Deconstructing and Jamming “M.A.C Is Beauty”

Here we have a 2015 makeup advertisement by M.A.C Cosmetics. There are many problematic elements in this picture. The problems I will address is the gendered sexualization of women, specifically racialized women, and the subtle racism in the advertisement. In the picture we see three women in a completely pink environment that appears to be a salon. The overwhelming pink is used to reinforce the gendered norms attached to femininity and pink. The white individual front and center is a perfect portrayal of white and class privilege. She is getting her treatments while using her hand to assert her dominance over the salon worker behind her. The worker, who appears to be racially ambiguous, is covering a portion of her face and exposing her chest in a sexual manner. This contrasts the white elegant lady in the front who is covered. The other women, a visible minority, appears to be a customer but she is situated in the background. The white women is spotlighted while the others are portrayed as a lower class sexualized workers and a less important customer. In addition to the racism, the customers are actively seeking feminine beauty treatments with the slogan “is beauty” across the page. This message and scene works to reproduce normalized western ideas of beauty and that one must be as feminine as possible to achieve beauty. It is especially telling of the makeup industry as M.A.C Cosmetics is considered to be one of the most ‘feminist’ beauty brands. I will say that M.A.C Cosmetics has more recently made attempts to be more inclusive of POC and queer folks, but they still have a history of problematic portrayals and cultural appropriation.



My jamming philosophy was to expose and undermine the underlying messages in the picture through text, symbols, and colour change. Firstly, I made half of the picture blue to disrupt the norms associated with pink and femininity. I wanted to specifically show that makeup has no gender. I adapted the slogan to read “M.A.C is not the only type of beauty”, sending the message that this portrayal of western feminine beauty is not the only one that exists. The main individual has the words “I am the epitome of white privilege” written across her face to expose what she is really signifying in the scene, she is not the lead role by accident. The speech bubbles between the other two individuals works to address the white privilege and expose the racism by asking the questions “Why am I the only one exposing myself?” “and why is she always front and center?”. Revealing the specific sexualization placed upon the women who is working class and possibly non white, this speaks to the different kinds of discrimination women of colour face as it is both gendered and racial and the intersections between race and class. There is a long history of over sexualizing minority women and this trend continues today.      


One interesting element that brings the whole scene together is the large magnifying glass. The addition of the male symbol and wide eyes portrays the male gaze. This scene presents and represents the women, who are doll like, as sexual objects. The glass is a reminder that these women are continually being viewed as sexual objects by many men in society. The ad is selling makeup, yet there is no makeup products pictured. Instead they are perpetuating a message that reproduces gender norms and white privilege. My jamming reveals that while there is diversity in the ad, it is still displayed in a discriminatory way. The makeup industry is guilty of excluding gender nonconforming, transgender, and males from their world and while many things have changed in the makeup industry since 2015, majority of ads continue this representation.

“M.A.C Is Beauty” Campaign Video

In this video that accompanies the picture advertisement many of the problems I brought up are made even clearer. The customers are using high class British accents and the worker is using a strange ambiguous accent that implies english is not her first language. Then one of the customers is herd talking down to the worker… The women also discuss how they are changing their hair colour to please their husbands. Also interesting that the still of the video shows the worker covered and reading, while the ad that was in magazines and on billboards shows her covering her mouth and exposing her chest.

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