Dear jewelry industry,
We need to talk about your love of skinny white models.
Image by Jay Littman.
Pretty much the only time I see someone my size modeling fine jewelry on the internet is when I take a selfie – unless, of course, someone’s doing a “look at this brave plus sized model!” feature where the cover girl happens to be wearing jewelry.
It took me years to start regularly sharing my picture online, mostly because I feel like my image doesn’t fit into what is generally acknowledged as preferable for public consumption. So many other women are made to feel the same way, whether it’s because of their size or skin color or hair or wrinkles or because they wear a headscarf or use a wheelchair.
This is bullshit and I’m tired of it.
I have a request for you, jewelry industry. The next time you’re trying to find the right skinny white 20 year old for your ad campaign, please think again. Be brave enough to ignore what everyone else is doing, and show us something more.
If your jewelry editorials offer something more than the usual harmful sameness – especially if you feature models of color, or models who are older or bigger or unretouched – please pitch me.
Yesssss!!!! Right on, Becky! ❤️
Thank you, Amy!! xoxo
Sing it, sister!
Asia Nail says
Great article Becky! Diversity marketing is key if designers/jewelers want everyone one to visualize themselves in their gems 💎 As our industry focuses on the “how” vs the “why” I look forward to an amazing mosaic of blingtasticness!!!
Thanks so much, Asia!! And I completely agree: I think that something that’s happening in recent years with the rise of the internet is that people have realized that actual normal people can model clothes and jewelry – and how much that resonates with shoppers. I hope that editorial campaigns will continue to evolve to reflect consumers more accurately.
Great article and true! And, I’d like to ask that the hand models all not be perfect either. Makes taking a selfie so hard!! My hands are not like those in the photo shoots. Flawless and wrinkle free. :O)
That’s a great point too! I know so many women who don’t like to post ring selfies because they’re self conscious about their hands. I think that a hand that shows it’s been through life is beautiful.
Vivian TJD says
YES YES YES. Thank you so much for writing this and sharing this. We need to see DIVERSITY in skin colors, hair styles, body sizes, etc. It is NOT relatable to see a piece only on models!
Thank you, Vivian!!
Barbara Ann Sandoval says
The question is, why don’t they use people that look like me if they want me to buy their items? You really want me to guess how this would look on a size 12 when your model is probably 18 years old? Size 0.
And for jewelry…c’mon. It looks good on all woman no matter who you are. Very few retailers are now using regular people. Natural women. But don’t make me work just to spend money at your store/site. Too many other options out there.
Thank you for speaking out. All our voices count.
I totally agree. It’s much easier to imagine yourself wearing something when you’ve seen it on someone who looks at least a little bit like you. It seems like it should be good business, in addition to healthier for all of us.
Thanks for commenting, Barbara!
Jaenice Palmer says
I hear you on this. The same old monolithic paradigm we get year after year does nobody any good in the long run, and it doesn’t acknowledge one of the biggest demographics that buys the fine jewelry they showcase: Women of a certain age with extra income to burn. We despise old age so much, it seems, that even when we have an older woman in an advert, she is not allowed to be wrinkled, squishy around the edges, or anything other than “ageless”, whatever that means. Girls! Youth by definition is transient and fleeting; in point of fact, it was once the woman in her thirties, forties, and forties who was courted and celebrated, not the Twiggy lookalike just out of her teens.
And you’re right–differently abled people wear jewelry as well. I know one gal in a wheelchair who wears pretty sparkly things with wild abandon, and I suspect she’d be more than happy to see a reflection of that in a magazine. Women in headscarves may not always wear, say, great whacking necklaces out in public, but I do know one or two who enjoy looking at a bit of glitz and sparkle as much as the next woman. And many a plus-size woman I know wants to buy a small piece of beauty and glamour for themselves.
Of all the jewelry houses I’ve seen, only Tiffany–Tiffany!–uses models of color with anything approaching regularity, and for obvious reasons this is the exception more than the rule. Everyone else uses the same monochromatic casting scheme, and it grates, although I don’t always acknowledge this on a conscious level; I only know something is off. This is a shame and a pity–there are so many kinds of beauty out there, and to feature only one type is to do the rest of us a grave disservice.
Now for the seemingly trivial point: Hair. Almost all of the featured models in jewelry adverts have long, swishy, stick-straight hair, maybe “beach waves” at most. Tiffany did feature Liya Kebede and Lupita Nyongo with their natural hair, but again, more the exception than the rule. I’ve been a curly top myself all my life, and these days seeing nothing but sheets and sheets of flattened-out locks all but gives me hives. Curly hair, probably, will be the next “shock value” gimmick for fashion and for jewelry: All right in small doses but unlikely to dislodge the hegemony of the sleek and straight brigade.
