Inequality of Race in Beauty Ads

Johvonty Stewart

Being an African American female  living in this world today has its ups, and down, and constantly blacks are fighting to prove that they belong. Advertisement is the number one thing that people are forced to look out non self-consciously on a daily basis. Rather you want to or not it is there, and there is no way of getting around it. Throughout this blog you will be taken through an artifactual analysis of five different images that show the issues that African Americans are still facing today in the world of advertising and marketing. The theme that this blog will be based around is inequality of Race in beauty advertising. I chose this theme because modeling is something that I am pursing outside of school and knowing how difficult it is to be represented in this industry being African American is something that is very important to know to me, as well as other people. By recognizing this theme you can learn how to be more aware of advertisements and how biased they are, and continuing to add on to the white privilege. I have chosen to work with still images because they interest me the most, and I have found some very diverse ones that do a good job of telling a story, and backing up my theme. The five artifacts that will be seen on this blog all work intersectonally, they deal with not only race, but gender, and social classes. The artifacts that will be seen are not only beauty ads but outside advertisements as well to make a strong credible analysis.

When looking at this ad above, the first thing I see is the typical American beauty ad, which normally consist of young, hot white, skinny females. This ideology has been around since beauty ads begin, or any type of ad for that matter. It has always seemed to be difficult for any other race to be mainstreamed when dealing with magazines, commercials, and other sorts of ads. It isn’t just race that is working against this ideology, other issues play into inequality of media, such as age and what social class you fall in. As we all may know modeling does not come easy, and it is not an inexpensive career to get started in. Breaking down this picture above we see a beautiful white female, along with a handsome white male, aged young, very racy picture, and their modeling a Tom Ford modeling campaign. Nowhere in the picture do we see any other race, and it is not an advertisement that is for the middle social class, it is targeting the specific upper social class.


This ad above that I have found is a great demonstration of overt racism. What is being shown in this artifact is African American track runner’s kneeling at the looks of a White teacher. It is considered overt racism because it is not subtle, but very out in the open of showing how blacks should be at the foot of whites. This particular text is playing into the mythical norm of how once again whites always end up on top, and blacks will not be superior to the “white man”.  Gender and pop culture has taught me how not just to look at a text and do a dominant reading, but to do an op positional reading as well. Some things that can be pulled out as a dominant reading is that the “BOW DOWN” phrase being used in this artifact is in all capped bold writing and it is white, and stands out in the picture. The fact that the artist of this artifact chose to use that font and text for those words shows how they wanted the viewer to see how the ideological hegemony of whites being better is continuously being forced on people.


Moving forward to the image above there is much more variety in race with this picture. The first obvious thing that pops out to any viewer is the dominant reading of the African American model sitting in a chair in the expensive brand of Prada. This text expanding the view on race in ads because there is a black model, and it is breaking the mythical norm, and putting a black face as the cover of their expensive brand ad. The assumptions that come from viewing this ad is that she is obviously black, upper classed, young, and hot. This ad clearly shows that this is a female, and her gender is not really clear, which can be viewed as a good thing because in the world we live in today society is trying to move past labeling people and forcing the “American Dream” on people. I believe that more of these types of advertisements should be presented in media today. It shows that different races can have the “American Dream” outside of whites.

The ad that is shown above is the perfect text to critique as a viewer when it comes to dealing with race, or racism or lack thereof in beauty ads. First an African America female is shown sitting on a White upper classed man’s lap, meanwhile her face is painted in a tribal design and it seems like a cookie, or piercing is hanging out of her lower lip that has been photo shopped into the size of a Frisbee. This ad is breaking so many racial boundaries in a corrupt way and getting away with it. The stereotype that can be pulled from this text is that black African females need the help of white upper classed white men, and that white men are proud to be that helper. Even if this stereotype is true, there is a better way about showing it to viewers other than dominantly putting it in an ad this way. One thing this as does do is grab people’s attention which is what the producers want, and it brings attention to racism, and how it is very much relevant in society today. This ad shows how white privilege in the media marketplace is more powerful than any other race, due to the fact that it was created by a white man. The discourse that is shown with the text is in a different language so as a viewer I have no idea what the ad is selling, or trying to get across to me, but it does not even matter because this artifact has broken so many boundaries that viewers cannot get passed the actual picture. Race and social class is working together in an intersectional way by showing the black African female sitting on a upper class white male, while the male is holding her waste.

