GenZ Redefines Beauty Standards

We just wrapped up our 2nd year attending VidCon, the annual pilgrimage for YouTube fans to meet the creators who have been sucking up their free time all year.

This year was similar to last year (which I wrote about here). There were a lot of the same YouTube celebs (Tyler Oakley, Dan & Phil, Miranda Sings (Colleen Evans), and the “Holy Trinity” of Grace Helbig, Mamrie Hart and Hannah Hart), who have all gotten a little older and a lot savvier, especially Oakley, who inked a deal with Ellen DeGeneres. And there were some newer players to the field, or at least new to me.

Last year, I wrote about my observations of Generation Z (a.k.a. GenZ, iGen), and how they were leading the way toward more acceptance and exposure of LGBTQ youth. But one thing that really hit me this year was their perceptions of beauty.

My husband and I grudgingly attended a beauty panel. Yes, my husband – My scruffy, Republican, card-carrying NRA member husband attended a beauty panel. The panel we wanted to attend was full, so we had an hour to kill. We expected to hear a group of vapid teenagers droning on in their best vocal fry extolling the virtues of overpriced mascara and lipsticks, and makeup routines that only take an hour.

Instead we got an international panel of young women in very little makeup discussing perceptions of beauty from around the world. They talked about the disparaging remarks they got from viewers about their faces, their bodies, and how they should be and what they were.

“You’re too fat”

“You’re too pale or dark”

“Your butt is so big”

“Your nose is too wide or long”

“You’re really ugly for someone who discusses beauty”

I wondered how they kept up their confidence after reading these remarks on a daily basis. Their tips for that were simple 1) ignore the haters 2) surround yourself with positive people IRL (In Real Life). That seemed like the easy part.

But the main thing I wondered was where they got their confidence in the first place. They certainly didn’t get it from my generation. My generation (GenX) is overly Botoxed, plastic surgeried, and jumps on every fad diet other than the ones that make sense (eat right and move more).

My generation says things like, “I was bad today. I ate a cookie.” Like eating a cookie is right up there with murdering a basket full of kittens.

My generation says things like, “I can’t go to (the beach, high school reunion, etc.) until I lose X pounds and my hair looks better.”

My generation believes, despite all their education, experience and intelligence, having a smaller nose, smaller butt, bigger breasts, and no wrinkles will give them the confidence they need to go after the jobs and romantic partners they want.

GenZ (at least the ones at VidCon) gives a collective middle finger to this line of thinking. This is evident when I see my daughter and her friends happy in their own skin. Sure, they experience the same heartaches and teenage dramas we experienced. But they don’t go to the places we went when we were there age.

“If only I was thinner. Taller. Prettier. Only then will I deserve good things.”

If I grew up now, versus when I did grow up, I wouldn’t have spent a majority of my teens and twenties with my face in a toilet, desperately trying to maintain a size that I wasn’t meant to be.

If I grew up now, there would be an alternative to the media that tell me I’ll never be happy unless I look like the women in the pages of magazines and on TV and movie screens.

If I grew up now, I wouldn’t tell myself in my 50s I’m too old, fat, ugly, and “busy” to start a YouTube channel/blog called “The Invisible Mom” that would address these issues and others.

For all of our experience, education and intelligence, we have much to learn from GenZ.

I started wondering what was on the horizon for the YouTubers of today as they age into their 30s, 40s and beyond. It’s a given that the technology itself will continue to evolve. But as far as the people themselves, are they going to be replaced by younger eCelebs and fade into the ether? Or are they going to continue evolving, showing the generation after them (Gen – oh crud, we’ve run out of letters?) how to really age gracefully.

As with last year, I left VidCon with a feeling of hope for the future.