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The issue of “manufactured” beauty is widely discussed nowadays due to broader access to plastic surgery and nonsurgical procedures the results of which are widely presented on the Internet, in general, and social networks, in particular. A couple of decades ago, plastic surgery was more typical of celebrities who wanted to be more beautiful and stay young. At present, manufactured beauty is not only a concept related to high society.
It is also discovered in terms of social psychology as related to the social self of a person, his or her self-concept, self-esteem, and self-presentation. Social psychologists believe that people’s beliefs about themselves are meaningful, and these beliefs are partially influenced by a person’s ideas of his or her attractive or not attractive looks (Myers & Twenge, 2016). Appearance can have an impact on viewing oneself as superior or inferior and thus influence emotions and actions. The current paper reviews the case of Cindy Jackson, a woman who is an expert in cosmetic procedures and believes that she managed to break three rules of cosmetic surgery (“My surgery,” n.d.).
This paper analyzes the issue of manufactured beauty on the example of Cindy Jackson with the focus on the social self, stereotyping of physical attractiveness, and the role of media in Cindy’s presentation of herself.
Cindy Jackson’s Presentation of Her Social Self
Cindy Jackson, a 58-year-old British woman, is considered to be a “pioneer in the field of aesthetic surgery and anti-aging” (“Cindy Jackson,” n.d.). Having more than 30 years of personal experience in her aesthetic makeover, Cindy is an expert who provides individual treatment plans to her clients who want to be beautiful without obvious traces of surgery. Cindy’s website appeals to women who are not satisfied with their appearance and need change to feel attractive.
It looks as if she has a purpose to help thus revealing her social self. Having achieved her goal to “look convincingly younger and natural, never plastic or “done,” she is eager to share her findings that were revealed “despite the astounding amount of contradictory, confusing and misleading information” she had encountered (“My surgery,” n.d., para. 4). Social psychologists claim that many people consider that a “healthy self-concept” can contribute to the achievement of the established goals (Myers & Twenge, 2016). Judging by Cindy Jackson’s way to success, her boosting of the self-image resulted in boosting her life achievements.
Self-esteem, which is traced in every piece of advice Cindy gives, creates an impression of a successful woman. Even when she believed she had a plain appearance, Cindy knew what she needed for improvement. She has been always convinced that investing in oneself pays more dividends than shares or property. This issue can be related to the concept of values analyzed by Myers and Twenge (2016). The authors state that values define the idea of the good life and have an impact on the way of living. Thus, Cindy’s values of being young and beautiful determined her way in life. Her self-presentation is that of a self-actualized person.
According to the personality psychologist Abraham Maslow (as cited in Myers & Twenge, 2016), self-actualized people are the “people who, with their needs for survival, safety, belonging, and self-esteem satisfied, go on to fulfill their human potential” (p. 9). This definition can be applied to present-day Cindy Jackson’s activity because she has achieved her major goals such as beauty, success, and prosperity, and can dedicate her time to another mission which is helping other women become beautiful.
The stereotype of Physical Attractiveness
To analyze the stereotype of physical attractiveness, it is worth defining stereotypes and attractiveness as separate concepts. According to Myers and Twenge (2016), stereotypes are negative evolutions that frequently predetermine prejudice. As for attractiveness, it can be treated as beauty or ugliness identified through facial features (Frevert & Walker, 2014). Attractiveness is one of the status characteristics together with gender and age.
Frevert and Walker (2014) state that “a person possessing the state of attractive is higher/more desirable than a person possessing the state of unattractive” (p. 314). Although stereotyping means generalizing, it frequently impacts separate individuals. In the case of Cindy Jackson, her imperfect sense of self and a popular stereotype that attractive people have benefits in different life situations led to the diminishing of her self-concept. On the other hand, Cindy’s certainty about her imperfectness pushed her on the way of changes. At present, she is an embodiment of the physical attractiveness stereotype presenting the interconnection of positive changes in her appearance and the way to success.
Impacts of Mass Media on Cindy Jackson’s Lifeworld
Although Cindy Jackson is not interested in social media and contacts potential clients through her official web site, she is frequently in the focus of mass media. She has developed a positive media image being a frequent guest of shows or giving interviews to newspapers and magazines. Although mass media is often negative about celebrities with too many improvements in their bodies and faces comparing them to dolls, Cindy is not one of them.
For example, Janie Lawrence from Life magazine acknowledges Cindy’s cleverness. Thus, admitting the fact that Jackson is often described as Barbie-made-flesh, the journalist states it would be a mistake “to assume that she is in any way Barbie-brained” (“My surgery, n.d., para. 36). Moreover, the journalist claims that due to the opportunity to live with two faces, a plain and a beautiful one, Cindy knows which of them brings more benefits. Moreover, mass media compare Cindy to a modern-day Eliza Doolittle, who managed to develop from the unloved and unpopular person “into a beauty to live the life of her fantasies” (“My surgery,” n.d., para. 42).
However, much attention from the media has an impact on the lifeworld of a person. Thus, Cindy has to maintain her image of a beautiful woman to keep her business successful. Apart from work with clients, personally or online, she has to present herself in the media to inform broader audiences that the desired beauty is available. Nevertheless, Cindy finds time for clients, her family, or friends. Despite the evident business component of her activity, Cindy Jackson’s interventions can be considered educational. Based on her example, she teaches people that surgical and non-surgical procedures can look natural but demand more time for preparation and a selection of experienced professionals.
The Issue of “Manufacturing Beauty”
The concept of manufacturing itself presupposes making or producing something. As related to beauty, manufacturing includes changing a person’s appearance, both body and face, to make it correspond with one’s ideas of beauty. However, the word “manufacturing” has some negative meaning presupposing that creating beauty is a type of industry. Even with fashion for natural looks, plastic surgery and non-surgery procedures are gaining popularity. Thus, making beauty is a huge industry with a diversity of services to offer. Still, the beauty industry is a controversial one. On the one hand, it helps people to become more attractive or preserve their attractiveness.
In this case, “manufacturing” plays a positive role. On the other hand, the industry is open to anyone ready to pay for expensive surgeries or other procedures without evaluating possible negative consequences. For example, some people, probably with mental disorders, change themselves through dozens of surgeries to look like their favorite celebrity or a doll. These cases form a negative attitude towards cosmetic surgery and non-surgical beauty procedures and lead to generally accepted stereotypes that “manufactured” beauty is evil. However, examples of Cindy Jackson and her clients can probably change this attitude.
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It is evident that appearance is important for a person’s sense of self. As a result, it can be concluded that appearance has an impact on the position in the society because one’s self-concept, self-esteem, and self-presentation greatly depend on the way a person evaluates him- or herself. Moreover, the reaction and treatment of society also greatly depends on the appearance. Thus, “manufactured” beauty is frequently a way-out for people who believe that their success depends on the way they look.
It can be helpful because a person’s self-esteem and the choice of the social role are interconnected. Consequently, a person with low self-esteem due to the lack of attractiveness is not likely to be ambitious and look for higher positions. The case of Cindy Jackson is an example of the influence of “manufactured” beauty on the woman’s sense of self and, as a result, on her success in life.
Cindy Jackson. (n.d.). Web.
Frevert, T., & Walker, L. (2014). Physical attractiveness and social status. Sociology Compass, 8(3), 313-323. Web.
Myers, D.G., & Twenge, J.M. (2016). Exploring social psychology (12th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill Education.
My surgery. (n.d.). Web.