Monthly Archives: March 2010

Feminist Blog Carnival No. 16: Beauty Edition!


It’s Feminist Blog Carnival day!

I know, you could hardly sleep last night with excitement. (I too could hardly sleep because I was busy reading through the many, many awesome submissions. And also excited.)

Thanks so much to everyone who sent in work. We’ve got a lot of amazing-ness here, so I’m just going to dive right in. Start clicking!

On working in the beauty business:

Karen Greco of BeautyOlogy says dismissing the work of beauty professionals wouldn’t be so easy to do if the industry employed mainly men in Sexism on the Front Lines: A Beautician Bites Back.

Jamie Silberberger of The AFA Blog talks about how to get a more socially responsible mani-pedi in Why We Must Protect Nail Salon Workers From the Toxic Trio.

On accepting your body:

Julie Goodale of Fitness for Survivors on Body Image After Breast Cancer – A Story Of Time, Acceptance, And A Little Exercise.

Look left of the pleiades gets on board with her booty in My arse.

Persephone Pomegranate of Voices of Dissent embraces her body hair in Double Standards – The Issue of Body Hair.

Exercise psychologist Michelle Segar of Essential Steps talks about appreciating what your body can do, not just how it looks in How to EmBODY Gratitude.

On beauty advertising:

Stacy Malkan of Not Just A Pretty Face has a Dear Drew Barrymore letter about that COVERGIRL campaign. (You remember. This one.)

Elizabeth Kissling of Society for Menstrual Cycle Research talks about the Kotex Anti-Ads.

On LGBT beauty:

Melissa Walker of iheartdaily on why it’s cool for a girl to wear a tuxedo and take her girlfriend to prom.

On beauty and consumerism:

this ain’t livin’ dissects teen girls’ shopping power in Look At Those Silly Girls and Their ‘Haul Videos’.

Sarah Burns of Consumer Search keeps us safe from DIY wrinkle removers (yikes!) in Pretty Ugly.

Heather Wood Rudulph of Sirens discusses Is Selling Our Bodies a Last Resort or a First Instinct?

On Jessica Simpson’s The Price of Beauty (Um, you’ll recall, I had strong feelings on this one myself):

Alicia of Peace X Peace is annoyed by the show’s over-simplifications in Confessions of a Not-so-Simple Beauty.

Ms. Blogger Courtney Young gives Jess a Thumbs Down.

Novelist Philana Marie Boles of The LOVE Spot thinks Jessica is taking a step in the right direction (and has some ways to trim your own beauty spending) in Beauty Budget: What’s Yours?

On other beauty/pop culture stuff:

franklyfeminist talks about Lady Gaga’s glamorization of prison in Thanks Lady Gaga for that triumph of misogyny.

A Canadian Lefty in Occupied Land explores Alice’s Gender Journey in Wonderland.

fbomb reassures us that televised gender stereotypes are being enforced on both sides of the pond with  Ladette to Lady: How to be an Acceptable Human Being.

Lina Talks About Writing explores beauty standards in video games in Beauty Trumps All.

On beauty and weddings:

Sara of 2000dollarwedding on finding meaning in your wedding dress (beyond how hot you look) in Postcard #1: The Embroidered Wedding Dress. (Also, if you’re in the thick of wedding/beauty madness right this minute, check out her Letter to the Bride for a delightful dose of sanity.)

Meg of A Practical Wedding had to reconcile being a feminist and wanting to get her hair and makeup done. Don’t worry, it all works out.

And now, off-topic, but just so you know what else feminists are up to these days:

Fannie’s Room talks about how the gay rights movement is throwing reproductive rights under the bus in The Oppressed Gay Male Oppressor.

Mad Kane’s Political Madness offers a great limerick about the Christian Domestic Discipline marriages (that’s where God tells you to beat your wife) with Religion Hits Bottoms.

Yes Means Yes Blog discusses Affirmative Consent As Legal Standard?

Cynthia Bateman of Blog About It explains why Women In Combat should happen.

LonerGrrrl hates being The Office Housewife.

Thanks for joining me for this edition of the Feminist Carnival! If you loved it (of course you did) be sure to submit to the next edition of the carnival here. Past posts and future hosts can be found on the blog carnival index page.

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Filed under Beauty Schooled, For Extra Credit, week 20

[Fun With Press Releases] Brooklyn Beauty School (And Beyonce, too!)

