LBefore makeup moguls like Jeffree Star and Kylie Jenner sold lip kits and mystery boxes on Instagram, there was the old way of selling beauty products: on the pages of women’s magazines.
These ads are now being reshaped for 2021 with a wide range of models in the spotlight, from queer to trans to non-binary. Prim-n-poppin is an online exhibition featuring copycat beauty ads shot in an old-school style – sparkling eyeshadows, cheesy smiles, and of course, up-to-date catchphrases that reflect the present day.
The series is co-created by New York photographer Julia Comita and makeup artist Brenna Drury and aims to challenge outdated beauty standards. It shows how far we have come in the last 50 years and how far we still have to go.
“We asked ourselves, ‘What would the future look like today if these ads had been the standard of the past?’” Drury asks. “As creatives, we want to challenge the industry to take responsibility for its marketing and diversify its talent pool.”
The images are based on old ads promoting Sally Hansen nail polish, Maybelline eyeshadow, flavored lip balm, and foaming facial soap alongside racially diverse and LGBTQ models. Each ad is shot in shades of cool pinks and pastel blues, with lines like, “It’s pure! It’s strange! “and” Colors that scream ‘I’ll probably leave your text message read’ “.
“They are supposed to look like old ads, we try to be as authentic as possible with the graphic design and photography of the time, which normalizes the talent in them,” Comita said. “If you’re only used to a standard of beauty, that’s horrible. It had a negative effect on many people growing up. It should not be like that “.
One shows trans model Maria rivera posing with a rainbow eyeshadow palette, accompanied by a beaming smile. She explains that she always had a dream of working in the beauty industry while growing up in the Philippines.
“I have always been a believer in sincere inclusion, regardless of race, color, sex, and body size,” Rivera said. “Beauty doesn’t just come in one size or color or box shape, it’s universal and we are all beautiful in our own way.”
One of the biggest problems, Rivera says, is the symbolism of brands wanting to wear trans models, for example, only during pride month in June. “To eliminate tokenism in the mainstream, we have to go out and occupy our own space,” Rivera said. “We should not be afraid or afraid of being rejected, rather we should accept our differences and accept our uniqueness. Only then will others see the beauty within us. “
Comita and Drury wanted each model to be not only seen but heard. They have included the voices of each model on the project website, as the project aims to show the diversity that was lacking at the time and hear what each model has to say about the past, present and potential future.
The duo reached out to different modeling agencies that focus on diversity and that represent the trans community. “In the future, I hope that more agencies will expand their talent pool,” he adds.
This type of project recalls the story of Tracey “Africa” Norman, a transgender model who worked for Clairol, Avon and Balenciaga in the 1970s, but had to hide it. She only told her story in 2015 about how she made history as the first black trans modeland how dangerous her life was back then.
“Now, people have models that look like them, showing that the possibilities are much wider than they are used to,” Drury said. “It’s great that people are more represented, but there is still a lot to do.”
Other models featured in the series include Cory Walker, who says old-school beauty advertising made him “feel invisible in so many ways,” as well as Kaguya, who wants the beauty industry to include size and age range. “The general public is still very fat and closed-minded,” Kaguya said.
Cecilio Asunción, the exploration director for Slay Model Management, says that employment is always a problem in the trans community.
“It is important to highlight and underline many definitions of beauty, not just the cis-het, Eurocentric ones that have served us for decades, if not centuries,” said Asunción, who represents Rivera.
He says projects like Prim-n-Poppin are important as a form of social commentary. “Once people start conversations about beauty diversity, companies and brands realize,” she said, “which will turn into more opportunities.”
Comita says they hope to expand the project and hopefully have an exhibition later, “that’s the dream,” he said.
The 1970s was used as inspiration, as it was a time that something could be related to, according to the photographer. It was not the stark 1950s, where many advertisements were directed at housewives, nor the 1960s, which was still conventional and had clear racist and sexist overtones.
The images have something dreamy or heavenly, be it the pastel color palette or the thoughtful gaze of each model. However, they use the past to show us a potential future for the beauty industry.
“For me, this project represents all the dreams of transgender youth to have the freedom to choose,” Rivera said. “And live their lives without any prejudice or need to conform to the mold and norms of society.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism