Generation Diva

Is this country raising a generation of young divas obsessed with pedicures, manicures, laser hair removal and other types of beauty treatments?  That’s the question that’s asked in this Newsweek magazine article, Generation Diva, How our obsession with beauty is changing our kids.

Generation Diva

How our obsession with beauty is changing our kids.

Jessica Bennett
NEWSWEEK

There’s a scene in “Toddlers & Tiaras,” the TLC reality series, where 2-year-old Marleigh is perched in front of a mirror, smothering her face with blush and lipstick. She giggles as her mother attempts to hold the squealing toddler still, lathering her legs with self-tanner. “Marleigh loves to get tan,” her mom says, as the girl presses her face against the mirror.

Marleigh is one of many pageant girls on the show, egged on by obsessive mothers who train their tots to strut and swagger, flip their hair and pout their lips. I watch, mesmerized by the freakishness of it all, but wonder how different Marleigh is from average girls all across America. On a recent Sunday in Brooklyn, I stumble into a spa that brands itself for the 0 to 12 set, full of tweens getting facialed and glossed, hands and feet outstretched for manis and pedis. “The girls just love it,” says Daria Einhorn, the 21-year-old spa owner, who was inspired by watching her 5-year-old niece play with toy beauty kits.

Sounds extreme? Maybe. But this, my friends, is the new normal: a generation that primps and dyes and pulls and shapes, younger and with more vigor. Girls today are salon vets before they enter elementary school. Forget having mom trim your bangs, fourth graders are in the market for lush $50 haircuts; by the time they hit high school, $150 highlights are standard. Five-year-olds have spa days and pedicure parties. And instead of shaving their legs the old-fashioned way—with a 99-cent drugstore razor—teens get laser hair removal, the most common cosmetic procedure of that age group. If these trends continue, by the time your tween hits the Botox years, she’ll have spent thousands on the beauty treatments once reserved for the “Beverly Hills, 90210” set, not junior highs in Madison, Wis.

Reared on reality TV and celebrity makeovers, girls as young as Marleigh are using beauty products earlier, spending more and still feeling worse about themselves. Four years ago, a survey by the NPD Group showed that, on average, women began using beauty products at 17. Today, the average is 13—and that’s got to be an overstatement. According to market-research firm Experian, 43 percent of 6- to 9-year-olds are already using lipstick or lip gloss; 38 percent use hairstyling products; and 12 percent use other cosmetics. And the level of interest is making the girls of “Toddlers & Tiaras” look ordinary. “My daughter is 8, and she’s like, so into this stuff it’s unbelievable,” says Anna Solomon, a Brooklyn social worker. “From the clothes to the hair to the nails, school is like No. 10 on the list of priorities.”

Much has been made of the oversexualization of today’s tweens. But what hasn’t been discussed is what we might call their “diva-ization”—before they even hit the tween years. Consider this: according to a NEWSWEEK examination of the most common beauty trends, by the time your 10-year-old is 50, she’ll have spent nearly $300,000 on just her hair and face. It’s not that women haven’t always been slaves to their appearance; as Yeats wrote, “To be born woman is to know … that we must labour to be beautiful.” But today’s girls are getting caught up in the beauty maintenance game at ages when they should be learning how to read—and long before their beauty needs enhancing. Twenty years ago, a second grader might have played clumsily with her mother’s lipstick, but she probably didn’t insist on carrying her own lip gloss to school.

Damn things are different today compared to when I was 9 years old. I don’t remember anyone at that age getting pedicures, manicures and laser hair removal.  We were nine year olds enjoying our nine year old lives. We didn’t get into the nail polish, cosmetics and other girly stuff until a few years later.  Today things are totally different. Today’s young girls are turning into little women.  It makes you wonder if these young girls will be using botox by the time they’re sixteen.

New statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery show that cosmetic- surgery procedures performed on those 18 and younger have nearly doubled over the past decade. Dr. Alan Gold, the society’s president, says that nearly 14 percent of Botox injections are given in the 19 to 34 age group—and while his trade group doesn’t break down those ages any more specifically, he’s seen a significant increase in the younger end of that group, seeking treatments as preventative.

Check out the entire article here.

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