Appearance determines one’s value in this exquisitely visual world. Along with
the growth of the economy and the media’s promotion of decent clothing, various
industries for beauty care have sprung up, and people are more particular about their
appearance. People sense that they will be judged by their look and their choice for
appearance reveals their taste, personality, even status. From hairstyle to nails, every
step is demanding and a challenge. “How to dress to get people’s positive attention and appreciation?” has become a big problem for people, especially the young who
are unsure about their image and identity. A recent study by Taiwan Women’s
Rescue Foundation and Citi Bank found that 75% of 1831 teenagers thought their
appearance determined their extent of popularity; moreover, 35% of them had been
discontent about their appearance.
With such prevailing value for appearance, fashion magazines for teenagers
exclusively are rising to advise teenagers on “how to dress outstandingly” and “what
is beautiful and fashionable now.” “NANA,” a fashion magazine that focuses on twelve- to eighteen-year-old girls only, has been publishing bi-monthly for four years,
totaling twenty-nine issues. Judging from its duration and steady launch of issues,
we can presume that it has quite a market and thus some influence on underage girls.
And judging from the latest NANA issue, no. 29, the magazine can tell us a lot about
such topics as Taiwanese girls’ anxiety for their appearance or teenage girls’ buying
power and their importance for the market.
So what kind of appearance is popular with underage girls? The cover of the
magazine shows a girl with big eyes, egg-shaped face, and perfect and white skin.
Article titles on the cover focus on crystal nails, make-up for summer, white and
perfect skin care, tips for slim legs, and so on. In all this information, the magazine
announces to today’s girls: “Youth is an advantage for appearance” is unreliable; adornments (crystal nails, make-up……) are really necessary. As statistics show, the
age for make-up has lowered as make-up becomes more and more acceptable for
teenage girls. Instead of believing in their natural youth and beauty, girls are asking
for the perfect make-up and the most effective make-up remover. Notably, make-up
might be one reason the models (all of them under eighteen) seem quite mature and
adult-like. Only models that have slim body, great body proportion, big eyes, and
egg-shaped face are qualified to appear in this magazine. Generally speaking,
beauty standards for teenage girls do not deviate from those of adult women.
The products advertised in this magazine prove Taiwanese underage girls’
purchasing power. To be equipped with the various and complicated cosmetics for
every part of the body and the face, with make-up for every different function and
diverse clothing for every season, the girls will have to pay a considerable sum of
money. The prices of the clothing range from NT$1280 ~ NT$2980, and the
highest priced could reach NT$4980. Some of products recommended in this
magazine are international famous brands. In other words, even international
famous brands now design products for teenagers exclusively; it proves again the
great market potential of teenagers. Of course, the publishing of NANA itself is
also a proof for teenagers’ buying power, as products in this underage girls’
magazine are not necessarily cheaper than those in women’s magazines.
Mature looks, complicated skin care, high-priced products, adult-like
appearances--these are being promoted by NANA to teach girls how to become
adults. The magazine of course includes titles such as “Why Can’t You Get A Boyfriend!” which also reveals that these underage girls’ worries and concerns are far more mature than we expect. Either this magazine reflects the true condition of
girls or it is creating such worries among these. No matter what, once girls
continue to read such magazines, it encourages their eagerness for a metamorphosis.
Such magazines may be criticized for promoting a strong concern over appearances.
Yet, shouldn’t we reflect on the fact that our whole society is also consumed in
appearances? Maybe we should change ourselves first!