This Film Explores How Much The Fashion Industry Has Changed — & What Still Needs To Happen

The fashion industry's definition of beauty is shifting: Plus-size women are fronting campaigns for big labels like American Eagle's Aerie, and transgender actresses-slash-models are being selected to walk the runways of high-end brands like Gucci. Catwalks and ad campaign are, at last, looking a bit less homogenous, and AT&T's new mini-documentary, Beauty Redefined explores just how much the industry is evolving for the better. The 30-minute video features a broad range of industry talent, crossing gender, size, race, and ability divides. See Jillian Mercado, for example, an editor and model who lives with spastic muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair (she got her big break in the #DieselReboot campaign before being signed by mega-agency IMG). The film includes Rebekah Marine, a model who was born without a right forearm and currently wears a prosthetic hand; as well Viktoria Modesta, a model/singer/artist with an artificial leg. Also featured: Denise Bidot, a plus-size model and body-positivity activist, plus transgender model and actress Hari Nef, model Pat Cleveland, and IMG Models' president, Ivan Bart.
Beauty Redefined looks at how the likes of Mercado, Marine, and Bidot haven't seen themselves historically reflected in the fashion industry. There's another common thread: Despite the unrealistic standards they've dealt with, these women have managed to overcome institutionalized setbacks in order to reach a point of self-acceptance. "It's always been [about] this 5'9" skinny girl; that represents such a small portion of people out there," Marine says in the film. But with the help of models like herself, this narrow lens of what's considered "beautiful" is finally starting to change. "Homogenous 'beauty' is not a real thing; I don't want to see a row of clones," Refinery29 contributor Liz Black says in the film. There's still a lot of work that'll need to happen before an honest (and appropriately broad) definition of beauty truly takes hold, and the sluggish progress has a lot to do with the bottom line. "This industry is not going to become more diverse out of the goodness of its heart," Nef says. "It's going to be based on the things it's always been based on: selling." The film should make you ponder how the industry has become more diverse and inclusive as of late (and how much further it still needs to evolve). But it's also a celebration of recognizing, and taking ownership of, one's differences. As Mercado puts it: "Just like being alive in itself, it's so beautiful to have and to know that you exist, and that there's no one in this world — or universe, for that matter — that's just like you."

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