Fun With Press Releases: Because sometimes, the beauty industry just goofs.

You know how Beauty U is always talking about how recession-proof the beauty industry is, and how we’re going to have such great post-graduation job prospects? (All the while encouraging students to take out loans, go into credit card debt, or qualify for financial aid to pay their tuition?)

Well, I don’t want you to think that I’m attending some kind of beauty school anomaly. Check out the press release below (from one of the biggest beauty school chains in the country) to see how this kind of sales pitch has become the industry’s party line.

Sent: Tue, Mar 9, 2010 at 2:14 PM
Subject: Brooklyn Job Seekers Invited to Learn about Career Possibilities at Local Cosmetology School

March 9, 2010

**************************MEDIA ADVISORY**************************


the OPENING of its 100th SCHOOL

WHAT: Nation’s Largest Cosmetology School System Celebrates Countdown to 100th School with Brooklyn Open House

XXXX Beauty Schools is celebrating “100 Days of XXXX,” a commemoration leading up to the opening of its 100th school, and aspiring cosmetologists in Brooklyn will be welcomed into their local XXXX Beauty School on March 18th for a special open house.

They will have the chance to meet educators, learn more about XXXX’s unique curriculum, view classrooms and the student salon and even get a chance for some real hands-on cosmetology experience to see if it may be the right career path for them.

Free manicures, haircuts, door prizes, student competitions and hands-on interaction for prospective students combine to promise a great photo opportunity.

Other highlights:

•           As part of the school’s domestic violence charitable initiative, XXXX Gives Back, a check presentation for $549.15 will be made to XXXX, a local women’s shelter, from funds raised by students in Brooklyn.

•           XXXX is also donating $100 a day to 100 local domestic violence shelters across the country that it supports (including XXXX), in addition to the nearly $200K that students have already raised this year nationwide.

WHY: Consider these figures:

•           The unemployment rate in New York City has risen to 10.6 percent.

•           According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of cosmetology is projected to grow 20 percent between 2008 and 2018.

•           There are over 23,741 salons in New York, each one offering flexible and promising job opportunities to the state’s licensed cosmetologists.

  • XXXX Beauty School offers the quality education, hands-on training and networking opportunities needed to succeed in the beauty industry.
  • The scandal embroiling NY’s governor is only one example of how pervasive the problem of domestic violence is and how many women (1 in 4, specifically) are affected by it.  A cosmetology career is a path to financial independence for many victims who stay in abusive relationships because of economic necessity.  XXXX offers an endowment to help fund a cosmetology education for abuse victims who need a lifeline for a fresh start.

WHERE: March 18, 2010, 12-4 p.m.

XXXXX Beauty School in Brooklyn


#   #   #

Let’s not try do the math on XXXX Beauty School’s daily profit versus the $100 daily donation to stop domestic violence.

Of course, of course, I’m all for supporting abuse victims. But to give you a little context, XXXX school issued this press release the very same week Beyonce was making headlines for opening her own Cosmetology Center — inside a Brooklyn residential substance abuse and recovery house. Competition, much?

Props to Beyonce, who has committed to giving the school/recovery house $100,000 per year.

Not so sure about this whole concept of beauty school as the life-saving step that drug addicts and abuse victims need to take to get control of their lives. Is $8 an hour sweeping hair clippings, or even $15 an hour waxing pubic hair going to be enough to do that?


Filed under Beauty Schooled, Career Opportunities, Fun with Press Releases, week 20

Pretty Price Check (03.26.10)

The Pretty Price Check: Your Friday round-up of how much we paid for beauty this week.

Oceans of Bras Photo from Beijing

First! A quick reminder to all you feministly-inclined bloggers about next week’s Feminist Carnival. I want anything and everything you’ve written on beauty, body image, products, or the like. (Preference will be given to posts fitting the theme, but if you’ve written anything just amazingly kick-ass and feminist, feel free to submit that too — I’ve gotten a couple of great ones so far, and might include a “not beauty but awesome” section.)

Submit links here or email me on beautyschooledproject [at] gmail [dot] com. Deadline is 10:00 PM Monday (March 29). (So go on, do it now!)

