passion, but somehow prefer for her to make the right decisions.

Her mother said, “I’m letting her dress however she wants to dress, but as a mother that I am, I don’t want to let others bring her down and tell her that she doesn’t look good. We are just trying to warn her and let her know that not everyone will accept people’s appearance.”

Ashley’s parents struggle with telling their daughter to lose some weight because they know that, “self-esteem is the most precious thing that a young girl like her could have,” her mother claimed.

We all have friends, but even our own friends influence our level of self-esteem. Whether it’s a positive or negative influence, we are still being influenced by their desires of looking a certain way.

When it comes to loving and caring about his friends, Jonathan, a Sophomore at Clara Barton high school, is always there to look after them and vise versa. He explained how in the group of friends he was the only male and then there were those who loved style and one who “listed their wantings” who was Maya.

Jonathan said, “later on I realized that my other friends were no good for Maya because they constantly told her to change her dressing style, to improve the way she smiles to her way of walking.” He would tell his friend to feel safe and secure of who she was because that was the reason why “we all come in all shapes and sizes…to project one’s beauty,” he then added, “I learned this from experience because I’m not gonna be unhappy just to satisfy others who don’t even take me for granted, smart people see natural beauty as perfection but the others are just too blinded to see that.”

Self-confidence is something that everyone loses and gains over the course of time just like this graph demonstrates.

Araceli Cayetano, a freshman at NYC iSchool said, “Beauty is when you appreciate yourself. When you love yourself, that’s when you’re most beautiful.” Clearly, no matter where we are or who we are will impact our self confidence. One’s decisions is one’s decision, so do what makes you happy rather than what makes others’ satisfied.