This One Thing... Beauty Papers
If, like me, you are bored and frankly exhausted by society’s ever-present messaging – you know, the one that dictates who and what defines ‘beauty’ and why we all need to pursue it – then you will love Beauty Papers. Founded seven years ago by ex-makeup artist Maxine Leonard and creative director Valerie Wickes, this biannual ode to beauty – but not as you know it – was born out of a rejection of the singular ideal. Speaking about the genesis of the brand, Leonard says, “The beauty industry was not inclusive or playful or even inspiring. I was frustrated by the dangerous message that one size fits all.” This is why, if you buy the magazine expecting to read about the joys of contouring, slugging, or glass skin, then look away now. Beauty Papers pulls together leading writers, artists, cultural commentators, and photographers to explore thorny issues – be it female body hair or fatphobia – that flip mainstream beauty on its head.
Their covers have featured the likes of South African artist and queer rights activist Zanele Muholi, 77-year-old British artist Maggi Hambling, hermaphrodite twins Eva and Adele, and Shirin Neshat in a controversial take on Muslim representation (it got the magazine shadow-banned by Instagram and many retailers took it off the shelves). Though few and far between, every so often a celebrity will make an appearance but, in classic Beauty Papers style, it will always be unexpected; think Cate Blanchett reinvented as Andy Warhol, and a bare-chested Harry Styles sitting cross-legged on a chair wearing fishnet tights. Quelle surprise, the Styles issue sold out. But just as well. For every copy sold, a percentage of the sale price went to Haircuts4Homeless, a UK community-based charity where hairstylists give rough sleepers a wash, cut and style to boost their confidence. “Our desire,” explains Leonard, “is to create a different narrative and, ultimately, to create change.” And Beauty Papers is doing exactly that.
Funmi Fetto is the global editorial director of Service95 and a contributing editor at British Vogue