Earlier this year the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge hit the headlines. If you don’t know what the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge is, a quick google search will bring up a number of ‘fail videos’ and stern warnings surrounding the dangers of the #kyliejennerchallenge trend. The challenge is simple – all that it entails is placing a glass over the lips and sucking, in effect creating an airlock that causes the lips to swell temporarily.
It may sound harmless enough but beyond the short term bruising that it can cause, the challenge suggests a worrying obsession with fad beauty treatments, and the seemingly limitless power of ‘image concious’ public figures on the wider public. Take the somewhat baffling fascination with the Kardashian family; the picture that ‘broke the internet’ garnered unprecedented interest, and just a few hours ago the Daily Mail reported the breaking ‘news’ that Khloe Jenner has suffered a wardrobe malfunction whilst filming Keeping up with the Kardashians. If you’re interested one news reporter in America decided to take a stand against this kind of ‘non-news’ which you can watch below.
So who is to blame for this obsession? The media, the ‘celebrities’ or the public? How about a combination of all three, endlessly circling one another.
It is true that fashions have always come and gone, but in the age of the internet and social media it is easier than ever for trends to go viral, for the media to jump on the ever changing ‘looks’ of high profile figures. Every picture is scrutinised in detail, people are judged on their clothing, and many tabloid or lifestyle magazines feature exercise and diet tips for that ‘perfect body’. For the sake of clarity, it is worth mentioning that this is not an issue that concerns only women. Men are a part of this trend too, you need only look at the rapidly growing male fitness industry and the sheer variety of protein whey and creatine supplements that are available on the market.
People buy, read, share and comment on all this information. They, whether unwittingly or not, create the demand and the media responds, producing yet more of the same attention grabbing ‘news’ stories in minute detail. And well, a celebrity is only a celebrity if they remain in the public eye, under the watchful gaze of both the media and the public. And so in many cases this attention, though not always welcomed, is often manipulated and played upon to their advantage.
This vicious circle is relentless. But more worryingly it is normalised. Over the past few years a handful of dangerous beauty trends stand out, namely the thigh gap trend and the rise of the quick fix diet pill. Many more slip through the net as we strive for beauty at the cost of health. Even challengers to mainstream ideals of beauty, the so called ‘big booty movement’ for example, can shift the positive message that they try to encourage away from health, whilst also mirroring the same body shaming tactics that some media outlets appear to cultivate.
The answer? Well that is perhaps less obvious, but almost certainly should begin with balance, rationalisation and health education. There is always going to be sensationalist headlines, and beauty ideals that only a tiny fraction of the population can even dream of achieving. The emphasis should be on health, health, health. The more people that know this, the better.