Right, I’ve had my rant for the day. Great post!
Thank you for this astute, intelligent, and beautifully thought-out comment! If this is what you call a rant, please feel free to rant in my comments section any day. My husband actually saw your response before I did and came and asked me “Wow, who’s Jaenice? She wrote a really insightful comment.”
I agree with you so so so enthusiastically. Especially about the age issue: our society loves to idealize (and sexualize) young women and girls, even as the industry realizes more and more that the survival of the luxury market rests on the shoulders and wallets of self-purchasing older women. No wonder so many women feel uncomfortable buying jewelry for themselves. We’re told everywhere we turn that jewels are for the young and beautiful (and white, usually) who receive them as gifts due to said youth/beauty. It’s insulting, harmful, and stupid.
I really don’t have anything to add to your beautiful comment except to salute you as fellow curly top who doesn’t straighten her hair, either.
Jaenice Palmer says
Blush, blush, blush, blush, blush. Okay, now I have a case of the warm and fuzzies–I’m tickled pink your husband noticed my comment. And yes, my rants tend to be hyper-articulate, and there will be some university-level vocabulary involved (evil grin).
Re the age issue, I suspect it’s cyclical–in ancient Greece and Rome, as an example, it was considered natural and logical to venerate youth and beauty, as it was considered a gift of the gods in the most literal sense. In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, youth and beauty were again venerated, this time as a sign of attractiveness, fertility, and sometimes social station–beauty, then as now, was also a sign you could afford to look good. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the jeunesse doree still had an easier time of it than most, but alongside that we saw the rise of open admiration of knowledge and wisdom–both qualities associated with older people!–and the rise as well of the handsome profile, something we still connect with men and women of a certain age. It was considered better to be handsome than to be pretty; pretty, the eighteenth-century thinkers observed, often faded away to a wilted frowziness, while handsome retained its strength and character well into later years. The debate of handsome vs. pretty persisted well into the nineteenth century before pretty knocked handsome out of the ring. It was better for a girl to be pretty, the notion went, as a handsome woman who was also severe and intelligent could damp the ardor of the most practiced lover. The 1920s, for all the claims of emancipation, preferred pretty girls to handsome women. The 1930s and 1940s, in a more somber mood, switched once again to a preference for handsome before the needle stuck on pretty once again in the 1950s, the 1960s, and every succeeding decade after that. I am biased in this: My maternal grandfather was a good-looking man well into his later years, my mother is a handsome woman who takes after her father, and I would describe myself as handsome, albeit in a somewhat different style than that of my mother and grandfather.
Yes, you would think more people would realize the might and main self-purchasing older women could bring to bear in any major survey! And yes, many women do feel uncomfortable buying diamonds or what have you on their own, precisely because we are still being fed the image of a baby face with perfect (blonde) locks going out with a sugar daddy, living on a diet of costly and pretentious clothes and jewelry. Youth is forever ascendant–even if you do see Joan Didion posing for Saint Laurent, it’s the Shock of Older Women, not the Age of Older Women. This is what many young women come to expect and demand; I’m still on the short side of thirty myself, and I find it appalling. Do they not realize what they are letting themselves in for? All right, granted, I could talk about this all day, but to be a young woman netting expensive baubles via dubious sexual adventures–that isn’t the only way to go, nor should it be. (And there I go, ranting again.)
Long live curly hair! Yes!
Erin Hazen says
Hi Becky! OMG, we feel the EXACT same way (we saw you speak at JCK btw!).
At Paris Jewellers, we made the switch 2 years ago and our last three lookbooks have featured our own Brand Ambassadors, and customers! Diverse sizes, ethnicities and ages. We wanted to share true stories, from real people – and not use the same stock photography that everyone else was using. This shift has been so positive for everyone – I’d love to talk more with you about it!
Here’s a link to our Fall/Winter lookbook “BELIEVE2016”: http://fliphtml5.com/wqsu/jzwx
And to our current Spring/Summer lookbook “TRUE2017” http://online.fliphtml5.com/wqsu/xbkt/
Love that you are calling attention to this – jewellery is for everyBODY (shape, size, colour, gender – we all have meaningful moments to celebrate!)
This is fabulous!! Thanks so much for this comment and for all you and Paris Jewellers are doing to help jewelry editorials reflect the real jewelry loving women of the world (and for coming to see me at JCK!).
How true! Not all of us are small white or perfect ha ha but it would be ever so nice to see a different set of models! I would love to see everyday gals model some beautiful jewelry!
Me too, Cheryl!
And I actually found one designer who is doing just that. Check out this Dana Bronfman campaign, where the models are actually her friends, family, and clients: http://www.nationaljeweler.com/independents/ecommerce/5361-designer-inspires-shoppers-to-create-a-story-of-their-own