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Is it just me, or is there an overwhelming interest in diverse beauty of late? Be it Italian actress Monica Belucci becoming the first Bond girl - sorry, woman - she insists! Or the increasing number of magazine covers starring advocates like model Chantelle Winnie or Austrian Eurovision star Conchita Wurst. What was previously often unthinkable, is now being celebrated and embraced with great enthusiasm. But is this just another trend or is there more to it? Although, the debate surrounding diversity isn't new in itself, I don't think we've ever seen a boom of this dimension, let alone one involving such a broad spectre of, well, diversity. All of this is making me more and more hopeful that this time around we actually might change our perception of beauty for good.




So let's have a look at some of the brave individuals and initiatives that are pushing some much needed change within the fashion, beauty and related industries...



1) What if I knew that I was beautiful?




via YouTube


Confidence is a huge part of accepting ourselves and being therefore accepted by others for who we are. Hence the above Buzz Feed Yellow video seemed like a perfect starting point for this post. Mocking the common assumption that we're all lacking the necessary self-esteem to accept ourselves, One Direction & Co. are asked to give us a break for once!



2) Real beauty





Although beauty ideals can vary greatly across different cultures, it seems to be mainly western ones that dominate the international fashion press and the media in general.

Romanian photographer Mihaela Noroc tries to remind us with her "Atlas of Beauty" that there's still a lot of diversity to be found and admired in the world.

While US photographer Carey Fruth gives "American Beauty" a whole new meaning by portraying fourteen REAL beauties.

It's also a known fact that kids tell the truth like nobody else. This is what Yolanda Dominguez's latest video "Kids vs. Fashion" once again confirms. The Spanish artist let a group of primary school children comment on various high-end fashion campaigns. Let's just say there are quite a few awkward, but well-deserved home truths to be heard...



3) Rare beauty

  



















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Making up just 2% of the world's population, so-called "red-heads", are actually quite a rarity. But instead of adding to their appeal, red hair and freckly skin have been given a very hard time instead. That said, there have been various attempts to challenge perceptions. Take for example iconic photographer Steven Meisel, who's got a real thing for red hair!

Recently Tristan Rodgers decided to give fellow red-heads a chance to celebrate their beauty in his recently launched magazine MC1R. Red haired or not, this new jewel of a magazine is a real treat for anyone interested in diversity, as well as stunning photography.



4) On beauty




















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Is the title of US director Joana Rudnick's short film, which follows fashion photographer & founder of Positive ExposureRick Guidotti's quest to capture the beauty of people with genetic conditions. As the mother of one young participant says about Guidotti's pictures of her son: "he took pictures of him the way I saw him. Not the way everybody else saw him". Watching "On         Beauty" not only makes you understand the daily struggle someone     with a genetic condition goes through, but moreover lets each       participant shine in a way they probably rarely have before.






  
In the same spirit, Australian athlete Maddy Stuart (18), asked her mother to photograph her in her self-styled outfits, which went viral in no time. As her mother included in a recent press note to Popsugar, "People with down syndrome can be sexy and beautiful and should be celebrated." Looks like Maddy has torn down one of the last remaining beauty taboos in existence!



5) Beauty is BIG is beautiful


The long and tedious battle curvy ladies have been fighting, seems to have brought some improvements at last. Still, there's a lot left to be desired for, as Siri Bunford's video above for NOWNESS shows. The fashion industry, along with others, is adapting at snail pace, even though its members are only too keen to launch themselves at Lena Dunham's curves. Although last week's stage appearance with BFF Taylor Swift et al. looked slightly uncomfortable, but Lena was able to see the funny side of it as usual!



On the other hand, there's model Denise Bidotwho has gone from strength to strength since her appearance in US TV series "Curvy Girls"Having landed contracts with the likes of Levis, Nordstrom and Macy's, the Puerto Rican/Kuwaiti advocate for curvy models, has done a great deal to inspire self-esteem and a shift in public perception. 









































Luckily the recent #curvy hashtag ban on Instagram has finally been lifted, after many ladies showed off their curves in protest online.



6) Beautiful transformations

























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The huge impact Caitlyn Jenner's powerful speech at the Arthur Ashe Courage Award had, is undeniable. Thanks to her engagement and media status, people around the world were not only confronted with her transition, but had to question the taboos and discrimination trans communities still suffer nowadays. Some criticized Jenner for portraying a spectacular physical transition only affordable to a privileged few. An understandable frustration given the great lack of financial means and support many others in the same situation encounter. Watching the trailer of her reality show "I am Cait" though, you're moved by her concern and empathy for the struggle of fellow trans people. So I feel it's fair to say that stars like Caitlyn Jenner or "Orange is the new Black" actress Laverne Cox, have not only given a voice to their true self, but that of many others in their country and beyond. 





















