Using Beautiful Models In Ads Isn't Body Shaming

There is a growing demand for a more “realistic” representation of “regular-looking people” in advertising. Proponents of this movement argue that “beautiful models promote unrealistic standards of beauty” or “stunningly attractive models don’t represent real people.” This article will explain why physically attractive models in advertising play a legitimate role in society.

By S.G. Cheah4 min read
Shutterstock/Andrea Raffin

Before I start, I have to address how the fashion industry oftentimes does make questionable decisions in terms of their creative styling. There are so many cases of so-called “edgy” fashion campaigns that really just promote sexual violence and child exploitation. And then, there’s this Calvin Klein ad where a perfectly “normal-looking” model was cast as a plus-sized model for their campaign

Granted, people in the fashion industry aren’t known to be grounded in reality like the rest of us (How else do you explain the oftentimes awful, unwearable “couture” we see on the runway?), but there’s a purpose and benefit to endorsing the use of beautiful models in fashion and advertising. 

Beautiful Models Help Your Products Shine

If you’re an entrepreneur and you’ve sacrificed so much of your life to make your dreams come true – including many sleepless nights, taking out massive loans, intense non-stop hard work – and the time finally arrives for your product to make its marketing debut to the public, wouldn’t you want your product to be presented in the best possible light? 

Logic will tell you that you want your product to be presented to the public looking its best, and beautiful models are the vehicle for that.

This is basically the simple logic behind why it makes complete sense to employ beautiful models to help you promote a product. If you have a product you want to sell, the assumption is that you’re proud of your product and would want to show it in the best way possible. 

Imagine if your business sells premium steak and you’re shooting an ad for it. Would you be happy if your steak was photographed on a cheap paper plate with plastic utensils? Or would you prefer it to be presented on the nicest china and with the best silverware you can find? Logic will tell you that you want your product to be presented to the public looking its best, and beautiful models are the vehicle for that.

We Needn’t Judge Ourselves for Not Looking Like Models 

When I was younger, my friends and I used to feel bad about how we looked when we compared ourselves to the stunning women we saw in print and on the screen. Now that I’m older and a bit wiser, I’ve realized that we really shouldn’t have felt bad for not being “as attractive” as the gorgeous models we saw. 

After all, it is a model’s job to be beautiful. They have to work out, diet, groom, and undergo beauty treatments on a consistent basis. And, if that isn’t difficult enough for them, they also have to put themselves out there and have their physical attributes criticized by their employers all the time – like getting told they’re gaining weight, or getting older, or have bad skin. The modeling industry is ruthless when it comes to physical perfection.  

We Were Never Supposed To “Be Like Them” 

It makes me realize how people should probably be grateful that these models are doing all that work for our aesthetic pleasure. A model has to be conscious of her physical beauty at all times, something regular women aren’t required to do. Take myself, for example. Since I’m not a public figure, the most thought or effort I place on my looks in a given week is whether or not I’m going to blowdry my hair. I know I don’t have to worry about getting judged by an employer for how I look.

A model has to be conscious of her physical beauty at all times, something regular women aren’t required to do.

Models may make it look easy, but they work extremely hard. Imagine having to go to a job interview almost every day in order to get some work, only to be faced with rejection over and over again, being told you’re not what the client wants, sometimes multiple times a day. For a model, that’s called a casting call, and it’s part of their day job. Normal people are supposed to just enjoy the beauty and appreciate the effort that goes into making an attractive advertisement for our viewing pleasure. Nobody who is rational expects an ordinary person to look like a supermodel in real life.  

The Career Realities of a Model

One of the sympathetic things about models is how most models are aware of their shelf life. They know this isn’t a job they can do forever. Even Cindy Crawford, who was the most iconic and successful supermodel in the ‘90s, tried to transition to an acting career only to be trashed by critics who mocked how she couldn’t act.

Nevertheless, she persevered and kept reinventing herself so she could make a living. I understand that it may seem deluded to feel sympathy for someone whose net worth is in the hundreds of millions and who also spent a decade being one the most beautiful and desirable women on earth, but you have to see her success in terms of degrees, not absolutes. The degree of Cindy Crawford’s success may be astronomical, but in terms of absolute, she is still an individual just like you and me. 

Putting the Value of Beauty in the Right Perspective 

The level of her success may be higher than others, but the fact is we too can attain the same success for ourselves based on what we deem is important to us. We’re the writers of our own destiny, and thus we can decide for ourselves what is important to us on our own personal level. 

During her career, Cindy Crawford may have judged her success on how many runway shows she walked or cover of magazines she graced, but we can judge our own success by the personal value we attain. For example, we can measure our success by how quickly we pay off our student loans or credit card debt, or if you’re one of the heroes at the frontlines of healthcare during the coronavirus crisis, how many people you care for and lives you save. 

Judge Yourself Based on Your Own Ability and Potential

We’re supposed to judge ourselves based on what we know we can realistically attain. If you know that you can do a favor for someone you care about (like an elderly neighbor) who is having a hard time during the pandemic – e.g. picking up groceries or medicine for them – do that, and you’re as successful as Cindy because you did what is in your power to accomplish. 

It becomes problematic if you set yourself up to accomplish unrealistic goals. If you do so, you’ll unintentionally acquire a God Complex whereby you’ll start to lose touch with reality. If you’ve watched Netflix’s Tiger King, you’ll see how Joe Exotic, in his quest for fame, lost touch with the real world and started to live in a fantasy of his own making. 

We’re supposed to judge ourselves based on what we know we can realistically attain.

The same problem will arise for those who set themselves up to attain unrealistic standards like trying to mold their physical body to mimic a supermodel's. So let’s not set ourselves up to pursue unrealistic standards but instead pursue what we know we can realistically achieve. 

Closing Thoughts

While there is no doubt that promoting anorexia and poor self-image is bad, there is a justifiable reason for companies to feature gorgeous models in advertising campaigns for their products. Instead of comparing ourselves to these “freaks of nature” (being born incredibly beautiful is an accident of nature – and it is a good one – just like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt are also “freaks of nature” in the athletic world), we should focus on fulfilling our potential in our own abilities and talents.