Now… ready, set, Price Check:

  • 36DD: Our nation’s median bra size. (Up from a 36C two years ago.) Because you asked. And because everyone is saying it’s all due to Oprah. So do we just automatically give her credit for everything now? (Via The Cut.)
  • 20 percent of women (and 10 percent of men) describe themselves as unattractive, up from just 1 percent in 1998. (Via Mother Jones where there are so many more horrifying stats like this.)
  • 40 percent of Americans won’t accept any amount of money to give up our favorite food (pizza, cupcakes, what have you). A third say it would take $1 million. After the above stat, I find this comforting. (Via Her Two Cents, which makes a great point about how unhelpful that “all or nothing” diet mentality is anyway! Hmmph.)
  • 16: The new age minimum for models hired by Michael Kors. Yes. More of this, please. Stylelist positions this as being good for body standards (more woman-sized women on the runways), and amen, sister — but let’s not forget that runway models work insanely long hours, are sometimes paid only in clothes, and have their bodies and faces picked apart by hundreds of bitchy fashionistas (and nice ones, but you know). How was that ever considered a healthy work environment for kids in the first place?
  • $30 million: How much the Jordan cosmetics industry earns per year selling products made with mud from its side of the Dead Sea. Sounds like a lot, but Israeli brands like Ahava earn five times that amount — so Jordan wants a bigger piece of the (mud) pie. What none of these companies seem to mind: The fact that the Dead Sea’s surface level is sinking three feet every year, and might be entirely dried up by the year 2050. Maybe we should figure out a more sustainable plan for that little problem before we fight over who has the most mud? (Via Google News.)
  • $140,000: What the Personal Care Products Council (that’s the beauty industry’s main trade group) spent on government lobbying in the 4th quarter of 2009. Expect that number to go way, way up as debate over reform for the Toxic Substances Control Act heats up. (Via ABC News.)

[“Oceans of Bras” photo via Jenbrea on Flickr.]

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Filed under Beauty Schooled, Pretty Price Check, week 19

[Beauty Overheard] Nell Irvin Painter on Race and Beauty.

Beauty Overheard: What folks are saying — good, bad, and ugly — about being pretty.

Skin lightening has been a recurring theme over at Beauty U lately, as I’m finding that almost every woman of color who comes in for a facial asks what we can do to even out her darker spots, and will a glycolic peel help? (My answers: Not much and only if you like the idea of acid being poured on your face.)

So I’m intrigued by this bit from an interview (by Thomas Rogers over on Salon) with Princeton history professor Nell Irvin Painter, author of The History of White People:

It’s conspicuous that many of the scientists who were trying to determine the “most superior” white race were obsessed with figuring out which race was best-looking.

Physical beauty and race were thought to be something physical and permanent that can be passed down generation to generation, but if you look at magazines from the 1960s or the 1920s, you see that ideas of beauty change. What I find so fascinating is that if you look carefully at the faces of many models today, they would not have passed as beautiful in the middle of the 20th century. Now we look more at bodies. We like bodies to be very thin — like thinness is beauty.

Every few years there also seems to be a new fashionable ethnicity for runway models — one year it’ll be Russians, the next it’s Brazilians.

It’s called fashion for a reason. Popular culture is a many-splendored thing. I was in New York recently, where I saw a great big billboard of Kimora Lee Simmons, who is a brown person who is an embodiment of beauty. Then if you look at a fashion magazine, you’ll see a parade of white people selling things. You can find it all.

In the 1960s you couldn’t find that kind of array [of people], partly because there weren’t so many outlets, but also because these markets were not seen as big. As brown-skinned people got more money to buy things, what they wanted to see began appearing in advertising. It’s all bound up with advertising and marketing and purchasing.

So, the more brown-skinned people have the economic power to buy things, the less pressure society will put on them to look whiter. I guess that’s progress… of a sort.

(If you’ve overheard some interesting beauty talk, email it to me at beautyschooledproject [at] gmail [dot] com. Oh and while we’re on the subject of email, thanks to Katherine for pointing out yesterday that the email address has been misspelled on my About page for, well, way too long. If you’ve emailed me at and didn’t hear back, please resend and I’m so sorry!)

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Filed under Beauty Overheard, Beauty Schooled, beauty standards

[Tip Jar] Just Saying No to Peels with Client Four

Tip Jar: Where you get the back story on every tip I make at Beauty U.

five dollars photo

Now that there’s only one senior student left in Beauty U’s night program, all bets are officially off on that whole “juniors can’t work on clients until they finish book work” business. Per this helpful commenter, I ask Miss Stacy if the spa will just book less clients until we’re done with Milady’s (about four more weeks, people!) and she rolls her eyes. “You would think, but don’t count on it,” she says.

