Be More Than Beautiful campaign: Redefining true beauty

  • Style
  • Thursday, 06 Mar 2014

Beauty is more than a physical trait. This campaign, which coincides with International Women's Day, hopes to prove that to young Malaysian women and girls.

REAL beauty isn’t skin deep but a composite of characteristics in a woman that go beyond the physical – funny, empathetic, strong, tender, courageous, compassionate, wise, steadfast, pioneering.

Determined that young Malaysian women and girls have positive role models that exemplify these qualities, The Body Shop Malaysia has embarked on a campaign called Be More Than Beautiful which coincides with the celebration of their 30th anniversary and International Women’s Day tomorrow.

“Beauty is seen to be everything now. Every young girl wants to be beautiful, rich and famous. Young girls aspire to be model slim, to wear expensive dresses and carry designer bags. And not just that ... with social media and the platform it allows, all young girls want to be famous even if it’s just for five minutes, by posting photos or videos online.

“Unfortunately, it seems that these days, the conventional means to being famous is by behaving badly and creating a stir. You have reality TV stars who become famous just for behaving badly ... for being bitchy and malicious. You have young singers who behave badly and provocatively and are instantly all over the news. Are these the role models we want for our daughters?” asks The Body Shop Malaysia’s managing director Datin Mina-Cheah Foong.

The Be More Than Beautiful campaign, she explains, aims to show young, impressionable girls and women that there is more to them than just physical beauty.

“There is nothing wrong with wanting to look good. After all, if you look good, you feel good and you will do good. But there is more to beauty than just looking good. I have been troubled by this for the longest time and I’ve wanted to come up with a viable alternative that girls can have. The aim of our campaign is to at least get people thinking about what it means to be more than just beautiful,” she says emphatically.

To get this message across, the campaign has identified four prominent Malaysian women who stand for much more than just beauty. The women are Ivy Josiah (the executive director of the Women’s Aid Organisation), Marina Mahathir (former Malaysian AIDS Council president and popular columnist), Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan (lawyer and human rights activist) and Zainah Anwar, who was co-founder of Sister’s in Islam and currently the director of Musawah.

“These are women whom we think are more than just beautiful. To be honest, we had a hard time choosing only four women because we have so many Malaysian women who are doing such great things. But we chose these four women who, apart from being successful in their respective fields, are working selflessly to make our nation better, often at great cost to their own selves. These are women whom we should emulate. If I had a daughter, I’d want these women to be her role models,” explains Cheah-Foong.

The campaign will run for close to two weeks during which there will be life-size standees of the women, each with their message of what it means to be beautiful.

“Look, I’ve been in this business for 30 years and I have come to terms with the fact that a large percentage of women are still going to have a very narrow view of beauty – big eyes, high cheekbones, sharp nose ... you know? But we just want to get people thinking and talking about being more than beautiful. To get the discussion going. To let girls and women know that they have ... choices,” Foong says pragmatically.

Displaying the messages of the four women at Body Shop outlets throughout Malaysia is, says Cheah-Foong, perfect.

“I think it’s great that we have these standees in our outlets in the shopping malls. Right in the midst of consumerism, we want people to stop, look at these women and their messages and think about what it means to be more than beautiful,” she says.

Broadening the definition of beauty, she explains, has been at the core of The Body Shop since it was founded by Dame Anita Roddick in 1976.

“We all want to be beautiful, surely. But we have to broaden our definition of beauty. That has been our message from the very beginning. You can be big and tall and beautiful, skinny and short and beautiful, have sepet eyes and be beautiful, big-eyed and bushy hair and be beautiful. We want to highlight the less tangible aspects of beauty that stems from the inside,” she says.

Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir

THE former President of the Malaysian Aids Council has served on many regional and international HIV/AIDS bodies including the AIDS Society of Asia and the Pacific UNAIDS and the Asia Pacific Leadership Forum on HIV and Development. She is a member of the Board of Sisters in Islam as well as Musawah, which advocates for justice and equality for Muslim women.

She writes a fortnightly column on social issues in The Star and speaks regularly on women’s issues particularly where it relates to Islam, gender and HIV/AIDS.

What does the Be More Than Beautiful campaign mean to you?

This campaign really gives us a chance to talk to young women on what it means to try and achieve your full potential as a human being. Looking good is only an add-on to being a fully developed human being which is someone who is aware of what’s going on around her, believes that she has something to contribute to the world on an equal basis with everyone else.

What makes a woman beautiful?

Same thing that makes a man beautiful: kindness.

Who are your role models?

My role models include my mum who is sweet and kind but also strong and firm, the many people with HIV that I have come to know who continue to work for the good of everyone despite having to live with the virus. And, of course the other three women in this campaign who are both my friends and my heroes.

What message do you want to send about being more than beautiful?

