Our favourite major campaigns that have celebrated unconventional beauty this year

Indya Moore for Calvin Klein #ISpeakMyTruth campaign
Indya Moore for Calvin Klein #ISpeakMyTruth campaign

It’s 2019 yet narrow conventional beauty standards and colourism still prevail, particularly when it comes to women – one quick scroll on the internet confirms that. 

However, we are also at a place where the general attitude towards fashion and beauty campaigns is "if it ain't inclusive, we don't want it". This is an attitude triggered by decades of these industries being largely exclusionary. And after so many faux pas, a handful of brands are finally making efforts to get it right. 

READ MORE: CFDA report highlights what it will take to achieve a truly diverse and inclusive fashion industry

It also cannot be said enough that when Rihanna launched Fenty Beauty and later Savage x Fenty, she completely changed the model for diversity and inclusion, putting pressure on long-existing brands to level up and do the same. 

And it would appear that a few brands have indeed heeded the call to change the beauty narrative, and have given us some of our favourite campaigns in 2019 thus far. 

"Badge of honour"

Local fashion retailer Refinery is set to make waves across the local industry with its new spring campaign which embraces diversity, encouraging others to be unashamedly, authentically themselves.   

Elevating the on-trend capsule and taking the campaign from exciting to extraordinary is its leading lady model Chantel Struwig.  Chantel lights up the fashion visuals, while redefining conventional beauty standards with her beatific smile and prominent purple-pink birthmark that covers around a third of her face. 

Known as a vascular birthmark, or as Chantel prefers, her ‘badge of honour’, the skin discolouration is caused by blood vessels that don’t form correctly in childhood. "It made being a kid hard," Chantel admits, as she found herself the subject of stares or fielding invasive questions such as ‘what happened to your face?’

But even in the face of it all, the matric pupil remained confident and continues to own her unique stamp of beauty. This is what attracted Refinery to her. 

Karla Roodt, Marketing Manager at Refinery, says that Chantel inspired the entire Refinery team with her beauty, bravery, and bubbly personality, saying “our brand’s ethos is based on realness, which resonates with our customers. It was important for us to work with someone who epitomises the same authenticity and values that we as a brand live by, and we are honoured to have Chantel in our latest campaign.” 

"I Am Me"

Following the success of its star-studded Valentine’s lingerie campaign which featured the likes of Busiswa Gqulu and Pearl Modiadie, Ackermans is once again shaking up the country with its latest nude colour lingerie campaign; a natural progression of the retailer’s “I Am Me” (#iamme) movement. 

Advertising Specialist at Ackermans, Shameema Maloon says the #iamme campaign "said to the nation that rather than hide or begrudgingly accept your flaws, these so-called ‘imperfections’ are what make you unique.”

The response to #iamme from women across the country was so overwhelmingly positive, that Ackermans decided to involve some of these women in its next lingerie campaign. 

"We felt that the simplicity of this collection highlighted our models’ natural beauty," explains Shameema. “It is also one of our most popular lingerie lines, as it offers customers comfort, choice, functionality and quality, at an affordable price.” 

As with the previous celebrity-driven campaign, the models are beautifully depicted in the visuals with virtually no retouching - and with curves, stretch marks and bumps on proud display.

Shameema adds that “We want to encourage women to celebrate their individuality. We want to show women other women they can relate to in our campaigns  – women who share the same insecurities, dreams and struggles – and that we celebrate these women.”

READ MORE:Ackermans launches nude underwear for women of every shape and every shade

"I speak my truth"

Earlier this year, Calvin Klein's viral global brand campaign, 'I Speak My Truth', added a new face to it. Pose star and trans woman Indya Moore was added as the face of its Pride collection. 

According to Teen Vogue, "for the Pride campaign, Indya is photographed in items including a bra featuring the Pride colors and a tank." 

The Teen Vogue article adds that in one clip, Indya is seen outside, sharing thoughts on finding self-confidence, saying, "I used to tell my friends, 'I'm ugly before 10 a.m.'" And I warned them to just not look at me. Not anymore. I won't wait to be free, I speak my truth in my Calvins." 

"Raise a brow. Raise your voice."

International cosmetics brand, Benefit San Francisco's campaign earlier this year was not only refreshing, but worth an extra round of applause for portraying what inclusion actually looks like beyond just featuring one person of colour and heralding that as the ultimate image of diversity. 

The beauty brand's #BossBrows - "Raise a brow. Raise your voice" campaign featured a mental health advocate, LGBTQ/human rights activist, a cancer survivor and a non-binary femme sexual educator. 

