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A Rise in Ethnic Beauty

Posted: September 14, 2010

Women who desire a more "exotic" appearance are looking to the fashion world's growing multi-culturalism for inspiration.

There was a time when the Caucasian girl-next-door looks of Christie Brinkley, Cindy Crawford and more recently Kate Moss dominated the fashion pages. Then came new fashion icons: Naomi Campbell, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce—and then Giselle, Kim Kardashian and Shakira. More voluptuous figures, fuller lips and darker skin—features traditionally associated with women of African, Latin and Asian cultures—are "in." During the past decade, an appreciation for ethnic beauty has been on the rise, and these natural features are becoming popular among Caucasian women who desire to look more "exotic."

Dr. Nancy Etcoff, a Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital psychologist who studies the science behind the brain and beauty, believes that the shift in our perception of beauty is a sign of the times. "Our standards of beauty are changing and ethnic women are at the forefront today," she said. "It emulates our growing sense of cultural awareness."

Etcoff, who also authored Survival of the Prettiest, adds: "If you study plastic surgery textbooks, the notions of an ideal feature have changed. In the 50s, the ideal look featured thinner lips, upturned noses, smaller eyes and paler makeup," Etcoff said. "Now you see broader noses, darker skin and larger eyelids. All these attributes suggest shifts in demographics and an appeal to a more multicultural look instead of an overly Caucasian appearance."

With companies earning more than $3 billion between 2005 and 2009 in the US multicultural beauty market, it seems ethnic women are not just embracing the trends, they are setting them. "What's not to love, embrace and emulate about ethnic beauty?" said Us Weekly fashion director Sasha Charnin Morrison. "The use of curvier, more rounded figures looks refreshing."