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Musings on Beauty from a Twenty-Something: Why Does Everyone Suddenly Look So Perfect

Beauty standards, ozempic, filler, Botox,

We’ve found ourselves in a paradox: Never before have we had more simultaneous accessibility and disconnect to one another.

This perplexing but predictable paradigm has me google searching the effects of the internet on my brain, chat GBT-ing to generate a conversation affirming my wariness about AI, comparing paparazzi shots to airbrushed editorials to confirm the use of Ozempic (wait, should I be on Ozempic?) and religiously following the gospel according to the algorithm in never-ending circles of change directly depositing into the back pocket of capitalism.

Last week, I spent an alarming number of hours zooming in on images of my face from 4 years ago up to now. The purpose? Facing the facts and concluding the inevitable — I had aged. I panic-texted a friend for aesthetician recommendations and immediately scheduled a consultation. I searched TikTok (ill-advised…) until I found the most realistic ‘aged’ filter and anxiously waited for it to reveal my future reality. There I was — lines, wrinkles? Who WAS she? This wasn’t the 50 and fabulous version of myself that I had mentally curated.

Maybe a coincidence and maybe not, a few days later, new Vogue showed up in my mailbox. A glossy cover photo of the original Supers dazzling in cool blacks, striking silvers and shimmering sequins underneath a pile of bills and adverts — “The Greatest of All Time.”

Cindy stood out to me the most — I always thought she resembled my mom, and agreed with the masses that she was possibly the most beautiful woman to grace runway stages and fashion campaigns. “Goals is Cindy in the 90s” I thought, staring at the fuzzy flash photos at low light industry parties and backstage of her iconic shows. There she was, bright red lip and matching halter dress bejeweled with silver and diamonds, sheer tights and a smokey eye.

I asked myself why I’m always drawn to digitals — poor quality paparazzi portfolios and candid leaks. Why does it resonate so much more than modern filtered photography? Why am I trading in my 4k for a old Cannon off ebay? Why are the Supers so super? I was waiting in my new-found aesthetician’s lobby when it hit me — smudgy mascara, sweaty brows, foundations creases from laugh lines, frizzy flyaways, un-laminated eyebrows, un-frozen foreheads —- real real real real real.

Women — frozen in a frumpy feeling of freedom in a smokey basement somewhere in Manhattan. Had they seen their faces since they left makeup hours before, except for a haphazard reapplication of lipstick in a scratched up pocket mirror after leaving evidence on the rim of a martini glass? Did anyone know they went out that night until the candids leaked? How were they so beautiful but so undone? “That’s why!” I realized as my name was called from the perfectly-filled lips of the provider. We’ve become such masters of beauty that we lost touch with the mystery of it. We’ve put a filter on our femininity and documented it into a devalued distortion of beauty plastered and posted at the disposal of the masses.

And we wonder why we feel like we have a facade hangover, I thought, showing the nurse what I wanted fixed.

Written by Kat DeRespino

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