Beauty standards are always changing and evolving over time, but they have never been more inclusive and representative until now. With models of all different backgrounds, identities and body types walking down the runway and posing in magazines, it seems like some sort of revolution is occurring in the fashion industry.
Feeding into this movement is a recent photoshoot called “The Art of Beauty,” photographed by Pari Dukovic of Harper’s Bazaar. Including the breathtaking and trailblazing models of Winnie Harlow, Candice Huffine, Hari Nef, Halima Aden and Erika Linder, this project projects the beauty and strength of each model in the classic paintings they portray.
But in the end, this photoshoot is more than just a bunch of models recreating famous artwork. It’s much more than that. It’s about the representation they present to the world, the way in which they reconfigure a piece of artwork known for some traditional standard of beauty and make it their own. It’s not only breathtaking, but it is inspiring for everyone involved. This is especially true for younger people who are finding themselves and their own sense of beauty, such as a teenager with vitiligo who sees Winnie Harlow walking down a runway. It validates and uplifts their own beauty and identity, and brings a sense of belonging.
For example, I remember trying to navigate through life as a closeted queer teenager. Coming from a small, Wisconsin town, it was rough to say the least. But I distinctly remember the day in which I was reading through a review of New York fashion week and saw the face of Cara Delevingne. I thought she was so incredibly beautiful, so I looked her up online. That’s when I learned she was queer, just like me. She was so open and free about her sexuality, something that I could never see myself doing until then. It was truly inspiring to see other queer people being celebrated for their beauty and strength, and it still inspires me today.
However, the beauty industry needs to be careful not to cross into the territory of tokenism. Models should be able to represent different identities and backgrounds, but they should not be used as singular symbols because of it. We must remember that it is still extremely difficult for people who are not straight, of European descent and cisgender to enter into the modeling and fashion industry. There is still a ways to go, despite all of the progress that has been made.
Despite this possible concern, Harper’s Bazaar’s “The Art of Beauty” is an inspiring, breathtaking example of the importance of different representations of beauty in the fashion industry.