Cut to tonight: We’re supposed to be reading the chapter on waxing, but Sue is rushed off her feet with facials and waxing appointments. To make it fair, Miss Stacy sets up a rotation of us four juniors (Stephanie, Blanche, me, Meg) so we step out of the classroom in order and nobody ends up feeling like they’re missing the most. Our names are written up on the white board, and whenever we take a client, we’re supposed to erase ourselves from the top of the list and rewrite our names at the bottom.

So. Four* is a middle-aged Indian woman who has been coming to Beauty U for haircuts by the cosmetology students and just got referred over to the spa (way to upsell, Cos Girls). I give her the second facial she’s ever received in her life. I’ll be honest, she’s got some troubled skin. Breakouts and redness on her cheeks, dry patches around her nose, and a few dark spots that she absolutely hates. “What can I do to fix these?” she asks. “Should I try a glycolic peel?”

I pause. I hate glycolic peels. I also hate telling people — especially women of color like Four — that they should try to lighten their brown spots. So, stalling for time, I ask, “What are you using on your skin now?”

“Nothing,” says Four. “Just water and sometimes Vaseline if I feel dry.”

Bullet. Dodged.

“Okay, let’s start with the basics,” I say. “You should be using a cleanser, toner and moisturizer at home every day. Otherwise, no matter what we do here in the spa, your skin won’t sustain the results. I’d rather get you started on a good home care regimen than dive into one of our most intense treatments. You might find you don’t need to do anything that drastic.”

I mean, if Miss Jenny were still with us, I think she might have cried. This is a word-perfect Esthetician Speech. And Four eats it right up. We do the facial, and as we walk out, she asks me to show her the products she should buy for home use. I sell her a cleanser and a toner on the spot, and she would have bought a moisturizer too, except we’re out of stock. As she checks out, she asks, “Are you sure I can’t do glycolic?”

“Very sure,” I say. “But if you want to upgrade your next service, you might consider our anti-aging facial. It brightens and lifts and everyone loves it.”

She does consider. And books the anti-aging facial, which costs twice as much as the standard European facial. And tips me $5 (20% of her $25 fee). And leaves with a huge smile on her face.

On the one hand, I’m severely glad it was me giving Four her facial, because somebody else might well have signed her on up for the Battery Acid Deluxe Treatment. And when you don’t even wash your face at home, that’s kind of like scheduling a gastric bypass without trying the whole “eat less, move more” approach first.

On the other hand, I have no idea if the home care products will work for Four, or if the fancier anti-aging facial will give her any results. I don’t even know if she needs results, or if she should just work on making peace with the fact that her skin has a lot more shades of brown in it than some people.

I don’t feel good about playing into her insecurities. And I notice even though she smiles, she never quite looks me in the eye.

Current Tip Total = $25

*I’ve decided to dispense with changing names for all the clients and am just going to number them. Let me know if you hate it and I’ll go get a baby name book or something.


[Photo from over here, thank you random interweb.]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, beauty standards, Chemical Peels, Facials, In Class, Tip Jar, week 19

Graduation Day (No, Not Mine.)

Entenmann's Cake Photo

In case you still need proof that for-profit trade schools aren’t real schools — at least, not in any traditional, academic sense of the word — I give you this:

Tonight, two of our senior students, Becky and Leslie are both scheduled to hit their 600 hour mark. We watched them take their state board practical exam last week, which is the big final exam you have to do to graduate. It’s run exactly like the actual state board exam, on the theory that if you can pass it here at Beauty U, you’ll do fine on the real thing. All the other students watch and there is absolute silence. Leslie’s hands were shaking as she simulated an arm wax using honey and Becky kept chattering to me as she did the makeup application and went totally wide of the mark with the lip liner, giving me that plastic pageant queen kind of smile. But they both passed. And at 10 PM tonight, they will be done with Beauty U.

So when we take break, Miss Stacy slips off to the staff room and brings out an Entenmann’s carrot cake that she picked up at Shop-Rite, plus a handful of plastic spoons.

“I was going to make them cupcakes, but I forgot,” she confesses to me as I help her hunt up some paper plates that someone abandoned in the break room.

They are orange and say “Happy Thanksgiving!” in purple script.

We stand around Becky and Leslie, spooning soggy cake into our mouths. Leslie is allergic to nuts, as it turns out, and carrot cake has nuts, so I eat her piece for her.

