Well, her face does. Colbie Caillat’s “Try” takes on the beauty industrial complex. It encourages women to try accepting themselves as they are. At first, I was as swept up in the hype as every other viewer. “Good for you!” I exclaimed to my laptop. “You take off your makeup and show them what beauty can be!”
It took a few days for me to understand the nagging feeling in my stomach. While Caillat’s message is noble, there is something manipulative and commercial in the way this lesson is dispensed.
Women are under immense pressure in our society. Everywhere we turn, there are new products pressing us to “look better”. False eyelashes, hair extensions, and contouring makeup are becoming staples for women who aren’t Kim Kardashian. In my ever-so-humble opinion, any push towards accepting women’s natural beauty is a step in the right direction. This is why I feel like such a party-pooper.
While this video is saying all of the right things, it’s hard for me to not feel a little cynical. “Natural beauty” commercials have been making waves, beginning with Dove “Real Beauty” campaign. These commercial efforts, from Dove and others, are always very careful to cast women who stray from typical size 2 model: but not by much. They cast curvy models, not fat ones. They cast multi-ethnic models, but always models who appeal to Western beauty standards.
The beautifully freckled, plus size woman in Caillet’s “Try” is one of the model’s with the least screen time, in favor of her more slender cast mates. While Caillat’s team should be commended for selecting many women outside of the skinny-white-young-female stereotype (for example, two senior woman, a woman with no hair, and an African-American woman with natural hair), it seems glaringly obvious to this viewer that the final cut gave preference to the slender, young beauties: with or without hair.
That’s a shame. It is disappointing, as a plus size woman, that so often women who look like me are included in body-positive messaging as a sort of trophy. “Hey, look! We added a fat chick!” The advertisers squeal with glee, so proud of their inclusive messaging. I think Colbie Caillat tried to make a body positive video. And she did… kinda.
Sound Off is a series that examines women’s issues in the context of music. This is the first article in the series, stay tuned for more!