Singer and body confidence advocate, Lizzo, appeared on Dove’s Beauty Summit Tuesday, April 20, to kick off the latest in the brand’s Self-Esteem Project.
The Unilever-owned brand, which created the Self-Esteem concept in 2004, is now tackling the impact of social media digital distortion in a campaign called “Shelfie Talk.” The initiative was announced during their two-day Beauty Summit that also delved into critical issues including hair discrimination, the Crown Act, censorship and the importance of protecting the planet.
The centerpiece of “Shelfie Talk” is a film called Reverse Selfie, that shows the digital effects used to create a young girl’s new look on social media. The theme echoes a 2006 Dove ad, “Evolution,” that showed a natural-looking girl transformed into a supermodel.
Dove’s research shows that by age 13, 80 percent of girls have uploaded a retouched photo. Girls who distort their photos are more likely to have low body-esteem than those who don’t — 48 percent versus 28 percent. Dove’s findings also reveal that if images on social media were more representative of the way girls look in everyday life, they would feel more confident.
“With the rise of social media, digital distortion is now happening on a much bigger scale, by younger people, without regulation. We see so much creativity and expression of self-identity through the use of filters, but when using editing apps to digitally distort images to conform to unrealistic beauty standards, it can be damaging to the self-esteem of young people,” said Firdaous El Honsali, Dove Global Communications and Sustainability Director. “Dove wants to highlight this issue and provide tools to parents and carers to help young people navigate social media in a positive way.”
As its newest brand ambassador, Lizzo amplified the message on Instagram with her own unedited selfie, noting that she would usually “fix my belly” and smooth her skin. On a Zoom during the summit, Lizzo said she had to shift from body negative to body positive for survival. “Body positive is in the mainstream now,” she said. “This body is normal.” (She also took a moment to encourage people to take a “deep healing breath” as the verdict was about to be called in the murder of George Floyd).
Lizzo acknowledged that there were no filters available when she was younger. “When I was their age, the girls who are now 12 or 13, I felt the same way. I remember waking up and wanting to be someone else, change my body, change my eye color, my hair texture, the shape of my body, the color of my skin. But I didn’t have photo retouching, I didn’t have filters or anything like that,” she said.
“Now it scares me to think there is a tool that cashes in on insecurity and feeds the monster. There is something dangerous about that,” she said.
Even with her stature, social media can sting. “I quit Twitter when I was trending for not good reasons,” she added.
Dove found that 82 percent of parents have the sex talk, but only 30 percent are chatting with their kids about the pressures of social media. To that end, Dove produced The Confidence Kit, which includes the Selfie Talk, an icebreaker to open up discussions about social sites. Some of the talking points include the fact social media is not reality, that there is an unfollow button and it is healthier to avoid “mindless scrolling.”
In addition to the campaign debut, the summit dug into critical issues impacting the beauty industry.
During one of the most impactful sessions, “Loving Our Natural Hair: Progress and the Path Forward,” Dove Self-Esteem Project Educator, Dre Brown, moderated a panel including Esi Eggleston Bracey, the Chief Operating Officer and EVP Beauty and Personal Care for Unilever North America; Holly J. Mitchell, the Los Angeles County Supervisor who has championed The Crown Act; makeup artist Ruby Williams; the BBC’s Emma Dabiri; South African TV host, Hulisani Ravele, and blogger Maraisa Fidelis.
They shared personal stories of the challenges faced by women of color—from being sent home from school for their hairstyles to Esi’s recollection of the pain of burns from hair relaxers.
“I had a teacher who took me into a room to make my hair smaller,” recalled Ruby, who said the experience impacted her learning.
Stories like that inspired Holly to push for The Crown Act, which is legislation designed to formally tackle race-based hair discrimination in the workplace and schools and protecting Black women and men’s rights to wear their natural hair, braids, locs, twists, bantu knots and more.
“My personal hair choice has zero impact on my ability to perform my job. That’s my aha moment and supports my efforts to carry this bill,” Holly said.
Esi, who’s own hair story included how freeing it felt to lob off her corporate bob for natural styles. “Hair discrimination is discrimination period. We have to change the culture and change the laws. Some people don’t know it is the law that schools can expel you for hair; you can be denied employment. When people find out they don’t accept it and that’s why we are proud to champion the Crown Act.”
In another, session, “(Un)Filtered: From Being Censored to Being Seen,” famed TV producer and writer, Shonda Rhimes, shared how empowering it is to show authentic women on screen. “It is humbling to have the opportunity to write characters that don’t subscribe to other people’s beauty standards,” Shonda said, admitting she’s still asked whether a female character should wear more makeup or if T.V. series Scandal lead character, Olivia Pope, shouldn’t be nicer, requests that feed into stereotypes of how women should be perceived.
The summit concluded with a talk called “Inspiring Planet-Positive Change,” where Firdaous spotlighted Dove’s efforts to protect the environment, including the goal of products being either plastic-free, made from 100 percent recycled plastic or refillable and reusable. In the past 10 years, Dove’s initiatives to reduce plastic have already avoided the use of more than 10,000 tons of virgin plastic through redesign and use of recycled materials.