One is famed for warts-and-all realism, the other for high-end gloss, so there was always going to be something spectacular in the offing when British photographer Martin Parr was asked to shoot a make-up advertising campaign for the Italian fashion house Gucci.
The imagery – for the brand’s new L’Obscur mascara – features New York punk musician Dani Miller and her now-famous gap-toothed smile. With lashings of heavy black mascara, natural eyebrows (complete with, shock horror, regrowth), and minimal foundation, it has divided customers and started yet another debate about diversity, even in these times of increased body positivity.
‘This definitely isn’t going to sell their mascara … Looks like she’s put on old mascara that she’s found in the bottom of a drawer,” one user commented on the brand’s Facebook advertisement. Another asked, “Is this an SNL sketch?” referring to the comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live. Many also disapproved of Miller’s appearance – in particular, her missing lateral incisors – arguing that she shouldn’t be a model as her looks were too unconventional. “Doctors can’t be doctors if they aren’t smart. Models can’t be models if they aren’t pretty. That’s just how jobs work,” wrote one Instagram commenter.
“I’m shocked at some people’s responses on here,” wrote another. “People are publicly crying out for ‘real’ women to be used in their advertisements but when they do, all people can say is nasty things …”
Of course, this is not the first time that ads promoting more realistic or alternative standards of beauty have had a less than positive reception. Despite many beauty shoppers purporting to suffer from “perfection fatigue” when it comes to advertising, the Gucci furore is reminiscent of the one caused last year by two Gillette campaigns, one showing plus-sized model and author Anna O’Brien in a bikini and the other a model shaving her tattoed arms, with the tagline, “When the world expects you to follow the rules, write your own.” The skincare brand Dove have been the subject of criticism about its “real beauty” advertising campaigns since they began in 2006.
This is Gucci’s second campaign using Miller and Parr (the first, for lipstick, debuted in summer 2019). At that time, Miller spoke about her feelings about her appearance, saying: “Growing up you go through an evolution of overcoming insecurities and healing from being bullied or the intense pressures of fitting in the perfect cookie-cutter traditional style of beauty … and this [Gucci] campaign … has felt like a coming out party and a reiteration of feeling comfortable and proud to be myself …
“There is space for everyone to be themselves, even in the beauty and fashion world! Hope it inspires everyone including the youth to love their quirks … Hate and exclusion are so washed out.”
The creative director of Gucci, Alessandro Michele, says he designed the £30 mascara “for an authentic person who uses makeup to tell their story of freedom … We looked for somewhat eccentric personalities who really wear their makeup in this way.”
“Your flaws are not actually flaws,” Miller told Vogue. “Yes, there are traditional beauty standards, but if you don’t fit into that, you can still have a party with your quirks – and celebrate yourself.”
And if it creates a stir, all the better. As the old adage goes, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. And certainly not when it comes to selling beauty products.
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