I dig magazines- I read them at the gym, I read them at the doctor’s office, and I read them on long airplane rides. Safe to say, I brought a load of American magazines with me for the 24 hour flight from home to South Africa. Recently, I was reading a magazine to kill time before dinner at the b&b. Any expert of magazines knows that they are saturated with advertisements and this magazine was no different.
I was looking at an advertisement for Covergirl advertising their new mascara that matches your eye color. Makeup’s not my thing, but I digress. They had four product varieties- for blue eyes, green eyes, hazel eyes, and brown eyes. There’s nothing usual about that. However, I lingered on the fact that each of the model eyes they used seemingly came from white models. There was no one featured with a darker hue to match the varied eyes. I stared at the advertisement for a long time and reflected upon the supposed trivial nature of advertisements. Yet, it’s not so trivial.
Advertisements reveal a lot about the values and representations that a culture projects. One of the things I immediately noticed when arriving in South Africa was that advertisements overwhelmingly used black models. From products ranging from food to detergent, black images were used. Similarly, I appreciate that black hair care products aren’t relegated to the “ethnic section” of the hair product isle. Small things like that not only recognize people for their purchasing power, but normalize their experiences as not “foreign” within their own nation.