Model & Actress Alyssa Sutherland Says Don’t Be Fooled By Beauty Standards On Social Media
Narrow standards of beauty have existed for a very long time, but the fight against the false perception of what supposed perfection looks like has gotten more serious since the introduction of social media. Most of us are aware that fashion campaigns and advertising indulge in photoshop, airbrushing and other digital enhancement techniques in order to make a model look highly unrealistic (yet at the same time we are taught this is “aspiration”…).
With social media giving ordinary people a direct line of access to celebrities and public figures, the idea of perfection has on one hand started to get dismantled with the make-up free selfies and candid body insecurity confessions, but on the other has exacerbated the surrealism. Photoshop apps, filters, and the unknown amount of takes to get that perfect angle or shot is something we are becoming more and more aware of.
Just look at the ridiculous beauty “trends” that have spawned online such as the thigh gap, bikini bridge, Kyle Jenner lip challenge and the A4 waist challenge. By themselves these trends seem harmless, but when you multiply them by thousands and thousands of people around the world due to the viral nature of social media, it becomes more than just a laughable fad.
Australian-born model and actress Alyssa Sutherland, who can be seen playing Queen Aslaug in ‘The Vikings’ TV series, has spoken about this issue recently with Elle Magazine. She is someone who has been part of the image industry for a long time, modeling in high fashion campaigns for Chanel, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. But she understands that the pressures put on young women today are much more exacerbated than what she faced in school due to the added layer of “likability” which comes with social media.
“I’m so glad I’m not a teenager right now, because I remember just how difficult it was fitting in at school and wanting people to like you. I thought: How scary is it that your popularity is actually measured in numbers now, by likes on a picture or retweet? To actually have a numerical look at how many followers you have?…Social media to me is kind of a joke. I think as an older woman–I’m in my thirties–you see beyond it,” she said.
Being a woman in the public eye she posts a lot of images on Instagram of her modeling days and in full Viking regalia on set from her popular TV series, but when she started noticing a pattern from her followers claiming she was perfect and how they wanted to be her, she decided to set the record straight with this post:
It was her way of telling her female fans not to fall into the trap of unrealistic beauty expectations perpetuated by Instgram posts.
“We’re perpetuating the myth of our own perfection [on social media] and it’s because we’re all susceptible. Show me one woman that doesn’t have moments of insecurity. I think it’s a very human thing to have insecurities, to have vulnerabilities…I’ve constantly been judged for my looks. There are people who tell me I shouldn’t have any problems, who invalidated my feelings because I was model,” she admitted.
“Being on a TV show now and being a female in the public eye, I have some really horrible things written about my looks. It sucks that a lot of the time, it’s women that are making the comments. I think women are still very much judged upon their looks and you don’t really hear those same things said about the men, you know? Women are really quite harshly judged in a different way and I think it’s good bringing attention to that.”
It was a difficult position for her to be in, because as a high fashion model who has worked in the industry for a while, she recognizes how she is part of that “standard” of beauty being shoved down girls’ throats, with every magazine she appears in and ever fashion campaign she is the face of, complete with digital enhancement and photoshop.
“I felt a lot of guilt being a model, knowing that I was in those images girls compared themselves to. As a model, you’re not really discouraged to have an opinion, but you’re encouraged to be very agreeable and go with the flow and not challenge people,” she said.
It was an encounter with a photographer in London who told her that her legs too “too heavy” while looking through her portfolio that she decided she had had enough, and confronted him.
“I got really quite angered by him and I said, ‘I feel so guilty as it is having women look at these pictures and think this is what they have to look like without assholes like you telling me that I’m actually too fat’,” she recalls.
Although she had been in the industry for a while at this point, it took her some time to find her voice, she said. With the body positivity movement that has swept the industry, led by major brands such as Dove who have turned the focus of advertising toward women on its head with their “real beauty” campaigns, the change is definitely starting to be felt, but Alyssa believes it is when we don’t need to discuss it anymore that we will know we have succeeded in pushing for it.
“I think it’s lovely that people are bringing attention to it now, like with the Dove beauty campaign. But I think the problem is we’re still frickin’ talking about it. For example, I hate that term ‘plus-size’ model. It’s just ‘model’. We’re still putting labels on things. By putting a label on it we’re basically sort of saying they’re different. No, they’re just models. And they’re beautiful women. Why do we have to draw attention to the ‘plus’? Put a beautiful woman on a magazine and then don’t say anything about her size. I think that’s when things will really change,” she said.
Coming back to the social media phenomenon, Alyssa says it has only amplified the negative body trends that exist, and even she has doubted her self worth, falling into the trap of being pressured to look a certain way and attract a certain amount of followers in order to make her more employable in the fashion and entertainment world (yes, that is a thing!).
“I’m not sure about the whole social media thing. I’m not sure whether that’s helping or not…I feel quite strongly about it. I don’t like being a part of feeling like your value is only in your looks. Part of being an actress is having to be a businesswoman–it’s a big factor. And you kind of go, Okay, well I know that there are actresses out there who are booking roles because they have a huge social media following,” she said.
“I’m kind of at war against myself because I think, Am I shooting myself in the foot because the girls who are doing that could be taking the roles that I want? To be able to do what I love, I sort of think, Well, okay, should I build a social media following? Is this what I should be doing? And then watching what gets the most likes, what gets the most attention. Then there’s this real human part of me that’s just like, God, I’m just adding to all the rest of this sh*t.”
Which makes total sense that she felt the need to “lift the curtain” and post her Instagram image above. It should be a no-brainer that most images we see online and on social media could potentially be photoshopped, especially it it comes from a celebrity (there have been multiple discussions over whether Kim Kardashian and Beyonce have altered their “candid” moments online). Here’s to more influential women like Alyssa being willing to call out the industry and keep it real for all the women looking for a positive role model.