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Too dark skinned to win Strictly: Alexandra Burke, race hate and why love still matters

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In 2017, I was approached by a fashion editor on a UK broadsheet for comments on why Alexandra Burke was consistently voted against by the great British public watching Strictly Come Dancing. I did not watch Strictly at the time and told her that I could not help her. Being persistent, the journalist shared with me a Guardian newspaper report on research that showed that Alexandra was voted against every week even though the judges gave her great points and comments on her skills as a dancer. Responding to the journalist again in the light of this research, I said that Alexandra was too dark-skinned to win Strictly because ballroom dancing is still seen as a white dance form by the public. This meant that only bodies racialized as white or that were ‘mixed-race’, light skinned and normatively feminine (which accounts for Alesha Dixon’s triumph) could ever win Strictly. This was reported in the broadsheet as Alexandra Burke is "too black to win Strictly" though the rest of th…

Researching beauty in meat space – my brush with the beauty vloggers

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My PhD research centred on beauty vloggers, namely, young women who regularly produce beauty content on YouTube for a living – it’s their jobs. In my work I demonstrate how although the beauty vlogger appears solo in front of a camera, they rarely work alone. The UK (and many other countries) has a sizable beauty vlogging industry, which (in addition to YouTube and brands) also features a proliferating number of intermediaries, managers and ‘industry experts’. A significant element of the beauty vlogging ecology is the ‘networking event’. These events are highly feminised and ostensibly centred on leisure: they often featuring a ‘tea party’ or ‘cocktail’ theme, but are branded through post-feminist logics of girl-boss empowerment. In highly decorated rooms, often around a high-end centrepiece cake, stakeholders give lectures, and successful vloggers and influencers speak on panels. Beauty and lifestyle brands horseshoe around the peripheries of event locations, giving out products tha…

The Challenge of Writing About Colourism

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Colourism, skin shade prejudice involving the preferential treatment of people with light skin within and between ethnic groups, affects the life chances of people of colour around the world and fuels the multi-billion dollar global skin lightening industry. Evelyn Glenn (2008, 289) argues that in India there is an “almost universal” preference for light skin and “in terms of sheer numbers, India and Indian diasporic communities around the world constitute the largest market for skin lighteners.” Focusing on the USA, Margaret Hunter (2007) argues that people with light skin earn more, stay in school longer, live in better areas, and marry people of a higher status than those with darker skin from the same ethnicity or racialised group.

According to the World Health Organization (n.d.), 77 percent of women in Nigeria, 35 percent of women in South Africa and 59 percent in Togo are reported regularly to use skin lightening products and in 2004, skin lightening was reported by almost 40 pe…

“I know why I have the scars that I do, and the bottom line is that I need them to exist”: Cancer treatment and women’s body image

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The month of October is a time when charities, individuals, brands and businesses in the UK raise awareness of diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women in the UK, and in any one month around 5000 women will be diagnosed with the disease (Breast Cancer Care, 2018). Surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone therapy are used to treat women affected, and cancer survival has doubled in the last 40 years (Cancer Research UK, 2018).  
Procedures and therapies impact on women’s bodies physically and emotionally as they experience the changes caused by the disease and treatments.Women might find it difficult to come to terms with a body that differs from idealised media images, and previous work on women’s body image and well-being after cancer treatment has focussed mostly on the negative impacts (e.g. Baucom, Porter&Kirby, 2006). To understand more fully women’s experiences of cancer treatment and body image from their own per…

Traditional media disclaimer labels are ineffective at improving women’s body image; But what about social media disclaimers?

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Whether you are reading a magazine, scrolling through social media, or just walking past shop fronts or advertisements, it is likely that you will come across glamorous images of thin women living a seemingly perfect lifestyle. These images generally promote a very narrow beauty ideal that is unattainable for most women. These images are also often edited, using appearance-enhancing lighting and photo editing filters, apps, and programs. Thus, the beauty ideal being promoted in these images is not real or achievable.

Decades of research suggests that looking at these idealised images can make women feel bad about their body and increase negative mood (Grabe, Ward, & Hyde, 2008), particularly for women who are already highly concerned about their body. This may be because women compare their own appearance to the women in the images and judge themselves to be less attractive and/or because these images encourage women to internalise the societal beauty ideal.
Government bodies and p…

Who is at high risk of body dissatisfaction?

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Do you feel dissatisfied with one or more parts of your body or appearance? If so, you are not alone. In fact, body dissatisfaction is so widespread that it has been given the label of normative discontent. Although girls and women are most affected by body image issues, boys and men are increasingly dissatisfied with their body. Negative feelings about our bodies are therefore common, which is a problem in itself and raises important questions about why this is so prevalent across society. However, for some people, normative discontent turns into abnormal preoccupation. By abnormal, I mean negative beliefs, thoughts, and behaviour that affect the ability to function on a daily basis, significantly reduce quality of life, and increase the risk of early mortality.
As with most things in life, body dissatisfaction exists on a continuum, so who is most likely to be on the high end of the scale? Unsurprisingly, people who receive negative comments about their appearance are more likely to …