How People’s ‘Most Beautiful’ reveals changing beauty standards

The role of the media

“In some ways, how we define beauty is determined by ourselves,” says Vashi, the study’s lead researcher. The study, she says, shows that “beauty is dynamic. It’s not a static principle.” She believes what we find attractive can be influenced by society, with mass media having especially powerful effects.

According to, Americans consumed more than 10.5 hours of media every day during the first quarter of 2016 — up an hour from the previous year. As technologies such as smartphones constantly feed us news, entertainment and advertising, Americans are viewing more and more images of others — and of themselves. This has far-reaching effects on our culture, our social norms and our standards of beauty.

Patricia Wexler, a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City, says she has witnessed significant changes in patients’ perception of beauty during her 30 years of practice. New York’s diversity has always made it receptive to racial and ethnic differences, Wexler notes, but she thinks her patients have become even more open-minded about beauty. “The stereotype of the tall skinny blonde went away with the Kardashians and Beyonce,” she says. Now “there’s a lot more latitude in what we consider beautiful.”

The same trend can be found in the acceptance of “plus-size” models in advertising and even in Sports Illustrated’s annual bathing suit issue.

Chicago Tribune November 2017

Article by Claire Altschuler