Cassey Ho "Decoded" Instagram's Beauty Standard—Then Photoshopped Herself to Match It
The results will shock you.
Cassey Ho, the fitness diva behind Blogilates, is not one to shy away from calling out the BS behind today's beauty standards. She often transforms her body using everything from Photoshop to clever kitchen props to prove that Instagram doesn't always show you reality—and even if it did, you don't have to conform to the beauty standards littering your newsfeeds. (Related: Cassey Ho Shares How She's Always Kept It Real In an Industry That's So Focused On Aesthetics)
Ho's recent reality check, however, took a more scientific approach to social media's definition of "beauty." In an elaborate analysis, Ho "decoded" today's ideal standard of beauty by studying the aesthetic traits of the top 200 most-followed women on Instagram.
In a 10-minute video, Ho shares what inspired her to conduct this experiment. She starts by noting that "influencers" have actually existed for centuries. Pre-social media, beauty standards were predominantly dictated by where you lived and your ethnicity, Ho explains. By the late 1800s, women's magazines began to grow popular, displaying their own perceived "ideal" body types and fashion trends. A century later in the 1950s, women in movies and TV strongly dictated mainstream ideas about what's considered "beautiful," Ho says in her video.
Now, social media is yet another modern platform upholding certain beauty standards, she explains. Case in point: You can literally see who has the most followers on Instagram and is therefore considered ~an influencer~. (Did you know that Instagram is the worst social media platform for your mental health?)
But what exactly are today's beauty standards? How would someone in the future looking back at 2019 describe today's perception of beauty? Ho conducted her experiment to answer these questions.
Then Ho gathered 22 physical attributes that each of those 200 women could be judged on. These included things like age, height, hair color, hair length, neck length, face shape, body shape, eye color, clothing size, the flatness of the person's stomach, their lip, eye, nose, and chest size, skin color, and even "prominence of butt". (Related: This Habit You Learned Growing Up Can Seriously Mess with Your Body Image)
Ho says she worked closely with "a fellow researcher" to ensure her findings were accurate, but even then the science wasn't perfect, she admits. While things like height were super easy to find online, attributes like butt and chest size were a bit more subjective, Ho explains.
After weeks of analyzing data to the best of her ability, Ho discovered what she called a "formula" that seems to define today's ideal beauty standard. "It's fascinating, but also incredibly eerie during a time you'd think that social media has evened the playing field for women of all body types, sizes, ethnicities, and skin color," Ho says in her video.
Ho's results showed, for starters, that the most-followed women on Instagram had an average age of 22 and were around 5'7". They were also predominantly Caucasian; only 8 percent of the top 100 female Instagrammers were POC, according to Ho's findings.
Also, a heart-shaped face seemed to be the most popular facial structure—and to get super specific, 75 percent of these women had dark eyes that were larger in shape, 90 percent had plump lips, 93 percent had a small nose, and 72 percent had a long neck.
Based on Ho's calculations, it also seems like blonde is out. Seventy-eight percent of Instagram's most-followed women had dark hair, with a mid-back length being the most popular cut. Most of them also had a flat stomach, but weren't muscular and didn't have a visible six-pack. They also had at least B-cup breasts or larger. (Related: I Tried Living Like a Fitness Influencer for a Week)
As for most common body type, "hourglass" was the most prevalent, while "thin and straight" was a close second.
To be clear, no one "influencer" had all these attributes. But in case you were wondering what someone like that would look like, Ho also altered her appearance through makeup and Photoshop to get as close to these attributes as possible.
First, she followed a YouTube tutorial for heavy glam makeup. She then straightened her hair and added extensions. Afterward, she put on the most outrageous, influencer-style clothes and accessories she could find: tons of gold jewelry, ridiculous rhinestone sneakers, and a shirt literally emblazoned with the word "influencer". Then, Ho posed for several photos and asked a graphic designer to Photoshop her face and body to match the "ideal beauty standard" she'd decoded earlier.
The results, as you can image, were insane. Take a look:
Ho herself had some eye-opening takeaways from her experiment. "I find it interesting that being blonde and blue-eyed is no longer the desired beauty idea, according to Instagram," she said in her video. "But I also find it interesting that in the era of the most body-positive revolution, only five out of the top 100 Instagramers were plus-size. And in the top 10, zero were plus-size."
What's even more fascinating is that Instagram allows you to follow whoever you want, Ho pointed out. No one is explicitly telling you what's considered "beautiful" and what isn't. Yet so many people are still adhering to the old beauty standards of idealizing light-skinned, large-chested women with big eyes and small waists.
It's no wonder that so many women still feel like they need to look a certain way to feel beautiful. And that's after knowing fully well that most of these influencers have an army of personal trainers, chefs, dietitians, and plastic surgeons (not to mention, Photoshop) to help them look the way they do. Yet so many people want to resemble them in every possible way.
Watch Ho's thought-provoking video below to learn just how ridiculous today's beauty standards really are, and the impact they can have on self-image: