What Is American Beauty In The Year 2018?

The November Issue 2018
Photos by Lauren Perlstein/courtesy of Fluide and Getty Images

It can't quite be labeled

The American beauty industry is in the midst of a major transformation. Old and outdated American beauty standards and ideals have shifted—radically. Women of color are finally beginning not only to see themselves accurately represented in campaign imagery but also in terms of available products, thanks to pioneering brands like Rihanna's Fenty Beauty and Flesh Beauty.

Also, over the past couple of years, we've seen gender fluidity thrive across the industry, with the gender binary being broken down not only in campaigns, but serving as the ethos for emerging (and, not surprisingly, buzzy) brands. Androgynous looks have not only been embraced on the runways and in campaigns but also sported by some of our favorite celebrities.

It's no coincidence this is happening at a time when so many of us are feeling oppressed and silenced; beauty is one important and expressive outlet that many of us share.

So, what exactly is American beauty in the year 2018?

It's clear that "beauty" as a concept is constantly evolving, and that this evolution has taken on new speed in our ever-shifting media landscape. Linda Wells, founder of inclusive cosmetics brand Flesh Beauty and chief creative officer at Revlon (as well as former editor-in-chief of Allure), explains:

What sparked the shift was pure, basic reality. Having one standard of beauty—a blue-eyed blonde woman with symmetrical features, long hair, and a thin body—was considered ideal for far too long. It persisted until about the mid-1970s. As the population changed, so did civil and political rights, and that allowed true individuals to be acknowledged and respected in all aspects of our culture, including beauty. Beauty standards have always reflected the prevailing culture. And I'm happy that culture has changed and become more varied, more interesting, and more representative.

Isabella Giancarlo, founder of gender-fluid cosmetic brand Fluide, feels that this shift has been a long time in the making, as those who didn't fit into these old-school ideals have been fighting back for quite some time. "Pioneers within the social justice movement have been struggling to shift the culture for years, and the work is ongoing," she says. "Those traditionally on the margins—whether through race, sexual orientation, or gender identity—have been fighting tirelessly for equality and visibility. Only recently have underrepresented groups been truly included by mainstream media and fashion and beauty companies."

Activist, author, producer, and previous Fluide campaign face Jacob Tobia agrees, stating that it's finally come to head as a result of generations upon generations of fighting:

One of the ways that dominant culture works to keep marginalized people oppressed is by making us feel ugly, by telling us that our bodies aren't desirable, by telling us that we should look like them. Aesthetics and fashion have always been a part of how marginalized folks have been oppressed, and oppressed people have been fighting for centuries to shift beauty norms—from women fighting to wear pants to black Americans fighting for natural hair to gender-nonconforming people fighting to be appreciated outside of the gender binary. Isolating one moment or one singular reason why these norms started to shift is impossible, because activists have been fighting this fight for generations.

However long in the making, though, it wasn't until recently that there has been tangible change in the advertisements we see and the products that are available to us. Why has it taken this long to see actual change?

One reason is that we now have social media. Despite having many negative connotations, there's no denying that it's allowed marginalized people all over the country—and world—to have a platform to express themselves, thus changing what we consider to be the "face" of beauty.

"I think the spark really started when social media started trending, Instagram especially," says makeup artist Tony Tulve. "The actual face of beauty was being seen on such a wider scale than it had been before, and it was more accessible. Now it wasn't just celebrity beauty, or even what was in a magazine à la editorial or trend, but it started to show what the actual consumer side of beauty was and how it was being practiced and revered."

However, just as people question whether runways and fashion campaigns becoming more racially, size-, age-, and gender-inclusive is simply a trend that brands are jumping on or whether it's actual change that's here to stay, they also wonder the same about the beauty industry. Will brands continue to pump out 40 shades of foundation, promote bodies of all shapes, colors, identities, and ages in their campaigns and lose the outdated beauty standards of the past for good?

Those I spoke with think so, but even if it's a movement that's here to stay, there's no doubt about it that the industry still has a long way to go. In 2018—even after the launch of Flesh and Fenty, and the shade range expansions from brands like Milk Makeup—other prominent brands are still getting it wrong. We're still seeing rail-thin, white models act as the face of most major beauty campaigns.

Giancarlo thinks that the shift that's taken place over the past couple of years is only the beginning of a bigger, more powerful movement to come. "I think that mainstream culture is just at the beginning of the process of expanding its notions of beauty," she says. "Many more identities are acknowledged and included—but the real goal is to move beyond the rigid categorizations in general"—something she specifically created her brand to do.

"Looking at the world right now, there is a great necessity for an unlearning and a relearning," says Rob Smith, founder of gender-free retail store The Phluid Project. "What is gender? What is beauty?" This is something that Smith hopes that The Phluid Project will help bring to light as it challenges gender boundaries and normalizes expression. "For many, gender is an expression, and how they choose to showcase this to the world is often via beauty products. This is in no way a trend. It's a way of living that cuts deeper than the makeup we put on our face; it's a reflection of who we are on the inside."

The fact is, you can't really put a label on American beauty today. As Wells explains, "American beauty is as varied as the American population. And for that reason, American beauty is a multitude of faces, body types, genders, and ages. Instead of a single ideal, we have a rich variety. So rather than think of American beauty as a physical definition, I like to think of it as a set of values. It's inclusive, inviting, optimistic, expressive—just like our culture at its best."

Photo by Handout / Getty Images.

