Arden and Rubinstein were each born poor in the late 1800’s and aspired to be among the socially elite. Both women immigrated to America to build a cosmetic empire during a time when wearing makeup was as taboo as women running multi-million dollar businesses. They located in New York within blocks of each other, despised one another, and never collaborated. Instead, they lured away each other’s top employees and stole each other’s trade secrets. They had a rivalry like no other. The stuff that makes for a great Broadway musical. So great, that the stage adaptation of “War Paint” received four 2017 Tony Award nominations.
‘War Paint’ brought to life a piece of history that all women should know. Much of the shame advertising used to make women feel inadequate was pioneered during this era.
Arden associated natural looks with poverty shame by creating an upscale salon experience that made beautification a status symbol for the socially elite. Previously, make up was associated with prostitutes, showgirls, and low class women. Arden flipped the script and made women feel poor and socially inferior without makeup.
Rubinstein focused on the science of anti-aging where she “diagnosed” the skin as oily, dry or combination. She then “prescribed” cosmetics accordingly. Despite having no medical background and only 2 months of known formal training on skincare, Rubinstein often appeared wearing a doctor’s coat in a science lab. Her pseudoscience treated unattractiveness and aging as medical conditions. This shame strategy was so effective that, now, perfectly healthy people routinely go to real doctors to get life threatening beautification surgery.
Both companies overcharged for their cheaply made products and justified the cost with “implied value” (e.g. charging more makes the product feel valuable). However, when the cheap and harmful ingredients were publicly revealed, women were shocked. Some of the ingredients included sheep secretions (lanolin) and perfumes to cover the smell - still used in many products today.
Harmful chemical beauty products spawned propaganda that wrongfully linked health and beauty to deflect attention away from toxic ingredients and onto “healthy looking skin.” Actual healthy skin wasn’t the goal. Health and beauty propaganda continues to confuse women so Body Peace University teaches the healthy way to rejuvenate skin and erase wrinkles.
Masterful marketers, both Arden and Rubinstein created countless harmful myths still believed today. Here are 3:
MARKETING MYTH #1: Beauty is hard work.
Rubinstein would say: “there are no ugly women, only lazy ones." Part of her business model was to shame women into working hard (e.g. use more products) to “fix plain looks.” This propaganda lives on whereby many people associate natural beauty with a poor work ethic. Over 70% of female job applicants say they would not dare show up to an interview without makeup. This illustrates how most women falsely believe that hard work on their looks generates work that yields good income.
MARKETING MYTH #2: Makeup Makes Women Seen
In Patriarchal culture, women often feel unseen. In the early 1900’s, Arden and Rubinstein capitalized on this by giving makeup to the Suffragettes so they could “be seen” while fighting for voting rights; thus associating makeup with women’s liberation.
Later, as movies became more popular, actresses had to ALWAYS wear heavy makeup to be deemed worthy of being seen. Stars “caught without makeup” could lose their contract. The use of makeup to empower women quickly morphed into a burdensome (and expensive) obligation.
In 2016, superstar Alicia Keys pushed back on the makeup requirement by appearing on nationally televised events ”bare faced.” Commenter LaShanda Jefferson, challenged Keys’ #NoMakeup campaign by asking: “So, what becomes of makeup artists? Should they now feel as though they are preying on women?” Her question summarizes an age old debate on whether or not the economy can survive women embracing natural beauty.
Body Peace University discussed beauty shame advertising with Jaye Renee’, author of The 6 Figure Stylist: Secrets To Exploding Your Beauty Industry Business. Renee’ shared enlightening views on make-up shame, hair shame, and how beauty professionals can thrive by making women feel confident.
MARKETING MYTH #3: Makeup Makes Women Powerful
Arden and Rubinstein understood the importance of product placement. They used celebrity associations, connected to social movements in the news, and even launched a special product line to image female soldiers. They made wearing makeup patriotic; further associating makeup with women’s power.
Cosmetic advertisers still hire influential women to model their product lines. So, don’t get confused. Makeup did not make women powerful, powerful women were made to wear makeup when in the public eye. Often, successful women outside of the public eye, wear very little makeup.
There is nothing wrong with non-toxic makeup used to enhance natural features. Body Peace University even teaches a live workshop on how to make natural makeup. The problem is with creating toxic products and forcing women to wear them via social penalization for being “bare faced.”
If you are a fan of Broadway musicals like me, “War Paint” is a must see.
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