Mask of Beauty

December 6, 2011

Political Theory


A recent video has gone viral on youtube in the last week. The video features a 19 year old model, who suffers from a severe case of acne, which not only covers her face, but her neck and some of her back, as well. In the video segment, the model, Cassandra Bankson, describes her daily make-up routine of covering up her acne to give her picture perfect skin. The video can be found here.

Cassandra Bankson without makeup

At first, watching this video, I was amazed. As a teenage girl, who is prone to breakouts, I was genuinely interested in what advice the girl had to give, and I may or may not have even taken notes. The video is informative, and her technique really does work. Cassandra’s attitude is encouraging, as if anyone can achieve what she has. It is as if the video implies that anyone can be a superstar model. And realistically, what girl doesn’t want to be one? Think about what a model stands for. She is the epitome of human beauty. If we could all achieve this, this level of human perfection, who would turn it down?  Cassandra says that her youtube page is covered with kind comments, calling her an inspiration. This comment was what really got me thinking about this video in terms of Political Theory. Is a girl who teaches us all to wear a mask really an inspiration?

Model Cassandra Bankson after applying her mask of make-up

I began thinking about the TED video we watched in lecture with Aimee Mullins. Aimee is a athlete, actress, and most relative to this situation, a model, however, due to a serious illness, both of her legs have been amputated. Aimee, too, has been called an inspiration. Having two prostetic legs, she has accomplished more than most people have in their entire lifetime. And, although physically she may appear different, she has still managed to also be known as the epitome of human beauty.

Aimee teaches her audience to embrace their differences, to realize that whatever sets them apart makes up their identity, and that their identity is what makes up who they are. Aimee does not try to fit the social norm, and thus her differences, what some would call flaws, are considered beautiful. Cassandra, on the other hand, teaches us to cover up our differences. In her videos, she is teaching the youth of America how to look and feel like everyone else. She is teaching them how to wear a mask, both physically and metaphorically. And, in looking like everyone else, she too is considered beautiful. So, which is the right approach? Who is truly an inspiration? Is Cassandra just being realistic in recognizing that with her skin America would most likely not accept her as a model? What does this say about our country, that after everything, we don’t accept individuals for who they really are? What does it say that, instead, we expect them to cover up their flaws in order to represent “human beauty”? Who is really the true inspiration in these stories, could it be both?

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3 Comments on “Mask of Beauty”

  1. ceabee Says:

    I would not consider Cassandra an inspiration. I would only consider her to be a skilled make up artist. I agree that she is being realistic in recognizing that with her skin American would most likely not accept her as a model. This demonstrates that our country idolizes perfection. Everyone strives daily to be the best in everything they do and are – including the way they look. I do commend Cassandra for being open about her condition and for being helpful to other girls who experience the same problem with acne. However, I would consider Aimee the real inspiration in this situation.

  2. hoeylue Says:

    The case of Cassandra doesn’t say anything about our society and whether or not we accept people for what they really are or not. Even though I believe that nowadays perfection is demanded in every part of our social lives, demanding form a model to look flawless is a requirement of that specific job and nothing else. If she’s not qualified enough for this job, she shouldn’t take it (not meant mean). That goes for other jobs, too.
    But in the case of Cassandra there is no doubt of her qualification as a model, but only if she wears her make-up. But because she’s wearing the make-up with her own free will, she obviously accepts this as a part of her job. As a beautiful woman I also expect her to do this not only for her job, but also for her own self-confidence. Moreover, I don’t necessarily think of Cassandra’s skin disease as being something very bad. People who have to wear glasses (and have problems to find appropriate contact lenses) wear them all day long and also while interacting with other people. If these people feel uncomfortable with glasses, they are worse off than Cassandra, because she can wear mask all day long.

  3. weinben Says:

    Generally speaking, society holds itself to a higher standard than most of us could ever attain. We view professional athletes, corporate bosses, and fashion models in reverence because they possess attributes we most covet (physical prowess and athleticism, mental strength and leadership, and beauty and sexual attractiveness). However, by holding these attributes above our heads, most people spend their lives chasing these unattainable ideals, unable to be satisfied with their own personal merits and abilities. I believe that Cassandra’s message is, in fact, a solution to this problem. She has bad skin and acknowledges that it is detrimental to her self esteem and social life. Using make-up, I believe, is not a cop out or some sort of cheating; I think make up is a tool women use to enhance their beauty and regain a sense of self worth. While yes, it is sad that society places so much importance of physical attractiveness, is it not fair to say that people simply enjoy beauty more than deformity or faults? Attractive to beauty is an innate feeling that all animals have and human are no different. It is a biological condition because, in a sense, prettiness is rewarded because it is better than ugliness. I feel like Cassandra’s approach is more realistic than Aimee’s, although Aimee is considered the better (or more politically correct) role model because she asks girls to accept who they are and have pride. But Aimee is, in fact, a member of the elite class of women who actually have it all: beauty, brains (she graduated from Georgetown) and physical ability. She has also worked as an actress. Her case in very unusual, even without the amputation, because she has been endowed with such superb abilities. I feel it is easy for her to preach to accept yourself when she gets to look at herself in the mirror every morning.

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