Why today’s Aussie beauty has been lost to fake klones
As the recent election results in Britain confirmed, it's a big mistake to confuse social media (Twitter and all its Corbyn acolytes) for real life (a Boris Johnson landslide).
What goes for politics goes for people, too: take Instagram and the soul-destroying sorcery it performs on women and their bodies, which must not be confused for the reality of our teenage girls for whom "duckface" is decidedly not "a thing".
When I read the stories of HSC success from a group of Aussie 17-year-old girls this week, I was delighted by their incredible hard work but also impressed by something I'd usually dismiss as superficial.
It was their natural beauty, fresh faced and bereft of any pumped up and scalpel-ed down look.
In their media interviews, there was plenty of generous praise for teachers and the clear path to results via hard work and perseverance. And no pouting: the photo shoots were treated merely as an accessory to illustrate the story rather than an opportunity to contort.
So used are we to seeing the Kardashian-ed fake "beauties", a regular girl with a regular look is what captures our attention today.
That's because of the Instagram Face, the gradual emergence of lookalike professional women with "a single cyborgian face", made in a social media factory.
Turn onto any street in Sydney and you'll meet it. The cartoon-like poreless skin, pillow-plump lips injected with chemicals, lashes like a lion and cheekbones carved with dark contour liquid from a bottle.
Plus the jet black or bleached poker-straight hair with a centre part you could rest a spirit level on. Copying the heavy fake look of reality stars just to catch a bus.
And what does it mean for one of our greatest export ever - the free flowing Australian beauty. Clear eyed sure but no prescriptive hair or skin colour or face shape for that matter. Perfectly imperfect.
Now it's "volume on volume - a face that looks like it's made out of clay" according to one New York writer, and it's as boring and unoriginal as it is ugly.
They call it the arms race between digital and physical improvement but it is also another form of body dysmorphia.
A form of dysmorphia is driven by Snapchat and Facetune with young women even "seeking out cosmetic surgery to look like filtered versions of themselves", according to Boston University dermatologists.
Of course these social media platforms once pushed the "just be yourself" message but now it all boils down to inescapable cloned beauty. Plastic surgery trends have driven us there.
And a type of beauty rabbit hole which young women scurry into, lured by a promise of face perfection thanks to a lifetime conveyor belt of Botox, filler and inevitably the surgeon's scalpel.
A New Yorker article recently skewered this 2019 phenomenon, written by a young woman called Jia Tolentino who posed as a plastic surgery patient and speculated that every modern face was a mash up of four celebrities - Kardashian and her sister Kylie, Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski.
"High contoured cheekbones, the strong projected chin, the flat platform underneath the chin that makes a ninety-degree angle," Tolentino wrote. The same surgically-altered face.
And praise and likes by the truckload for "real" accomplishments that in fact destroy self esteem. There's no true sense of self.
Tolentino speaks of the "algorithmic tendency" to flatten everything into a composite of greatest hits which has "resulted in a beauty ideal that favoured white women capable of manufacturing a look of rootless exoticism",
In other words, women rearranging their faces according to whatever drives likes and engagement. And she is absolutely right.
It's one thing for a young girl to slick more pink gloss onto her already glossy lips and fiddle with her hair.
It's altogether another for make up, fillers, filters and surgery to become a weapon in a girl's arsenal to protect herself from the world and hide her insecurities, which as we all know are an unavoidable part of adolescence.
The Renfrew Center Foundation, a US-based non-profit charitable organisation on a mission to advance the education on eating disorders, did a survey showing at least one in five young girls between the ages of 8 and 18 who had worn makeup then had negative feelings about their image when not wearing makeup.
They associated a so-called "bare face" with feeling insecure and unattractive. And perhaps frighteningly, two-thirds of the girls surveyed who wore makeup started using it between the ages of eight and 13.
The places that makeup-wearing girls felt were acceptable to be seen without makeup were home (89 per cent), pool or beach (84 per cent) and gym (82 per cent). The places that were least acceptable were a friend's house (67 per cent) and school (58 per cent).
And then there are the potential physical health issues associated with excessive use of cosmetics, many of which are known to contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that have been linked to a worrying - and growing - list of health problems.
I asked a friend of mine who has three teenage sons to find out what they think about Aussie girls' devotion to cosmetics and body image. They all agreed it was not attractive to see a girl trowelled with foundation and painted-on caterpillar eyebrows.
"You don't really know what they look like under it all, so it makes you wonder what they are hiding," one said.
"What really bugs me is that when you are with a group and you go to the beach and there are some girls who don't want to swim because it will mess up their hair and makeup. That's pointless because they miss out on so much fun," said another.
"It all just looks so fake," said the third.
What's the rush here?
It's so sad that the quintessential sun-kissed Aussie girl image seems to have been sucked into an international vortex that embraces the industrial strength, full face of makeup and unoriginal hairstyles.
Thank goodness for the HSC beauties. Point your daughters in their direction and give the plastic a rest.