*Did you know that Americans spend more money on cosmetics annually, $45 billion, than all of the developing countries combined do on healthcare? What’s up with that? Are we really that ugly and in need of makeovers, or is something sinister afoot? According to Darryl Roberts, women have been duped by Madison Avenue into setting unrealistic expectations for themselves.
Darryl is the director of America the Beautiful, a scathing indictment of the beauty industry which systematically dissects the issue from both inside and out.
This shocking expose’ not only offers insights from the perspective of impressionable teenage girls, some of whom freely admit to hating their own appearance, but also from the point-of-view of actresses, academics, talent scouts, photographers, fashion designers, TV personalities and runway models, all of whom, it seems, have long since capitulated to the narrowly-defined appreciation of only one idealized body type.
The picture is designed to drive home the point that the airbrushed and digitally-altered standard of beauty popularized by advertisers and the mainstream media are unattainable, because not even the models in the magazine ads and TV commercials look like that. Nonetheless, the manipulation instills a sense of dissatisfaction which in turn leads to a craving for ever more makeup, diet aids and plastic surgery in the elusive quest to measure up.
Like a black version of Michael Moore, Mr. Roberts appears on camera, annoying everyone he meets by posing some variation of the probing question of the day, namely, “Does America have an unhealthy obsession with beauty?”
Most of the responses he elicits from celebrities, unfortunately, are vapid remarks which reflect a superficial shallowness, or simple shrugs which might best be interpreted as, “This is the way things are. Get used to it.”
But what would you expect from the likes of a Paris Hilton? Ditto CosmoGirl! Editor-in-Chief Susan Schulz and the E! Channel’s Ted Casablanca, each of whom has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Other interviewees include Aisha Tyler, Martin Short, Mena Suvari, Julianne Moore and Tisha Campbell.
However, the contributions of all of the above are easily overshadowed here by those of Gerren Taylor, a statuesque ex-supermodel who skyrocketed to fame over a half-dozen years ago at the tender age of 12. Although the 5’11” tall, African-American teenager continued to blossom into quite an attractive young woman, she no longer is hired to strut her stuff up catwalks in New York, L.A. and all over the world.
She and her mother, Michele, allowed Darryl to follow them around during their last desperate effort to revive Gerren’s career. Today, she’s virtually-unemployable, because a mere size 4 is apparently too curvy for the leading designers. America the Beautiful is at its absolute best when sensitively illustrating the emotional toll the rejection has taken on Gerren’s fragile psyche.
If a still-gorgeous model can so easily lose her confidence, just imagine what the pressure to attain perfection must feel like to girls with ordinary looks.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 104 minutes
Studio: Xenon Pictures
DVD Extras: Deleted scenes, interviews with Eve Ensler and with Ethie Ann Vare, plus feaurettes entitled: “Boris Kodjoe and Reggie Theus on Being Attractive,” “Cosmetics Ingredients Are Mislabeled,” “Girls with Eating Disorders,” “Canaries in the Coal Mine,” “Meet the Victims: Guys on the Couch,” and “Physiognomy with Stuart Ewen.”
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