Marli Grosskopf goes all in on Instagram filters and unachievable beauty standards.
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I’ve never been much of a materialist. You’d never catch me drooling over an exclusive designer handbag, and I’d avoid buying the new model of iPhone right up until being forced to write a eulogy for my carcass of an iPhone 6. And of course by the ‘new’ model of iPhone I mean the model that’s already two models too old, because fuck spending money on things, and fuck capitalism.
I think this is why the concept of influencers has always been a really odd idea to me. If a plethora of Victoria’s Secret supermodels plastered on three-storey billboards couldn’t persuade me to buy that dress, there’s no way in hell a young twenty-something year old with twenty thousand followers from the suburbs was going to convince me. But hey, to the girl with the twenty thousand followers from the suburbs who has forged a career out of getting freebies in exchange for posting pictures on Instagram, all power to you hun — I just can’t say you’re preaching to the choir. Nevertheless, I co-exist with social media influencers, consume my daily dose of #sponsoredposts, and the world seems to keep spinning.
Then one day, I noticed something had changed. It wasn’t the arrival of some unquenchable thirst for material goods, not even the desire to flee my life for an indefinite holiday to the Maldives (my desire for this has, of course, been strong long before the age of Instagram), No, something within me had changed. Perhaps it was a fleeting glimpse of my reflection in a shop window, or a particularly unsavoury tagged photo of myself on Facebook. It may have even just been the shock-horror of seeing my distorted image in a stray spoon or some aluminium foil. My reflection. And in that reflection, was my face. And once I saw it, all I could think to myself was;
What the FUCK is wrong with my face?!
Just like I’d once never been much of a materialist, I’d also never been particularly insecure. But suddenly, at the ripe age of 24, and despite regular positive feedback from friends and peers regarding my appearance, I was convinced I needed plastic surgery. My nose, which had always been proportionate and by all means quite cute, was now gargantuan and needed to be shaved down. My lips, which had always been on the bigger side due to my black South African genetics, were now most certainly not big enough. My complexion, which sure, had never been my best feature but certainly hadn’t caused me any grief, was now my biggest insecurity — enough so for me to cancel that catch up and avoid looking at shiny surfaces.
I realised then that the thing I’d inadvertently pertained from the swathe of influencers I’d subscribed to wasn’t something that I had bought, or something that I had wanted — but nevertheless, fell victim to. It was a literal change of my perception.
Fuck — they’d got me.
Sure, unrealistic beauty standards had always been an accepted part of our social climate, and always a topic of good natured debate. But it had always been an arms length away, through unattainable amazonian supermodels on the catwalks of Milan fashion week — in a world that was distant enough from my world’s orbit that there was no gravitational pull toward a place of self loathing. I wasn’t expecting this level of uneven comparison to girls I went to school with, who were by no means doing any better or worse than I was, but who’d chosen to spend their money on cosmetic surgery. I, on the other hand, had chosen to spend my money on a Europ trip or two and enough avocado toast to render me co-dependently living at home forever, unable to afford a house. Goddamn it. 24 years old, a proud feminist, and I found myself comparing myself to every woman within the scroll of a finger, deducing the only resolution was lasting surgery.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a strong believer in the right to choose, in being financially independent, and living your best damn life. To the unending sea of women who choose to get plastic surgery, for whatever reason, I tip my hat to you. I just can’t help but feel that now the playing field is a little uneven. In the nineties, the beauty standard was one-in-a-million women like the grungy girl-next-door Kate Moss, or the overwhelming glamour of Naomi Campbell. The world could look on at such creatures with delight, appreciate their rarity, and move on. In 2020, we’ve morphed into a society that somehow has at least 4 million women who look like a Kim Kardashian/Bella Hadid hybrid. You know the hybrid I’m talking about: high cheekbones; big lips; cat eyes. And seeing as it’s viable for women to jump on the latest beauty bandwagon, it appears those rare one-in-a-million women are now one-in-a-few-hundred-or-so, with the scale tipping further in our disadvantage. With more than a few of my friends in their early twenties, having already jumped on the plastic surgery bandwagon, the pressure to conform has never felt greater.
So, women, what do you do? You indulge. You chuck your phone’s selfie camera on, accidentally catching a glance of your raw, unfiltered face as you do so. You quickly flick through Instagram’s saved filter effects to one that slims, tans and smoothes, and occasionally has butterflies under its eyes or ‘bad girl’ written in calligraphy for some unexplained reason. For a moment, with the right angle and with the right lighting, you say to yourself; ‘Holy shit. Am I Kendall Jenner?’. And life is good. Then you turn your head a little too far, and the filter disappears, and ahh fuck, your regular face is back, and there’s no way in hell that your regular face is as good as your Instagram Face.
Will the torture ever end? Will beauty standards ever change? Will I succumb to plastic surgery pressures? Who knows. But for now, as long as I have enough wine, and enough good company to keep me distracted, I’ll probably favour a few more Euro trips over a permanent Instagram Face.
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