Don’t try searching for ‘beauty’ on the web because if you did you would get, like I did, millions upon millions of references and images of the unattainable or, seductively, the nearly attainable, if you are prepared to sacrifice your wallet, your health and months under the knife.
You will be bombarded with precisely the kind of self-esteem sapping imagery that has the world, and especially women, spending money they don’t have, time they can’t afford and energy that would be so better applied elsewhere, to that transient and ultimately unreachable goal of being beautiful.
This is precisely what Ladybeard is aiming to challenge. In this third issue it throws a grenade into this thing called beauty.
A woman with facial hair, nay, a real beard. How unattractive and disgusting she must be. Whereas, as this magazine explains, we are all this person, perhaps some less hairy, less wrinkled, less mottled than others, but in essence we are but skin around a body and that body is ours and ours alone. We can confer on it the label of ‘beautiful’ but what does this actually signify? Does it amount to anything at all? These questions and more are explored in a showcase of photographs, interviews and first-person diaries and, yes, in case you are wondering – and I was – there is an article on hair removal.
This magazine explores when and how the definition of being ugly changed, from the ancient Greeks who equated beauty with power but conversely also paid more at slave markets for disfigured individuals because they were more interesting, to the modern day when ugliness is considered a contamination which becomes a threat to society.
There are beguiling features about ageing bodies, frisky minds and some, apparently arbitrary, male models. In the pages between the former and the latter there is much to ponder, which rather cleverly makes the point that thinking yourself grotesque, and thinking yourself in the same realm as Venus, is just a state of mind.
There is a charming article containing interviews with a group of people (including a child) who are blind. They of course should not really, in abstract terms, have a position on what or what is not beautiful since, as we are constantly told, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is interesting to hear that for them beauty can be a feeling or a sound and, yes, it can be so because they too are told it is so.
There are several articles which explore ageing, how our bodies can still be sensual and attractive, not least because they are amazing things, and how we must do more to stop society defining an ageing body as hideous.
This idea of what constitutes beauty is starkly brought into focus with the extraordinary and disturbing photos of Alix Marie. Currently on her first solo exhibition in London, the artist uses extreme close ups of skin, hair, pores and features to offer up a perspective of the body which she describes as hyper real. In these photos we are in fact both beautiful and appalling, all of us. Liberating, stimulating and unusual, much like Ladybeard.