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Interestingly, androgynous fashion is having quite a moment, especially in menswear, as Gucci's girlie meets granny chic A/W 2015 collection clearly demonstrates. But not only European designers dare to take on androgynous fashion. Perhaps you remember our recent post featuring Nigerian label Orange Culture below, which was featured in the latest Pitti Fondazione Discovery edition, in collaboration with the ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative






















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And as we all know, sharing is caring, which is made easier thanks to the rise in unisex brands. Take for example brand-of-the-moment, 69 is for Everyone below, an LA-based denim label which is creating a pretty cool casual variation of gender-neutral fashion.



Perhaps you have also heard of Apple Model Management, the first exclusive agency for transgender models in LA. As director Cecilio Anuncio explains in an interview with i-D: "Our strong commitment to developing them as successful models is never about quantifying or qualifying their gender. It's never a question of if they are women or men, it's about their passion and commitment to being the best possible models they can be."



7) Ageing beautifully and in style, or not...





























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Over the past few years we've seen a lot of glamorous ladies and gents defying age in style. There were the stars of Advanced Style, or icons like 83-year-old supermodel and uber beauty Carmen dell'Orefice or the brilliant Mrs. Apfel of course. 

However, others try a little less hard and convince with their fuss-free approach to beauty. Think for example Joan Didion in Céline's campaign by Juergen Teller earlier this year. 

...and then there are those who endear by not giving a hoot, such as Arizona's fun-loving Instagram darling Baddie Winkle. Under the slogan "stealing your man since 1928", the muse of Miley Cyrus, advocates everything from marijuana smoking to psychedelic tie-dye Tees and basically having a ball at any age - rock on!



8) Beauty beyond the clichés 























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While many high street chains like UNIQLO or Mango are tapping into the Muslim fashion market with their Ramadan collections, many Muslim women are still met with suspicion when freely choosing to wear the hijab. Luckily, there are more and more interesting attempts that challenge our preconceptions of what contemporary Muslim womanhood really entails. A great example is London art platform Variant Space, which offers an insight into the lives of female Muslim artists from all over the world. 





























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On the other hand, there are some pretty unusual stories too, like Moroccan photographer Hassan Hajjaj's portrayal below of Marrakech's young biker girls called "Kesh Angels". Once again, these much needed initiatives challenge common cliches as well as Western ideals of style and beauty.



9) The business of beauty




















Surprisingly, there is still little variety when it comes to makeup for people of color. However, this is no excuse for what model Nykhor Paul recently revealed in a post on Instagram: the fact that she had to bring her own makeup to all the fashion shows/shoots she's worked on. Judging by other voices in the industry, this kind of inequality is unfortunately not uncommon.
As Cheryl Burgees, MD and co-founder of Black Opal, a company specialized in cosmetics for skin of color, told Refinery 29 in a recent interview: "Even though I was a board-certified dermatologist with a quality skin-care line, we were always placed in the 'ethnic' section of the store with the hair pomades and other hair-care products instead of the skin-care section with other name-brand skin-care products.” 



10) New models of beauty


Lorde co-manager Nafisa


The lack of diversity on catwalks and fashion editorials sadly remains a huge issue, especially for black models, even decades after Iman (60), and later Naomi Campbell (45) first burst onto the scene. As Jourdan Dunn told the Guardian last year: "People in the industry say if you have a black face on the cover of a magazine it won't sell". Statistics seem to be improving a little, especially for Asian models, thanks to the demand from their domestic markets, however there's still a long way to go. 




Diversity report by TFS 

Agencies like Lorde Inc. are trying to set the record straight by representing only non-caucasian models, which might be a way to bring more diversity into the modeling scene. 

Personally, I've also got my hopes on the current African fashion boom, which will hopefully result in more diverse casting in the future.

A great advocate for diversity in modeling is Canadian Chantelle Winnie, who was diagnosed with vitiligo at the age of 4 (the same skin condition Michael Jackson had). Having been bullied as a child due to her appearance, Chantelle has been encouraging fans with low self-esteem throughout her inspiring journey to becoming a model.  



via YouTube



A highlight for diversity in modeling was last February's New York Fashion week catwalk which was entirely taken over by models with different disabilities. Let's hope will see them back soon!


  

Maybe you've heard of editor and blogger Jillian Mercado, who was also featured in the Diesel campaign (below) last year? Apart from being one of fashion's great young minds, she's also become a role model for other people with disabilities. Breaking taboos and promoting awareness thanks to her brilliant style and genuine sense of humour.






















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"Seated Design", a collection for wheelchair users by Parsons graduate Lucy Jones, is currently getting a lot of attention. Stylish, yet practical, Jones's collection includes clever designs that allow for e.g. more elbow mobility, which regular garments usually don't allow for. Find out more about this brilliant project here






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Of course there are many other important and inspiring people out there who are fighting for more diverse concepts of beauty every day. So whether you'd like to share your personal hero of diversity, or share your opinion on this fascinating topic in general, or this very post in particular, please leave us a comment below.

Many thanks!


+ P.S.



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