A few weeks ago, as I curled up on the couch in front of late-night TV, Alicia Silverstone sashayed onto my screen. She was the It-girl of my youth, the star of Clueless with the big doe eyes and tumbling dirty-blonde hair. Now more than 20 years later in an interview with Seth Meyers, she looked equally radiant – and yet something about her appearance was perplexing, almost jarring. Then it struck me: her top lip was thin.
It was something I hadn’t seen on commercial TV since BK (before Kardashians), never mind the fine lines on Silverstone’s forehead.
I grabbed my phone and Googled the actress in her Cher Horowitz heyday. Again, there was that fine top lip that curled under coyly – a top lip that gave the actress character and charm, and a top lip that suited her fine-featured face. A face so beautiful you couldn’t look away.
Today, we live in an age where high-profile pouts tend to range from pillowy to positively duck-like, a trend explored by Instagram artist Mat Maitland who takes images of old-Hollywood icons and gives them a makeover based on 2019 beauty ideals: fuller lips, chiselled jaws, contoured noses, plumped-up cheeks and tight foreheads.
The results are unsettling, even garish, but intriguing to say the least…
The images, Maitland told PAPER, are not supposed to make a statement against plastic surgery. "Some people might look at this series and believe that I am making a hard commentary on cosmetic procedures. This isn't the case at all," he said. "I've always been fascinated by people who push beauty to the extreme … Cosmetic approaches to beauty were previously restricted to celebrities and the mega wealthy but these have now become more attainable. Everywhere you look there is evidence of these contemporary ideals of beauty. You can observe the new normal across the world.”
The new normal indeed: in 2017 about 500,00 cosmetic procedures were carried out in Australia, including $350 million dollars' worth of Botox injections (according to SBS The Feed). And plastic surgery is no longer the sole domain of sexagenarian starlets – in today’s image-obsessed selfie society, a growing number of women and teenage girls see surgical and injectable cosmetic enhancements as a regular part of their beauty routine. A quick jab on one’s lunch break, if you will.
Of course every era has had a desired “look”, but never has it been so monolithic as today’s raven-haired, teeny-waisted, collagen-pumped ideal. Coquettish Audrey and curvy Marilyn could co-exist side by side in the '50s, something we should remember as we increasingly seek to look the same (and to mimic an Instagram filter at that).
Now look again at Maitland’s images. Do the made-over women look more beautiful? More sexy? More engaging? Perhaps Insta-filter perfection isn’t so perfect after all.