America's 'Beautiful People' Are Changing

From - October 11, 2017

America's 'Beautiful People' Are Changing

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 11, 2017 -- It strikes no one as surprising when someone like Beyonce graces the cover of a magazine as an icon of beauty, but a new study suggests that was far more rare three decades ago.

If People magazine is any indication, America's definition of who's "beautiful" has broadened to include more races and a wider span of ages.

"This study analyzed photographs of celebrities who were deemed 'beautiful' by People magazine in 1990 compared to 2017," explained study author Dr. Neelam Vashi. "We intended to answer a simple question: Did our perception of beauty change between 1990 and now?"

Apparently it did.

"This data suggests that maybe our society is starting to embrace graceful aging, diversity and the beauty we are born with," Vashi said.

In the study, after breaking down looks by hair, skin color, eye color, age, gender and race, the team found that "celebrities rated beautiful in 2017 were older, more often women, and had a higher rate of darker skin types and mixed race," noted Vashi, who is director of the Boston University Center for Ethnic Skin.

Why People magazine? Largely because of its readership of nearly 44 million adult readers, making it the most popular magazine in the United States, Vashi explained.

She added that the magazine's top-50 beauty list was first launched in 1990, and that editorial decisions have always been based on the combined input of magazine staff, modeling agents, photographers and readers.

After cataloguing 27 years of choices, the team observed that while lighter-skinned men and women accounted for 88 percent of choices in 1990, that figure fell to about 70 percent by 2017.

The same held true for cover photos on those special issues: Actress Halle Berry was the only woman of color until 2003, but Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce and Lupita Nyong'o all made the cover between 2011 and 2014.

All told, this meant that individuals with darker skin accounted for nearly 30 percent of list participants by 2017, up from just 12 percent in 1990, the researchers noted.

And while the 1990 list included just one mixed-race celebrity, by 2017, the findings showed that 14 mixed-race men and women made the cut.

Still, Vashi noted that over the entire timeframe, just four non-white celebrities were featured as number 1 on the list, and all of those were post-2000.

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