The break room is tiny, really more of a hallway between the salon and classroom areas. It has two vending machines, a bulletin board covered with notices reminding us to pay tuition on time, and never enough stools for everyone to sit down. Tonight it smells strongly of someone’s over-microwaved Lean Cuisine.

I ask Becky if she’s happy to be graduating. “Counting the minutes,” she says, glancing at her watch. Becky already works in a fancy spa a few towns over, as a licensed nail tech and is adding her esthetics license so she can double her pay, from commission on $30 pedicures to $65 facials. So she’ll contribute in a positive way to Beauty U’s promised 95 percent job placement rate, since she already had her job when she started.

Leslie is getting ready to move out of state, which means she’ll have to take her state board exam here, and then apply to have her license transfer, or take that state’s exam too. I’m not sure if Beauty U bothers to track stats on students who move away.

Around us, people are checking their cell phone messages and fighting with the vending machine for sodas. “It’s weird we’re done,” says Leslie.

Then the receptionist pokes her head around the corner. Becky’s 8 PM eyebrow wax has arrived. We dump the half-eaten carrot cake in the trash and stick the unused spoon in the miscellaneous pile of plastic cutlery and ketchup packets that exists in every workplace break room everywhere. Break is over.

When you graduated from college, high school, or heck, even middle school, you probably enjoyed some degree of fanfare: Cap, gown, speeches, diplomas, pomp, circumstance. Here at Beauty U, where we have rolling admissions, your randomly-assigned graduation day is just everyone else’s Thursday. But I don’t know why there isn’t more to-do. Your graduation date is written on your student ID card and it’s the date by which the school figures out if they’ll get to bill you extra for going over hours, so it’s carved in stone in everyone’s minds. And it’s not like Beauty U is anti-fanfare; every month or two, they pass out awards (paper certificates and free products) for students with perfect attendance, and once a week, we have to give a round of applause and a pair of spa sandals to the student who has done the most upselling.

Maybe it’s that those celebrations have to do with us contributing to Beauty U’s bottom line. Whereas graduation means you cease to be a paying customer or profit-earning upseller.

And in fact, your graduation day might not even be the day you think. As we’re leaving for the night, and Becky is giving everyone a farewell kiss on the cheek, Miss Susan tells Leslie that they recalculated her hours and oops, she’s still only at 598.

After ten months of 16 hours per week, 75 facials, 25 makeup applications, and so many waxing and body treatment services that you officially lose count, she’s still not done. And it will cost her an extra $13 per hour to finish out. On Monday, Leslie shows up at 6 PM and knocks out one last facial while the rest of us are in the classroom, reading Milady’s.

By the time we get back from break, a little after 8 PM, she has already left, this time slipping out the back door without any more goodbyes.

[Photo of sad, half-eaten Entenmann’s cake via Flickr.]


Filed under Beauty Schooled, In Class, week 19

[Fun with Press Releases] Forget Stupak. It’s All About Boob Jobs.

Fun With Press Releases: Because sometimes, the beauty industry just goofs.

Sent: Mon, March 22, 2010 12:46:02 PM


Dear Editor,
We represent a roster of doctors in Manhattan and Long Island  who are available to provide commentary or debate on the historic health care bill passing House of Representatives in Congress. They can speak on its possible effects on patients and the medical profession. They can go on set, via telephone or from there offices.

Our client roster of local doctors range from cosmetic surgeons to hospital reps and private practitioners.

For more information, interviews, and a list of medical clients please contact XXX Communications XXX-XXX-XXXX


I can only imagine that when you go to PR school, they sit you down on the very first day, look you square in the eye and say “connect your client to the biggest news story of the day — no matter what.”

What they forget to mention: This works much better if you connect in a way that makes some modicum of sense. Like so: “WILL THE HISTORIC HEALTH CARE BILL PASSAGE IMPACT BREAST ENHANCEMENT AND OTHER COSMETIC SURGERY?”

Not, um, the other way around.

Also, there/their in sentence #2. And holy caps lock, Batman! But now I’m just being mean.

(Attention journalist friends: If you get a hilarious beauty press release, do send it to me at beautyschooledproject [at] gmail [dot] com. We’ll run them here with all names and contact info X-ed out to protect the not-quite-innocent.)

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Filed under Beauty Schooled, Fun with Press Releases, Happenings, week 19