“ What would society look like today if inclusivity was standard practice in advertising 30 years ago? This is both posed and answered by the artists. Prim ‘n Poppin’ is a portal into a diverse and non-binary makeup world where the ritual of beauty is all about the magic you put into it. A place where models are characters that allure the viewer into a story about the products and their individual narratives. The images of Prim ‘n Poppin’ reminiscence of stories that could have been told, and the ones we can still tell.”
Essay by Koko Ntuen
Ads have always embodied the aesthetic, the fantasy, and the idea of beauty of the times they represented. But, take a closer look, and they can become a window to the hypocrisy, the bias, and the negative rhetoric of standardized beauty and oppression of self-worth.
The lack of media representation of the LGBTQ+ community, the colourism and racism, the juxtaposition of beauty and weight (as if they were directly proportional to one another) are all issues that are slowly coming to light and have undergone, in the last few years, a vast amount of criticism leading to a new wave of inclusivity.
One of the many inspiring voices of this new era is photographer Julia Comita and makeup artist Brenna Drury who set out to create a project that captured “the magic of iconic magazine adverts during a special era of beauty while creating a new nostalgia of inclusivity.”
The project, called Prim ‘n Poppin, sees diverse and non-binary models recreate 70 beauty ads with a vintage feel while alluding to a world in which who you are, who you love, and how you look do not define one’s marketability.
Almost like rewriting the past, the vintage promotional ads of Sally Hansen nail polish, Maybelline eyeshadow, flavored lip balm, and frothy face soap alongside racially diverse and LGBTQ models state clearly, “It’s sheer! It’s queer!”
The project also directly features the voices of the models it photographs. In a specific segment, one of the models, Cory Walker, is seen answering various questions about their experience with the beauty industry.
How have you seen the beauty industry change since you first engaged with it as a consumer until today?
Absolutely! Just the ability to have a foundation that matches my complexion and red undertone is something a lot of models didn’t have decades ago. They had to make it work with what they had and one flash camera would show this kind of ashy white thing going on. We’ve come so far. The representation obviously needs more work.
How did beauty advertisements make you feel when you were younger and how do they make you feel today?
They made me feel invisible in a lot of ways. They also inspired me. I had to imagine what it would look like if heteronormative beauty standards weren’t so primarily highlighted. It’s a beautiful healing mess when you go from being a kid who never sees a reflection of themselves to dreaming up better than what currently exists. I feel energized when I see a good beauty ad, because I’m like, “I can give that and also take it further and bring more identities and levels of beauty along with me. The new vanguard really.”