Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – or is it?
Certainly, Aliff Syukri learned the hard way that what he perceived as beautiful or ugly could not be generalized to the wider population.
The socialite/host received wide spreading backlash after he singled out a female audience member for being “ugly” and “having a face like a bomoh”. Presumably, her only crime was having a somewhat darker complexion. Some of the things he said were so out of line that they can only be meant in humour. Nevertheless, his words were shocking and embarrassing for everyone involved. Worse was that he felt somehow that he was entitled to say those things, and then to “fix” her with some of his beauty products.
When netizens raced to the woman’s defence, denouncing Syukri, he released an apology video in which he barely apologized. Instead he claims that he merely “misused” the word ugly and lamented that he was being misunderstood.
The standards of beauty in Malaysia have always been extremely narrow. Big, doe eyes. Long dark hair. High, firm breasts. Feminine features, the more Western looking the better. And fair skin. Despite Malaysia being a melting pot of a rainbow of differently coloured people, the prevailing belief is that fair is always better.
Although it doesn’t give Syukri any right to embarrass an audience member, he runs his business in an environment where it is taken for granted that to be beautiful, one must first be fair. The thriving marketplace has helped many a celebrity make their fortune selling whitening beauty products.
Yet we live in the 21st century. Inclusivity is increasingly something that people expect from brands that expect to sell them products. In this sense Malaysian brands still have much to do to catch up.
Take Victoria’s Secret for example, which recently faced a backlash over some inconsiderate comments made by their Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek who said that the company would never cast transgender or plus-sized models in their famous fashion shows because being “politically correct” was not part of the brand.
People were furious at his comments, with both plus-sized and transgender models being especially critical. Model Tess Holliday made especially pertinent comments that with the wide availability of progressive lingerie brands that cater to all shapes and sizes, Victoria’s Secret runs the risk of being out of date and left behind.
Competitor brand Savage by FENTY (brainchild of singer Rihanna) is frequently lauded as being an inclusive brand that celebrates diverse body types. Their fashion show featured models of races and body types, including pregnant women. Next to a show like this, it’s inevitable that the Victoria’s Secret mentality feels slightly antiquated.
And although Razek eventually did apologize, the damage was done. This PR crisis, coupled with declining sales has brought on the resignation of the company’s CEO, Jan Singer.
Brands must realize that in this day and age, options truly abound. People can not only voice their dissatisfaction on one of myriad channels available to them, but also vote with their wallets.
And hopefully one day we will see a world in which every kind of beauty is celebrated.
What is your brand doing to be more inclusive?
How would your brand participate in the golden age of the geek?
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