Little Girls. Big Feelings.

My Maggie. Seven years old. Boy am I screwed in about five years. At age seven I was still wearing my Superman jeans without a care in the world. But this little one of mine already complains she has no clothes to wear, thinks she’s too small and… hates her curly hair. Her absolutely beautiful curly blonde locks.

She was introduced to a straightening iron by a hairdresser a few months ago when I wasn’t paying attention (I literally looked up from my book 20 minutes into the cut and realized the two inches we discussed were on the floor, Maggie’s mouth was beaming, and the left side of her head had shiny straight hair hanging from it. )

 

Now it’s all she wants. I let her sitter straighten her hair again on Friday evening as she was keen on a certain “do” for her friend’s Communion party on Saturday. Ten hours of sleep brought back a bit of the curl by Saturday morning, however, and Maggie was beside herself: “I look so STUPID!”

When I saw the Dove campaign about curly hair a few years ago, I thought it a stretch. How can this really be a thing? Well, let me tell you, it’s really a thing. Campaign for Real Beauty nailed the insight that women judge themselves and each other by unrealistic standards the beauty industry has fabricated. Love your Curls nailed the insight that beauty standards are set far earlier than we want to admit.

My kids, like most, get upset over things I can’t possibly understand. Sometimes my instinct is to laugh, because what’s troubling them seems so trivial in the grand scheme. To them, however, it’s big stuff. Which makes it… big stuff. Kudos to Dove (two years late!) for seeing this curly hair thing as real for a huge number of little girls, and turning it into incredibly compelling communication. I showed it to Maggie the other night and it gave me a forum to explain to her that when I was little, I wanted curly hair and freckles. So perhaps the lesson is that we all envy what we don’t have… maybe we should instead start to love what we DO have? Only time will tell if and how that message sinks into her adorably complicated seven-year-old brain.

All of this came at an interesting time. Dove, in the past 24 hours, has come under fire for its latest Campaign for Real Beauty stunt, “Real Beauty Bottles.” The criticism is that Dove isn’t supposed to bring attention to different body types as their brand is all about beauty being “one size fits all.” Okay, fine. Point taken. But perhaps we could instead look at it from a place of good intentions, where Dove is celebrating all different body types? Personally, I take no issue with their execution, and actually think it’s a interesting idea. Regardless of how we feel, I wish we could just give them a bye and move on. Breakthrough marketing is scarce; it takes balls to concept, approve, execute and invest in. Public responses like these are sometimes deserved (Pepsi is the most obvious and recent example) but over-reactions like I believe we’re seeing here risk stifling creativity in an advertising industry whose future desperately depends on it.

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