Beauty is one of the least straightforward concepts known to man. The beauty industry, in particular, is so complex and multifaceted that we have to educate ourselves, or at least I do, in order to minimize being susceptible to manipulation by brands, marketing, low self-esteem, and all the various influences that we are exposed to. Education is also useful to help us avoid being harmed by products that claim to enhance our beauty, but function at the risk of our health. Even then, education alone is not enough to protect us from the many subtle yet powerful influences of the beauty industry. This comes as no surprise when we consider that “[t]he beauty industry is never only about beauty.“ So what is the beauty industry about? And what is beauty? Join us in watching five excellent TED talks that explore these questions and several other intriguing aspects of beauty.
1. An Epidemic of Beauty Sickness | Renee Engeln
The Chidi Beauty woman is a smart woman. Every single one of us. Why else would we be interested in safer, less-toxic beauty products? As smart women, we know our worth is not found in our appearance. But as smart as we are, we are not exempt from being afflicted by beauty sickness. Psychologist Renee Engeln explains what beauty sickness is, and how even the smartest and most educated among us can fall ill.
2. A New Standard of Beauty | Amber Starks
What does a beautiful woman look like? In her TED talk, Amber Starks challenges us to not only examine our standard of beauty, but to get rid of it altogether. In so doing, she touches on the absurdity of beauty standards, and the importance of self-acceptance. We couldn’t agree with her more.
3. How Beauty Feels | Richard Seymour
When it comes to beauty we often think that we know it when we see it. But how much is our judgment of a person or object’s beauty informed by the information and feelings we already have? Designer Richard Seymour ponders this question as he asks us to consider, or rather reconsider what beauty really is.
4. The Danger of a Single Story | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi
If our knowledge about something shapes our impression of whether that thing is beautiful, then how, exactly, should we learn about the world around us? Author, makeup lover and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi cautions us against forming opinions based on one single story. Instead, she teaches us that by rejecting the single story we can regain a kind of paradise. And who doesn’t find paradise to be beautiful?
5. The Beauty of Human Skin in Every Color | Angelica Dass
Brazilian photographer Angelica Dass grew up, as most of us do, living in a world that is figuratively colour blind. However, as most of us also do, she grew up and that innocence was lost. Being forced to live in a world of colour, Dass undertook a powerful project, Humanae, in an effort to identify our true colours by separating race from colour, one Pantone number at a time.
Which of these TED talks is your favourite? Are there any other TED talks that belong on this list? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.