The final piece that goes along with the inequality of race in ads is this artifact below. In this picture to the left there is a black female with old wrinkled background tint behind her, indicating how blacks are old and wrinkled and more thicker than the average middles aged white person. In the middle of the black and white female there is a mixed female with just a plain white background showing the changes that is happening with the product. Finally to the right in this text there is a beautiful white middle ages female with a perfect background tint showing that the “mythical norm” of whites being better, prettier, and skinnier. There are several stereotypes that come from this ad, one being that the average white female is skinny, as compared to the average black female being thick. More stereotypes that can be drawn from this ad is that the average white females hair is fine textured and long, while the black females hair is curly and untamed. A oppositional reading that can be taken from this ad is how the transformation from white to black is a beautiful transition, reinforcing the ideology of being closer to the white race is more perfect, and as long as you’re trying to get there then you are on the right track. Race, age, and size are all working together in an  intersectional way in this ad to show inferential racism because the ad is still very classy, and the racism factor is not just overtly shown. The link of representation and how these three different racial groups are treated is very similar, what you see below is a low key seemingly representation that African Americans are still looked at as when compared to whites.


The inequality of race in advertisement has been looked at intersectional way throughout the five artifacts that you have reviewed above. There are many things that play into race in ads outside of the color of someone’s skin, such as gender, age and social class. I have learned that the ideologies of race have a lot to do with how advertisements are made, and what society says is the “American Dream”. Within the artifacts that I have provided there is a lot of overt racism, inferential racism, and mythical norms that have been mapped out in negative ways, and some positive ways. Not only looking at the feminine side of ads, but I have also looked at the male side of advertisements to gage a wide variety of artifacts. What I have noticed is that no matter what gender side you view there is definitely a problem in the commodity image-system. Meaning that there are issues at the production level, which even allows these ads to be made, and posted. The narrative that these individual images show is how white people are in power, and how black people will always be behind whites. When I started this blog and was searching for good artifacts showing racism dealing with advertisement it was not hard to do at all. Matter of fact it was almost impossible to find the opposite. Everything thing I can past was about some sort of ideology of whites being privileged and blacks being needy. Social class was one of the intersections with race in a few of the ads, because basically what was seen was that the whites were upper classed, and the blacks were lowered class by the way the artist presented the images. There was only one image that I found that worked for my playlist that showed an African American on the face of a prestige brand named Prada. That was even hard to find, it is not a typical thing that we see in everyday ads. With this particular ad it broke the mythical norm and showed how you do not have to be white to be portrayed in a positive way. The first artifact that was shown on the blog has more of a Berger view to it, because the women is appealing to men, with the sexiness of her face, lips, eyes, and pose. If she was trying to sell Tom Ford to a female without the possessive gaze of men, then it would be more conservative and informational.  Within these images there is a lot of symbolic annihilation, meaning you can’t be what you don’t see. Breaking that down even further, for example, it is hard to find an ad with black bigger women portrayed in a positive way, so there are seemingly women that fall in that category that feel like they could never be in an ad because it has not been seen yet. After finding these artifacts I have found that there can never be too much reading put into them because media text always has more than one message, and what one person may see someone else may not have and vice versa.  All of the ads that are on my blog are semiotics because they focus more on nonverbal codes rather than verbal codes. The ideologies that have been presented have changed over time but for the most part they are the same, there is still the race factor along with gender and social class that work in an intersectional way to show how white privilege is the main stream thing that is accepted.


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One comment

  1. platform11 · · Reply

    Reblogged this on PLATFORM 11.

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Gender, Race, & Sexuality in Pop Culture. Feminist cultural critiques happen here.

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