If the photo above looks harsh, it's supposed to. It's part of a new campaign launched by Robin Rice, an author and founder of Be Who You Are Productions, called "Stop the Beauty Madness." In an effort to change the national conversation about self-worth and beauty, Rice created a series of advertisements that are branded with messages like, "Do I look fat in this?" and "Objects in this mirror may seem smaller than they appear."
Rice doesn't mince words when it comes to highlighting the extreme "madness" of the value we place on beauty today. We sat down with her to talk about changing the way the world sees women and beauty, and why she needs your help.
Shape: The images in "Stop the Beauty Madness" are extremely jarring. Is that the point? What's the main message you're trying to drive home?
Robin Rice (RR): I consider them intense and honest. They are what women truly experience within, as well as the actual social conditions we face every day. It is hard to see, because it is so obviously true to so many of us, if not all of us. My message is that it is pervasive, and no matter what your body type, or age, or race, you face it. We all accept it as normal, but it's madness, so I wanted to start a converstion about it.
Shape: How are you hoping people will feel when they see the campaign?
RR: I hope they will recognize the insanity of it. Most women who've seen it have responded like, "Finally, someone is saying this out loud." Some of the ads will make you feel something, but I don't want to dictate what. That's up to you. I'm here to start the conversation, but we all need to continue it. In the end, I hope all the ads make you think.
Shape: Do you think the national conversation around beauty will really ever change? How can people contribute?
RR: We are seeing some great evidence of this, such as campaigns and celebrities saying, "Enough is enough." But for this to truly change, we have to each say we are not going to play the games around beauty any more. Each one of us has to do that, and then we have to hold our friends and sisters and mothers and daughters to that. We have to redirect negative talk and say we're not going to support it in the women we love.
Shape: What's the most important thing you're hoping people will take away from this campaign?
RR: That it really is as bad as we think it is. Focusing on our beauty or body issues really does keep women from being what they could be. We can ask to stand up for our rights to be recognized, look for equal pay, and expect to be heard—but not if we are worried about gaining five pounds.
Shape: Is there anything else you want people to know about the campaign?
RR: We have a 10-week audio series that is completely free. There are no sales tactics, no redirects, just amazing conversations with women who are leading this conversation. I've learned a huge amount from the series myself, and I hope to share them. We need support in this. It needs to be more than the idea of the week. We have to dive in and find out what is possible, beyond what we have believed in the past. It's possible to stop the beauty madness—when we decide to.