“Be Pretty. Be Confident. Be Who You Are.”

21 Apr

In a recent New York Times article by Catherine Saint Louis, “Up the Career Ladder, Lipstick in Hand,” make-up artist Bobbi Brown is quoted as saying, “We are able to transform ourselves, not only how we are perceived, but how we feel… People will have a bad reaction if… the makeup is not enhancing your natural beauty.”

In articles we’ve been reading for class, a few of them mention Brown and her cosmetics line. I kept wondering if this was a coincidence or just the fact that BB is a popular brand of make-up for women, which I know it is. But, what started to click for me this weekend was the fact that Brown’s make-up campaign is called “Pretty Powerful.”

Here a couple of screenshots from the BB website, prettypowerful.bobbibrowncosmetics.comBB Pretty Powerful

Brown is constantly seen promoting this idea of enhancing one’s beauty and maybe adding a “pop of color” here or there on the cheeks or lips with her popular pot rouge. Her website brings this into an interesting place. Not only does it allow consumers to shop for her products and read about the artist herself, but the “Pretty Powerful” branches into this interesting series of videos called “Pretty Inspiring,” allowing people to “explore and read their stories, watch their videos, and get makeup how-tos” from these beautiful and ordinary-looking women. There’s practically a look for everyone, for every skin tone, every face shape, and a range of dramatic to natural make-up looks.

BB Pretty Powerful #2

What struck me was the variety of women. 32 women. After clicking on each of the women’s faces, one will see their before and after photo without make-up and with make-up, in other words in their “Tranformations,” as appropriately labeled in this section of the website. I must admit that for a person who does wear make-up every once in a while, I am attracted to these looks and would replicate them on myself. They don’t make drastic alterations to the face. Rather, they enhance what these women already have by adding some color and contour. I think these looks are pretty and that these women are pretty.

Within these photographs, these women evoke a sense of normality and appeal to the average person. They look happy and confident. What I enjoy the most is that these women still look happy and confident in their photos without make-up. Unlike the idea of make-up as paint, a historic term mentioned in Kathy Peiss’ book Hope in a Jar which examines the history of America’s beauty culture, these looks do not cover or hide these women.

Brown’s campaign asks people to join in “empowering women and girls… with the confidence and resources to be their best.” Women want to be powerful, and they are. Women want to be confident, and they are. For many years to come, it seems make-up is and will be that resource women turn to for that boost.

So, we return to this recurring idea about make-up being use as a tool to represent a woman’s sense of power in self. It’s quite intriguing to me how this idea not only translates through scholarly and historical writings of American Studies, but also how this translates into the media, into business, into marketing, into bodies, into mentalities, etc.

But also, this beauty is still created through cosmetics. It’s still make-up, right? Are painting and enhancing two separate ideas? Or, are they the same both ways?


Posted by on April 21, 2013 in Uncategorized


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2 responses to ““Be Pretty. Be Confident. Be Who You Are.”

  1. victoriadan

    April 22, 2013 at 12:43 am

    I appreciate how you point out that the “transformed” women appear happy and confident both before and after using BB cosmetics. Far too often I feel like cosmetics are discussed in negative terms–women don’t have power, women are trapped, women don’t have self-esteem, women aren’t happy with their appearance. I like to wear makeup sometimes, too, but it is not as if I am down on myself on the days that I don’t. I would liken makeup to coffee: a pick-me-up that gets you ready mentally to tackle the day. (I actually don’t drink coffee, so it really IS my source of energy sometimes).

    One thing that caught my eye was the extra styling done for the “after” photos. In the “before” photos, the women are makeup-less but also have plain white shirts, no jewelry, and little work done on their hair. After the transformation, the women have their hair styled, lots of jewelry, and they all wear different (and fashionable) shirts. This seems to say that all women, though equal and beautiful without makeup, can assert their own individuality through beauty practices. Or am I being too optimistic?

  2. goodyeak

    April 28, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    I agree with Victoria’s comment in that whilst women are beautiful without makeup, they can assert and explore their own individuality through beauty practice. I too really loved the fact that the “before” photos (the photos without make-up on) showed the women as genuinely happy (a contrast to most “before” photos in magazines that show women as unhappy and depressed). However, what I found most fascinating was listening to their own personal stories about what they believe makes them powerful and just how make-up plays into this.

    “Meeting” the personality behind the face in these videos suggested just how much of a role make-up can play on the assertion of one’s individuality. Estelle, for instance wore make-up that was probably the least “natural” of the group as it was noticeable and obvious. However, her make-up reflects her bubbly and bold personality; living each day as it comes and not being afraid to take risks; evident in her bold make-up choice. Another, Gro Frivoll, stated that make-up and the new face that appears after applying make-up gives her this aura of “Intelligent Magnetism.” She used the term “Intelligent Magnetism” to describe this newfound confidence she has after applying make-up and that it is this confidence that attracts interesting people to her.

    What therefore seems to be a key theme running throughout these stories is this element of control; taking control of your life. Almost all of the women believed that power was about taking control of your own life and doing what you are most passionate about.This suggests therefore that being able to control your appearance is yet another form of controlling your life, which in turn is powerful. Therefore, as Peiss says, make-up can become a “tool for women to explore and portray their individuality”.


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