Beauty is a matter of luck and genes and you can’t do anything about it. But you can be a great person, a worthy human being, regardless of the genetic cards you were dealt. Be educated, be aware, be passionate and be caring!

Ivy Josiah

CURRENTLY the executive director of the Women’s Aid Organisation, Josiah has developed, promoted and implemented the WAO’s shelter and counselling services, coordinated its public education programmes and advocacy work on the issue of violence against women and women’s human rights. She has worked on government initiatives and was appointed as a member of the Royal Commission to enhance the Operation and Management of the Royal Malaysia Police as well as appointed to be member of the Ministry of Women’s National Taskforce to investigate sexual abuse allegations of indigenous women in Sarawak.

What does the Be More Than Beautiful campaign mean to you?

I like the message of the campaign as women are too often told that they are not good enough. And, this message coming from the beauty industry is sweetly ironic. Good on The Body Shop for not wanting to exploit insecurities. On a personal level, I feel honoured to be sharing the moment with women whom I admire. At the professional level there is a recognition of WAO’s work in trying to make Malaysia a safer and better place for women.

What makes a woman beautiful?

Beauty is about your personality which you can have control of, not in your body shape, height and colour which you cannot control. A woman is beautiful because she is confident, passionate and has a twinkle in her eyes.

Who are some of your role models?

Certainly my mother who is determined, creative and makes me feel so secure in her love. The many women who sought shelter and showed me what is courage, they had the guts to live with violence and then to break away.

What message do you want to send about being more than beautiful?

Every time you leave your house to go out, look in the mirror and tell yourself: “I am beautiful, strong and happy!”

Zainah Anwar

ZAINAH co-founded Sisters in Islam in 1987 and has helped lead the organisation to be the leading Muslim feminist NGO in the world working on Islam from a rights perspective. She currently leads Musawah, a global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family.

Zainah has been listed by San Francisco-based International Museum of Women (IMOW) among its 10 most influential Muslim women thanks to her constant fight for gender equality for Muslim women.

What does the Be More Than Beautiful campaign mean to you?

I think it is wonderful and courageous of the Body Shop to choose to celebrate women who have taken bold steps to make a difference in making Malaysia a better place for all. This endorsement from a mainstream business, what more in the beauty industry, sends an important signal, especially to young women, that there are many more substantive ways to define beauty, and that it is not such a bad thing to be women human rights defenders!

What makes a woman beautiful?

While one is always struck by physical beauty, for me what is more lasting and impressive is the beauty that glows through when a woman is confident, happy, strong, and clear about what she wants out of life. That inner beauty and happiness just shine through.

Who are your role models?

I have to say first and foremost, my parents, beacuse they brought me up with very strong values and a strong sense of self. So, I grew up knowing who I was, what I believed in and what I should make of my life.

My parents gave me a clear sense of direction, a moral compass and conviction that gave me the foundational tools to stay true and honest to myself and to be steadfast and principled in adversity.

In adulthood, my hero is Nelson Mandela. I have met him twice, in Kuala Lumpur and in Johannesburg. And I visited his tiny jail cell in Robben Island.

It is humbling and inspiring to know that a man who had been imprisoned for 27 years could choose the path of peace and reconciliation to heal a divided society, and did this without an iota of bitterness.

And he could have stayed on as President of South Africa and enjoyed the trappings of power, and yet he chose to step down after just one term, for the simple reason that he was too old to govern a country.

What message do you want to send about being more than beautiful?

Be brave. Be curious. Ask questions. Seek adventure. Find the courage to do things you thought you could never do. Don’t be confined to what society says is the “right” thing, when in your heart you know it is wrong and it is unfair. So speak out. And lead the life you want to lead.

Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan

AMBIGA is a prominent lawyer of 31 years who formerly served as the President of the Malaysian Bar Council as well as Exco member of the Human Rights Society, Malaysia. She is most known for her work in Bersih; a movement established in 2011 calling for clean and fair elections and for electoral reform.

Among her many accolades, she is the recipient of US State Secretary International Women of Courage Award and Knight of the Legion Honour by the French government.

She has actively been involved with areas relating to human rights and promoting and upholding the rule of law.

What does the Be More Than Beautiful campaign mean to you?

The Be More Than Beautiful campaign is a way of valuing women for something more than their looks. I believe it is about celebrating inner beauty.

What makes a woman beautiful?

Beauty and being beautiful is about being valued for the kind of person that you are.

Who are some of your role models?

My role models have been my parents for they lived a life that was true to their values of integrity, courage, goodness and compassion. I am also inspired by the lives of Gandhi and his peaceful resistance campaign, by Nelson Mandela and his statesmanship and by Mother Teresa and her compassion. Theirs were always messages of peace.

What message do you want to send about being more than beautiful?

I believe the message about inner beauty is universal and not gender specific. While there is in my view absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look aesthetically pleasing, we must always remain grounded in the right values. That is what really matters and that is everlasting beauty.

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