Disability Representation in the Beauty Industry

Last updated on: 2020


Take a second to try and recall the countless beauty advertisements you’ve come across throughout your life. What kind of people to these ads usually feature? Are you often able to identify with any of the models? For decades, there was little to no diversity when it came to disability representation in the beauty industry. Over the past several months, the public has called out beauty brands for the lack of racial diversity in their advertising. Though lately, most brands have taken immediate action to try and show a wider spectrum of skin tones in social and ad content. There is still one kind of diversity that has long been overlooked: disability diversity.

Here are some brands paving the path for disability representation:  

Earlier this year, Gucci launched a campaign titled “Unconventional Beauty,” which celebrates “non-stereotypical beauty” and introduced the new Gucci L’Obscur Mascara. In the past month, Gucci has built on this campaign with a new release of advertising featuring three additional models, one of which is a woman named Ellie Goldstein. Ellie is an 18-year-old, British model who now holds the honor of being the first model with Down syndrome to be featured in the brand’s advertising. With only three years of professional experience, Ellie became one of the models to represent Gucci’s push to upset beauty standards amongst luxury brands. Most of the creative team behind the shoot are also physically disabled, further shutting down ideas of ableism.


There is no doubt Gucci and Goldstein are making huge strides in disability representation. However, one American model was disrupting beauty model standards years earlier. In 2016, was the first model with Down syndrome to be the face of a beauty campaign. While modeling for Beauty & Pin-Ups, Katie Meade was heavily featured on the brand’s social content, print ads, and packaging. Before her modeling career, Katie was already an influential figure as an ambassador for Best Buddies and a Special Olympics gold medalist. Her message to others is one of pure positivity; she says makeup makes her feel her best, and everyone looks good when they feel good. Her story points to the universality of beauty products to help individuals express themselves and feel confident.


In between Katie and Ellie’s groundbreaking work, other brands like Benefit, Gerber, and Aerie have made efforts to include people with disabilities in their advertising. Aerie has long been applauded for their use of all body types in campaigns and regular advertising, including women with a wide range of disabilities. Looking at Aerie’s website, you’ll find that every image is free of retouching, showing realistic women who are confident in their bodies. It’s time for beauty brands to follow suit and promote this kind of inclusivity. Makeup and beauty products help many people to embrace their individuality, and their consumer base spans a vast and diverse spectrum. While it might take many more years for beauty advertising to become representational of the real world, it’s reassuring to see these brands taking a step in the right direction.

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