2021 Winner: The Idealized Feminine Self: 
Effortlessly Sexy, Confident, and Cool

Project Information
The Idealized Feminine Self: 
Effortlessly Sexy, Confident, and Cool
FMST 195: Senior Thesis or Project
This article explores how women negotiate beauty and body image practices within the context of mass media paying particular attention to the relationship between psychological states and representations of femininity. Drawing on contemporary research, this work is based on an analysis of feminist and psychological theories alongside a popular beauty tutorial series titled Beauty Secrets published by Conde Nast and Vogue magazine on the brand’s YouTube social media channel. The videos feature celebrities and influencers from across the globe who discuss and perform their beauty and skincare routines in detail within the context that they are sharing “beauty secrets” with their fans, followers, and consumers of popular media. In addition to providing details typically in a beauty tutorial, the contributors discuss their personal experiences and notions of what beauty means to them, how and where they first learned about makeup and beauty practices, and their viewpoints on using visual appearances as a tool to achieve creative expression, confidence, and self-care. When talking about beautification practices they formulated narratives about their own approaches to beauty practices, and draw on various discourses that place women’s beautification routines as a highly-skilled, often pleasurable learned behavior that is regularly required in their subjective experiences of life in front of a camera or on social media. Consumers and creators of popular media have adopted and adapted an idealized femininity that is self-confident, sexually empowered, physically enhanced, and habitually appearance-ready for the possibility of photos being posted online. The findings suggest that popular media strongly influences the ideals of femininity and self-confidence which emerges from a women’s personal production of visual appearances by using specific beautification practices and by composing correlating psychological states in relation to appearance. Cultural and media influences on perspectives of beauty and body image are complex and multi-layered. This paper seeks to understand the intertwined relationship between popular culture, women’s beautification processes, and psychological states, while examining the fluctuation between contradictory, yet coexisting, visual and narrative discourses including the "no-makeup makeup” look, and makeup as a tool for self-care. The analysis is based on qualitative in-depth examination of Vogue’s Beauty Secrets videos posted to youtube, and the findings are discussed in the light of Judith Butler’s theory of Gender Performance and Fredrickson and Roberts’s Objectification Theory of internalized objects of sexual desires in our appearance-based culture.
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  • Jasmine Ava Simone (Kresge)