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Dove Helping Women Redefine Modern Beauty

Posted: January 21, 2014

Ten years ago, Dove discovered that only 2% of women around the world believed they were beautiful. Based on that troubling insight, Dove launched the Campaign For Real Beauty and ignited a conversation about the need for a wider definition of beauty. Women agreed that the notion of beauty had become limiting and unattainable and began to respond, re-think and re-imagine what beauty should be. A decade later, Dove has uncovered through a major study in the U.S. that 62% of women feel they are responsible for influencing their own definition of beauty, nearly triple from the 23% ten years ago. Women believe the definition of beauty has evolved to become more inclusive and have taken on the role of defining the standard for themselves and each other.

To illustrate how beauty is being redefined and to mark the tenth anniversary of the Campaign for Real Beauty, Dove has partnered with Sundance Institute and filmmaker Cynthia Wade on a documentary short film Selfie. Dove is committed to creating a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety and hopes to make this vision a reality by inspiring all women to redefine beauty and share their own beauty stories using #BeautyIs.

Dove set out to understand how beauty is defined today and how it has evolved over the past 10 years. Nine out of 10 women said that they can finally celebrate their unique characteristics such as having a gap between the teeth, freckles or a scar. Many also believe that society has made great strides in being more accepting of different types of women, particularly of women of color (86%), appearances (72%), and ages (71%). In fact, with respect to age, 84% say women young and old inspire them to feel their best. While it is clear that progress has been made in widening the definition of beauty, the work is not complete. A staggering two-thirds of women still believe more needs to be done.

When it comes to societal factors that influence the beauty conversation, media and pop culture continue to play a pivotal role, but social media (user-generated content) is emerging as one of the most powerful influencing factors. Social media offers women the opportunity to create their own media, personalize beauty and influence the conversation. More than half (55%) of women believe social media is playing a larger role in influencing the beauty conversation than traditional media.

“How we define beauty today has evolved over the past ten years,” says Nancy Etcoff, director of the program in Aesthetics and Well Being at Massachusetts General Hospital and assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School, who consulted on the research. “The advent of social media is an empowering tool for women to tell their own beauty story and has allowed the definition of beauty to evolve into one that is more multifaceted and inclusive. Women are becoming their own media creators. It’s the personalization of beauty for the next generation.”

Dove premiered Selfie, a documentary short film, at Sundance Institute’s Women at Sundance brunch in Park City, Utah. Directed by Wade and produced by Sharon Liese, Selfie captures the journey of multiple generations of girls and their mothers in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts as they create a new type of selfie that celebrates their unique beauty.

“The way women are defining beauty today is changing dramatically, and social media has much to do with the change,” says Wade. “Now we have the ability to photograph the beauty we see in our friends and ourselves. When we share these diverse images on our social networks, we are taking personal ownership and truly redefining beauty.”

Selfie focuses on a social media challenge, #BeautyIs, in which the film’s participants explore their vulnerable self-images and take selfies, which prominently feature what they perceive as their personal physical flaws. With the help of a professional photographer, the girls build the courage to create art by embracing their least desirable feature thus expanding their definition of what beauty is. Exhibiting these images in a #BeautyIs selfie photo gallery, the young women share their newly discovered beauty with women of all ages in their community.

As part of its commitment to redefining beauty, Dove is supporting the 2013-2014 Mentorship Program of the Sundance Institute - Women In Film Los Angeles Women Filmmakers Initiative. The 2014 class of mentees includes six female filmmakers involved in both documentary and narrative projects who have been paired with mentors working in the industry today. The goal of the mentorship year is to provide these artists with support, community and access to help them advance their careers to the next level. Additionally, the Dove brand’s support allowed for the creation of the Dove Beauty Redefined Fellowship, providing a grant to Wade to create Selfie. As part of this grant, Wade was paired with two-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple, who acted as a mentor throughout the creative process.

Every woman has the power to redefine her own beauty. Traditionally, the media has told us who and what is beautiful. With the rise of social media, women now have the chance to tell each other what beauty means to them. Dove encourages women everywhere to share what beauty is to them through its #BeautyIs online experience. Every woman can play a role in influencing the definition of beauty, and Dove asks all women to redefine beauty together.