As Americans, we have spent millions of dollars on plastic surgery, in addition to cosmetic products that promise to lift, tone and smooth our “problem areas” away. We’ve tried every single diet known to mankind: South Beach Diet, Atkins Diet, The Zone Diet, Grapefruit Diet, the Three Day Diet and finally the Chicken Soup diet. All so that we can lose those thirty pounds in order fit into the size zero dress that our favorite model wore in her latest fashion spread. But it doesn’t stop there! Come payday, we hit up the Korean hair stores in search of extensions: Silky Blend, No.2. We raid makeup counters searching for products to give us the flawless skin, smoky eye and pouty lip that all female celebrities seem to have. Yet, as consumers, we have failed to question the media’s standard of what beauty is; we have failed to ask ourselves what beauty means to us.
Darryl Roberts and his ingenious documentary, America the Beautiful, highlights America’s unhealthy obsession with beauty. Roberts addresses topics ranging from plastic surgery to eating disorders to the airbrushed imagery by advertisers. He gives you firsthand insight into child modeling and the fashion industry’s absurd requirements. America the Beautiful is a mirror held up in the face of the media and in the face of young women. Its purpose: watch, learn, and re-awaken your self-esteem.
Clutch: First, let me just thank you on behalf of women, young and old, for illuminating such an important issue. So, tell us about the film. What can we expect to see?
“America the Beautiful,” is a film that takes a realistic look at America’s unhealthy obsession with beauty. We look at things that have come to be seen as normal like cosmetics, plastic surgery and fashion and we show you the flip side. How it can not be in your best interest to over indulge in these things because at the end of the day, it’s your self-esteem that suffers and you’re making a lot of companies a lot of money. In the film you’ll see what I call cause and effect. We show the industry and how they hook us on buying into a monolithic view of what’s beautiful and we also show the fallout. Who gets hurt by this.
Clutch: I expected the director/writer of this film to be a woman because the topics have really been addressed from a woman’s perspective. What inspired you to become an advocate for young women?
Well, a couple of things. First of all I believe that men play a big part in the deterioration of women’s self esteem. When women gets weaves, who are they trying to look good for? When they get a boob job, who do they want try into a depression.
Clutch: What was the process in putting this film together? How long did it take and how many people did you have to interview?
The initial process in doing the film, was to have hundreds of interviews with women and young girls from all walks of life. By doing that I was able to determine exactly what the problem was. After determining the problem I set out to film some scenes that illustrate how ridiculous things have become. One example of that is the scene where people are taking their dogs to get liposuction and face-lifts…geeez, is there no end to the madness. It took me a little over 4 years to do the film and I interviewed 700 people.
Clutch: What are some examples of the obsessive extremes that young women fall victim to?
I think the biggest extreme that young women fall into are the horrible eating disorders. First of all it’s really expensive to treat and you can destroy your organs binging and purging.
Clutch: Are men also obsessed with beauty and were you able to address this in your film?
Men are definitely obsessed with beauty now. They’re one of the fastest growing demo’s for plastic surgery. 6-pack surgery, calf implants, etc. The whole thing is messed up. I did get a chance to touch on the fellas situation in the film.
Clutch: What was the most shocking thing that you personally uncovered in the making of this film?
The most shocking thing that I uncovered in making this film is just how much the beauty industry and magazines don’t care in what happening to girl’s self-esteem. It’s all about the dollars and they figure while they’re getting rich, if there are a few casualties, what the heck.
Clutch: You follow a teen model named, Gerren Taylor, who was labeled “obese” by the fashion world at age 14 because she was a size four! What perplexes me is that the majority of women in the United States fall between sizes 6-10. How would you explain the disconnect between fashion mainstream, paired with the media, and the everyday consumer who can’t fit into size 0-2?
Actually the average size for a woman is a 12 and they just announced that the average actress is a zize zero. The norm for a model is becoming a double zero. When you were growing up you never heard of a double zero. These terms are made up to keep people on edge and unsatisfied with their present body size. There’s no disconnect. The industry knows that if they present something as beautiful which is different than the majority, there’s a big payday for them. I’m waiting for the fashion industry to come up with the size non-existent. You can’t even see you anymore, only hear you.
Clutch: What is your opinion on websites like beautifulpeople.net that choose members according to their definition of beauty, which many believe are based on looks only?
Those kind of sites, Am I hot or not or BP.net, prey on the basest of qualities of a human being. To actually have someone feel superior for how they look, which you have nothing to do with is kind of ridiculous.
Clutch: Tyra Banks has done extremely well with America’s Next Top Model. What do you think her role has been in terms of how the media portrays beauty?
I don’t think her role has has much impact since she’s been a victim of it herself. I don’t watch her show, but I hear she’s trying to make a difference so that’s good.
Clutch: The Dove Campaign ads have done a wonderful job showing how the media uses a team of stylists and Adobe Photoshop to turn women into flawless beauties. What we often see in commercials and magazine advertisements are false. As consumers what can we do on our end? How can we redefine the image of beauty?
As a consumer, we have to take our self-esteem back. We don’t control the media, so all e can do is personally start loving how we look. Each and every one of us.
Clutch: In your film there is a group of men who give an honest and shocking opinion about women. Do you believe that this is the viewpoint of most men?
Those guys were outrageous. I won’t say they represent most guys, but I will say they represent a lot. I’ve had a lot of men say to me when women weren’t around that they said a lot of things that they think but are too scared to say.
Clutch: You’ve had the opportunity to show your film at the AFI Dallas Int’l Film Festival, Provincetown Int’l Film Festival, as well as other film festivals. What has the response been?
The response has been overwhelming from the audiences at the festival as well as the critics. As a matter of fact, I’m shocked by how many people all over the world, like in South Africa, love the film.
Clutch: This film is such a wonderful start to issues needing to be addressed. What are your dreams for the future? Are you working on any new projects?
I think next I want to do a teen comedy. Something that inspires kids. They are our future.