Glossy Covers: Teen Vogue's brunette beauty ideal

Glossy Covers: Teen Vogue's beauty ideal

Is it Rebecca Black? Lucy Hale? Victoria Justice? Selena Gomez? Lea Michele? Leighton Meester? Miranda Cosgrove? Demi Lovato? Vanessa Hudgens? Jennifer Love Hewitt? Nope, it's Nina Dobrev of The Vampire Diaries on the cover of April's Teen Vogue. Dubbed by Teen Vogue "the anti-Bella" (as in Twilight, for the uninitiated), Bulgarian-born Dobrev, 22, plays "dueling roles as responsible high-schooler Elena and centuries-old vampire Katherine...[hovering] somewhere between distracted teenager and fully realised adult", which sits alongside the show's "subtle commentary on the idea that life is more complicated than just good versus evil."

Life for teens can be complicated, though it's not necessarily made easier by magazines like Teen Vogue.

Alongside exhortations like "wearing the right outfit will give you a certain feeling of power and security", the magazine features a subtle commentary that overachieving brunettes like Dobrev reign supreme ("I was also a gymnast and very academically driven...I'm constantly trying to one-up myself and raising the stakes"; notably, we are told her diet and exercise regime) alongside images of the cult of Young Hollywood (itty-bitty actresses Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, Hailee Steinfeld and Miranda Cosgrove, who has had major self-image issues), A-listers like Natalie Portman, Taylor Swift and Emma Watson, princess-in-waiting Catherine Middleton, Teen Vogue alumni Whitney Port and fresh-faced models from different nationalities but all sharing the same body type.

These images and messages are then pit against a sympathetic strain of reportage, the effect being the message, "We understand you but are not willing to compromise our aesthetic or editorial direction to help you."

Lauren Hill's daughter Selah Marley, 12 years old and pictured wearing Miu Miu and American Apparel page 171, says, "People tell me I have to follow in the footsteps of my mom and grandfather, but it's a lot of pressure – I can't really slip up and mess up the name."

"These days most teens face tremendous pressure to be the best at whatever they do," writes Alyssa Giacobbe. "But more and more moms are pushing goals that represent their own desires onto their daughters – be that head cheerleader, class president, first violin, or best dressed...the drive to see a daughter succeed becomes more about satisfying a mom's own need – to be extraordinary, to be liked, or even to be famous – than about paying attention to what makes her daughter happy."

Which seems a tad ironic coming from Teen Vogue. The result is like a pressure cooker with girls being pushed and pulled from all sides.

In 'Pushy Parents', Giacobbe writes, "experts say too much pressure to succeed can lead to anxiety, depression, and social withdrawl – and ruin the mother-daughter relationship in the process." Or else, the girls rebel, "develop eating disorders or addictions, or experiment with dangerous behaviour like cutting". The story then proceeds to detail the experience of one girl and her pushy mother, giving us her height, weight and

Cara, 15, says, "If I get one bad test score, my mom makes me feel as if I'm never going to get into a decent college. But the pressure on me isn't really helping. I'm just a kid." And Hannah, 16, says, "My mom wanted me to look like everyone else... We couldn't go [shopping] without a huge fight that ended in her being mad, crying, and our not talking for days. It's my body. And it didn't bother me if I wasn't popular – it bothered her."

Teen Vogue is like the mother trying to do the right thing, but who also projects onto you what she wants you to be and look like.

Perhaps Maggie S, the winner of the Clinique/Teen Vogue Fresh Faces competition, who aspires to "advocate for media that promotes positive body and dedicated my future to media that helps women feel confident and powerful", will help to correct the imbalance by one day bringing a greater range aspirational role models and positive lifestyle ideas to Teen Vogue's pages that helps to take the pressure off girls trying to fit the generic cover-girl prescription?

Girl With a Satchel


Ben said...

Teen Vogue? I guess there isn’t enough pressure to sexualise girls, according to some. And how many pimply “overweight” teens of colour do they showcase? Perhaps there would be more influential women in the media if they weren’t so concerned with pushing this Calvin Klein culture onto girls. For heaven’s sake, this looks like exploitation. It makes me cringe.