Certain Beauty

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I want to share with you my Masters degree Capston project and why I chose the subject.

Almost two weeks ago I submitted my finalized Masters degree Capstone project. You’ll find it by visiting my Portfolio, in the Research section.

Certain Beauty: An Inductive Content Analysis of the Representations of Beauty and Age in Commercial Ad Campaigns

I had been thinking about the subject of my Capstone project since I began my Masters degree. I had done a content analysis in the Spring semester of my first year at Loyola examining the representation of the female cross-cultural figure of the ‘coquette’ in American fashion magazines (between 2005 and 2013). You can see my Prezi presentation I made to my class here. [Let me know if you’d like to read it, I’d be more than happy to share the research paper with you].

I knew that for my Capstone (which is the big project that a Masters degree candidate must complete to earn their degree) I wanted to look at female beauty and the inequality of its representation, specifically having to do with age inequality. Beauty is a controversial subject because it is subjective, but it also impacts women in a way that is unique from men. Since completing that project on the ‘coquette’ I realized that the subject of mature beauty and older women as models for beauty was not as talked about as the exploitation of youth and the sexualization of young women.

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©Stephanie Pyrzynski, 2014

So the culmination of about a year and a half of reading and researching lead me to Certain Beauty, the concept for my Capstone project. It was not only a research project, but it was also a chance to demonstrate my knowledge of social platforms and digital storytelling for brands and campaigns. With my reserach was a supplementary section with a creative brief and plan for the implementation of a grassroots campaign through the use of digital media. I found out last week that I got an A on it!

Let me share with you a clip I found from a documentary that was part of the inspiration for my Capstone project called Searching for Debra Winger (2002), directed by Rosanna Arquette.


“Beauty has to be a “certain” way and then if it’s not that any longer, then its “damaged” or “sad” beauty, or “aged” beauty, and I don’t perceive that. That’s not my reality.”

“I think clinging to one’s youth is the pathetic aspect of beauty, potentially.”

The actress Diane Lane talks about the concept of there being a certain idea of beauty and how the reality is that beauty is not only when you are young and it doesn’t have to hold you back from opportunities as you age.

What I want to know is, why don’t we see women over 30 or 40 and think “there’s a fascintinag woman and I want to be like her one day!” ?

To an extent what we see influences how we feel. In the documentary Diane Lane urges women to make more of an issue of this beauty and ageism problem.

Diane Lane on beauty in
Diane Lane in Searching For Debra Winger (2001)

“When women don’t want to talk about these issues it is so awful…Hiding away just perpetuates the problem. Women want to watch other women of their own age sometimes. All these young people are great but let them watch each other. We want to watch us.”

The way we talk about beauty is the same way we talk about self-esteem. Whether you think you’re beautiful or not, how we as women feel about ourselves is important. Women are still being evaluated by their looks and there needs to be a change in how society regards beauty. As I state in my research paper:

The danger lies in how the heightened version of reality we find in commercials, featuring women and girls, has shaped how society and culture define beauty to an unrealistic level.

It’s a vicious cycle, commercials and ad campaigns are reflections and indicators of what we value as a culture. In turn men and women receive messages from the images and scenarios in these campaigns and their value systems are influenced. Men have issues with how they feel about their looks as they age too. To change the cycle, please sign the Certain Beauty petition. Share it with your friends and colleagues if you want to see beauty at every age represented. Keep up with the campaign and learn more about beauty in society on the Certain Beauty platform.

Further Reading

Many actresses hitting middle age find themselves desperate for good parts. Rosanna Arquette chases them downBy Edward Guthmann

Female, Forty, and Furious – Telegraph

‘Why won’t Hollywood give us work?’ moan the over-40 actresses – Charlotte Edwards

Searching For Debra Winger Review – Diane Wild


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