Not just a pretty face: the cultural contexts of beauty in Asia

Nazia Hussain
Ogilvy & Mather


  1. Ideals of Beauty and Femininity
  2. The Social Role of Beauty
  3. The Cult of Improvement and Beauty as Skill
  4. Pleasure in Ritual: Care, Grooming and Adornment
  5. A Tool for Success
  6. The Cultural Contexts of Skin Colour
  7. The Evolving Synergy of Beauty and Health
  8. Notions of Real Beauty Today


This paper evolved out of a desire to understand the meaning of beauty, and in particular the notion of 'real beauty', amongst women across the world today. Across cultures, much has been said of how dangerously close to objectification and meaningless homogeneity our global beauty ideals have become. Perhaps more than ever today, beauty has the ability to evoke strong emotions in its very concept, as much as in its true form. Beauty inspires, beauty provokes. It breeds lust and desire, whilst at once charming and edifying. It, in its various definitions, is the cause of as many woes in modern society as it is the source of joy and pleasure. It is at once revered, fetishised, politicised, despised and spent on, this last in billions of dollars annually around the globe. Now is therefore as good a time as any to step back and analyse the currents of the beauty conversation as they are affecting consumers in an increasingly connected world.