Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Janet Jackson, Beauty, Class and a Little Blackglama

I recently came across the above Blackglama advertisements featuring Janet Jackson, and I was absolutely blown away.  Janet has always been a force to be reckoned with. She is beautiful and talented though, she really cannot act - think For Colored Girls People.  I found myself staring at the image for quite some time, absolutely transfixed, but I could not put my finger on what was holding my attention.  I finally stopped looking and headed to wiki to look up some quick facts on Ms. Jackson.

The first thing I discovered is that Janet was born on May 16, 1966.  That makes the baby of the Jackson family 45 years old. For a woman of any age, Janet look amazing.  She is obviously in top physical shape, with a gorgeous smile, and flawless skin.  I acknowledge that a good portion of this can be easily reduced to photoshopping.  When women appear on magazine covers or in advertising, what we see is more like an artists rendering of what they look like, than their actual appearance. Consumers never see the real photographs, and so we have no idea how close the image that we see in its final form, actually reflects the person featured.

Let's say for the sake of argument, let's say that the photo is indeed Janet as she looks today, what other factors could explain the fact that at 45 she looks like she could be 30 or even younger? Of course, genetics plays a huge factor in how we age.  There is also plastic surgery to consider, because as we know, the Jackson family is no stranger to going under the knife. But the most obvious reason, and the one few will stop to think about is class.  Janet looks like she does because she has money, and this allows her the ability to maintain that flawless body and beautiful skin.

One of the biggest indication of class are teeth.  People who have money, go to the dentist on a regular basis.  Crooked teeth are straightened, cavities are filled and teeth are bleached to give them an extra White appearance.  This is so normalized that when Lindsay Lohan recently had pictures taken revealing teeth that had distinct brown spots, it became a hot topic of conversation.  Can you even remember the last time you saw a celebrity with less than a dazzling smile, who wasn't English?  For some reason the blinding white smile doesn't seem to be a big thing in the UK.


Aside from the fact that Janet is wearing fur, which clearly indicates wealth, the more obvious sign of why wealth is the physical size of her body.  If you have money, you can afford to buy healthy options and more importantly you have the time to cook, or pay someone to cook for you. What we use to fuel our body not only effects our energy levels, but the shape and size of our bodies.  If you are poor enough to be forced to use food banks, you eat what you get.  Even if you are able to avoid food banks, high calorie, high fructose foods are far cheaper than healthier options.  If you have to chose between buying expensive food, and not having enough to eat throughout the month, or buying inexpensive unhealthy food and be full throughout the month, the processed food will win every time.

Janet's diet not only effects her size, but her hair and her skin.  Not every indicator of health that is visible in the image that is the result of photoshopping many are a direct result of Jackson's class. From massages, to expensive body lotions and exfoliating creams, clearly a financial investment has been made. Many women regardless of class, do have their own beauty rituals that they adhere to.  I do my nails every single night and once a week I use Clinque's turnaround facial mask.  I also use special cleansers to deal with the fact that my skin seems to be going through a second puberty.  The products that I use, reflect my class because I can only use what I can afford to buy, and the same is true of every woman.  I will never be able to afford the spas and treatments that are available to Jackson simply based in class difference.

The other marker of class that is quite obvious is clothing.  Though Janet is wearing fur in the above ad, it is not out of her financial reach to fill her closet with fur.  Advertisements for clothing are often marketed via class.  Walmart for instance markets cheaply made clothing to working class and or poor people.  Those who cannot afford even Walmart's low prices, shop at places like Goodwill.  There is a section of the population that loves to wear what has been termed retro clothing to make it marketable however, even these used items are over priced, simply based on who they are being marketed to.  Should we be elevating designer clothing as necessary to be perceived as beautiful?  For many, these clothes will simply be forever unattainable, and yet so much time and money is invested in trying to procure these items.  There is a reason that so many have credit card debt that is simply out of control. The mantra now is that people need to live within their means; however, the line between need and want is continually blurred by the fact that we construct minimum appearance standards to access different social circles and even employment. The saying dress for success actually caries real weight in our world.

I think that if we are going to go to the trouble to dissect what is real and what is fake in our advertising, we should take it one step further and look at the messages that appear to be natural in the image itself.  One could just look at the photo and think Janet looks great, and fur really isn't cool, or one could think about what this ostentatious display of wealth really means. What does it mean that such obvious wealth is continually proudly displayed in a world where children are going to school hungry and people are living on the streets.  Is it really humane to normalize the kind of consumption that is way beyond the means of the average person and what does this say about our priorities.