Women of color were seldom shown as role models unless they had, like Beverly Johnson, virtually Caucasian features. Now, there is much more pluralism in the myth; it is now, one can almost say, many beauty myths. A seventeen-year-old African American model, with African features and dark skin, is reported in the New York Times as being the face of the moment. In the same vein, Benetton ads feature models in a rainbow of skin hues and with a myriad of racial and ethnic features.
A fiftyish Cybill Shepherd is a cover girl, and the adored plus-size model Emme hosts E’s Fashion Emergency. Women of color feel freer to wear traditional ethnic hairstyles and clothing in professional settings, and the straightening comb is not the obligatory burden it was in the early nineties. Even Barbie has been redesigned with a more realistic body type and now comes in many colors. Looking around, there is a bit more room today to be oneself. There is also more consumer protection against the worst assertions of the beauty industry than there was in the days when this book first appeared.
Today, anti-aging creams, for example, can no longer make absurd claims for their products, as they did a decade ago. Ten years ago, cosmetics companies regularly declared that their youth creams “erased” signs of age, “restructured” skin on a “cellular” level, and “renewed” tissue “from within”—all of which are physically impossible, since their ingredients were not able to penetrate the epi dermis.