From selling probiotic supplements to picture frames and umbrellas

A Kardashian-level of success doesn't happen overnight, and it certainly doesn't happen without proper planning. Kim Kardashian West clearly knows this because, according to TMZ, she has already filed for trademark protection on the name of her two-week-old baby, Psalm West. From personal appearances and entertainment services to probiotic supplements and scrunchies, she is leaving no stone unturned in terms of possible business opportunities.

Apparently, all of the Kardashian parents file these kinds of trademark protections for their kids even if the businesses never come to fruition. It's done as a precautionary measure to keep others from profiting off of their name and to make sure that, should they ever want to start a business, they don't have to worry about someone else getting to it first. The sheer length of this list speaks to the huge earning potential of baby Psalm, who can't even control his own neck muscles yet, let alone go into business. Still, this brings a whole new meaning to "securing the bag."

Below, a list of all the things Kardashian West is seeking usage rights for.

Hair accessories












Hair extensions

Ornamental novelty pins

Entertainment services

Personal appearances

Skin care

Probiotic supplements

Toy figures

Doll accessories

Computer software


Baby bottles






Skin moisturizers



Bubble bath


Body powders

Shower gels

Body oils

Skin serums

Nail polish

Nail polish remover

Nail care preparations



Toy jewelry

Toy cameras

Toy food

Bath toys

Baby gyms

Playground balls

Electronic action toys

Baby bouncers

Baby changing tables

Baby walkers




Picture frames


Baby carriers

Cosmetic bags

Toiletry cases

Duffle bags




Key chains



photo albums



Writing utensils

Collectible trading cards

Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Well, actually it's crocodile, but she looks out of this world so...

Winnie Harlow walked the Cannes red carpet on Wednesday on her way to a screening of Oh Mercy!, wearing a showstopping gown.

The sheer black dress featured green embroidery on the front and back, which Ralph and Russo confirmed was in the shape of a crocodile. She belted the dress with a black crocodile skin-like belt and finished the look off with some strappy heels. She didn't leave it at just that. For beauty, Harlow packed on full lids of sparkly purple eyeshadow. She kept her hair sleek and simple.

Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Though the brand says otherwise, as Game of Thrones fans, we'd like to think the embroidery is reminiscent of a dragon's skin. Not to mention, Harlow looks out-of-this-world beautiful in it.

Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

That denim kimono!!

Marion Cotillard shut down the Cannes red carpet on Wednesday at a screening for Matthias Et Maxime. Instead of an extravagant gown that's expected of the event, Cotillard wore a matching black crop top and shorts. Despite wearing an outfit I typically don to a hot yoga class, she looks incredible. She completed the look with an oversized denim kimono, a statement necklace, and heeled booties.

Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

At first, I was drawn in by the crop top and hotpants duo, but, after looking closer at the kimono, it's clear that it's the real scene-stealer. The floor-length Balmain piece was decorated with artful rips and dragon motifs. I would like to live in it.

Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Let's all bow down to the Khaleesi of Cannes.

Asset 7
Photo by Frazer Harrison / Getty Images.

"It doesn't make you weak to ask for help"

Singer Billie Eilish is continuing to open up about mental health, this time in a new PSA video in partnership with the Ad Council and Seize the Awkward.

In the video, Eilish insists that "it doesn't make you weak to ask for help." She doubles down on the importance of asking for help, and stresses the importance of friends and family being there when their close ones reach out and checking in on them as well. "You should be able to ask anyone for help, everyone has to help someone if they need it." According to Eilish, there have been times when someone reached out to her at the exact moment she needed it, and it helped.

It was particularly refreshing to see Eilish acknowledge that there are things she still doesn't know and has to learn about her mental health. At the very beginning of the video, the interviewer asks her to reflect on her mental health journey, and all Eilish can do is let out chortle. "I think when people hear, 'Remember to take care of your mental health,' they think that everyone else is, and that is not at all accurate," she admitted. "You know, for me I'm trying to learn still to make sure that I stay okay."

Check out the PSA below.

Billie Eilish On Mental Health & Friendship | Ad Council

Photograph via @kimkardashian.


Kim Kardashian has definitely been accused of borrowing a design now and then. But when Instagram influencer and Kardashian look-alike Kamilla Osman claimed the entrepreneur copied her birthday look for a Met Gala after-party, Kardashian was not going to let it fly—and shared plenty of photo evidence to shut down the claim.

Fashion industry watchdog Diet Prada first noticed Osman's claims on Instagram and shared side-by-side images of Kardashian's Cher-inspired outfit designed by Mugler and Osman's dress. "Never get confused with who 'inspires' who. They won't give you credit but they will copy," Osman wrote on her IG story. "I designed this dress for my birthday last year. Nobody had a dress like this was an original design."

Kardashian responded by posting the true inspiration behind her look: images of Cher, in similarly sparkly, plunging-neckline dresses and wigs, and of model Yasmeen Ghauri walking a Mugler show in the '90s. In fact, the only similarity between Osman's and Kardashian's looks is the bodycon mini-dress style, which the two are not the first to wear. Among the images, Kardashian included a blank slide with the hashtag "NotOnMyMoodBoard," making it clear that this was in response to Osman's claims.

Screenshot via @KimKardashian Instagram Stories

Screenshot via @KimKardashian Instagram Stories

Though I am with Kim on this one, Kardashian does have a history of co-opting other people's work. From being sued over her Kimoji app, to claims she copied makeup palettes and perfume bottle designs, to being accused of copying Naomi Campbell's entire style, it's far from the first (and probably, far from the last) time Kardashian's name will be mentioned like this.