The artwork for this campaign includes positive mantras such as "take up space", "all the magic in the world comes from breaking the rules", "embrace who you are", and "don't be afraid..." 

These were the top-notch women that made up the faces of this campaign:

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Hello 130K Boos! and a little blue check that makes it hard for people to impersonate me and means that you are famous on the internet. And then you remind yourself, capitalism is a bitch and looks like a blue check and none of that is connected to reality or the bills you still gotta pay (Thanks @thegranvarones). . . . I’m Ericka Hart (pronouns: she:/they) I identify as many things and you will hear me talk about all of them here, but def if you attend one of my speaking engagements (Spring dates coming soon). But, one identity that I always get questions about is being a non-binary femme. Non binary: preferred umbrella term for all genders other than female/male or woman/man. used as an adjective (e.g. Jesse is a non binary person). Not all non binary people identity as trans and not all trans people identify as non binary. Femme: an identity or presentation that leans towards femininity, not implying that someone identifies as a woman or not. . (Definitions from @transstudent) . . I remember when I got my period at 13 and my mom screamed to all of her colleagues “my daughter is now a woman!” That didn’t make sense to me nor was the connection explained. The reasons given to me about why my body was being sexualized since puberty (black femme chronicles) was that I was “becoming a lady”. The sexualizing and being called a lady made me uncomfortable. I just didn’t have the language that I felt really affirmed my gender. I love to cook, take care of people and be tender/soft and I struggled to be seen in these ways due to the world misgendering me as a “strong black woman”. My bestie said this week “If Black femmes don’t do what others want, they are disposed of” - @jewel_thegem . I feel this deeply and even in the rejection of cis womanhood, I have the experience of my voice/experience being rejected by those that want me to just fill that role. If I’m not being strong and powerful, than what’s her purpose? Being non binary allows me to assert that I am not one thing (none of us are), I get to be the gender expression and identity that’s authentic to me not whats imposed via white supremacy. Thanks for coming to my mini sex ed lesson. Any questions?

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So, I’ve been in a depressive episode since last Wednesday. I’m in an amazing place with some of my favorite people and yet I feel awful. This is the longest amount of time I’ve had Depression since going back on meds last year. I have been reminded that Depression is one of the loneliest and isolating feelings. Everything feels incredibly ominous. Flipped on its ear. Negative thoughts and emotions are heightened. Positive thoughts and emotions feel like a foreign language. Elusive like when you can’t think of a word, but you know the word. It’s an easy and effortless word. You can vaguely see it but you can’t connect. My body hurts. I cannot think and appear really unintelligent. I cry for reasons that don’t make sense. My judgement is severely impaired. It feels like everyone hates me, I’m an awful person and the world is working against me. Mostly I feel incredibly defeated by all situations and circumstances, which is not an emotion I carry in my day to day. All depression. I DO NOT feel this way AT ALL when I’m not in a depressive episode. Oh and I am surrounded by people that want to help, both friends and internet strangers. A really close friend asked me what to say and I realized there is nothing to say when it is this bad for me. A quick “just checking in to see how you are.” a compliment or an attempt at making me laugh are all appreciated and can temporarily alleviate some symptoms and that’s a welcome relief. I’ve actually been really surprised at how embarrassed I have felt. Weak, defective, a burden. It’s funny because I have been feeling really excellent for months. I actually got scared that I was cured. That I wouldn’t be able to relate to the suffering and now that it’s back I forgot how it feels to not be depressed. And I was getting really good at feeling those feelings. I forgot how to ask for and how to receive help. My strength lies in giving, not receiving when it comes to help. That’s all. Just had to get it out and I know that sharing this helps a lot of you and that’s enough to keep me sharing the highs and lows and that’s enough for me. PS. I managed to smile for a sec. a good reminder that sometimes smiles are fake ??

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Having beauty campaigns fronted by "othered" bodies is a beautiful and necessary statement to make in an industry whose profits have been largely generated by setting unrealistic standards of conventional beauty for its consumers. 

The biggest race in cosmetics right now is the one for winning the prize for the widest array of foundation shades offered. And that's commendable to a certain extent.

However, these new "darker" shades makeup brands have been introducing lately still remain marketed by conventionally attractive faces. It's therefore worth noting that what brands such as those mentioned above have done with their campaigns is a layered approach to changing the way we perceive and consume fashion/beauty. 

This sends out the message that inclusivity is easy and it should be approached intersectionally.

To us, the consumers at large, it conveys the message that we can all enjoy the perks of vanity regardless of where we think we lie on the beauty spectrum.

Which other fashion and beauty campaigns have restored your faith in beauty standards recently? Tell us here.

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