I've tried different ways but it's all the same
At the end of the day I have myself to blame “Unpretty” was the second single off TLC’s third studio album, Fanmail, and spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard charts. Five years had passed since the release of their last album, the 11-time-platinum CrazySexyCool — the record that transformed Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas from a girl group into seriously legit R & B thought divas. Half a decade between albums is an extraordinarily long period of time for any group, especially one at the top of the charts. But the break wasn’t exactly a hiatus. TLC followed the multiplatinum success of CrazySexyCool by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a consequence of a shitty recording contract and an even shittier manager. Also during this time, Watkins revealed that she had been battling sickle cell anemia, and had recently been hospitalized. Thomas had a son with producer Dallas Austin, whom the group had just fired, then rehired. And Lopes burned down her boyfriend’s house, went to rehab, and announced she was going to record a solo album. The group’s breakup seemed imminent. Instead, TLC was reborn with Fanmail, an album with grown-up themes about sex and relationships — peppered with enough profanity to earn the group its first Parental Advisory Label — and a hint of feminism, even though no one was calling it that yet. Singing about loving yourself the way that you are (the essence of “Unpretty”) or demanding higher standards from men (“No Scrubs”) stood in stark contrast to the underage boy-candy image of another newly minted pop star from that era: Britney Spears, who sparred with TLC on the charts that year.
When pop culture projects an image of beauty that is distinctly white, thin, and youthful, what measures will women go to in order to match media’s mirror?
You can fix your nose if he says so
You can buy all the makeup that MAC can make
But if you can’t look inside you
Find out who am I too
Be in the position to make me feel so
I’ll make you feel unpretty too While the shilling of hair extensions, plastic surgery, and makeup contribute to the beauty industrial complex, the expectation to invest in these aesthetic tweaks also creates a significant economic handicap for women. The hair extension business is a half-trillion-dollar industry. The year "Unpretty" was released, the number of cosmetic surgery procedures jumped 66% from the previous year to reach an all-time high. The cosmetics industry recruits girls as young as 8 to buy all the makeup, doing about $56 billion in sales. Think how many college funds could be seeded, businesses started, or homes purchased by women if they weren’t spending tens of thousands of dollars on prettying every year.
Ours is now a culture in which a sex tape and a killer body can create a billion-dollar industry.
Maybe it doesn’t need to.