Alternative view n°1: Grace Neutral, Downtowngirlsbball and H&M

Today we will leave the mainstream scene for a little while and follow an alternative path to female beauty. The evolving mores of western societies have engendered a series of underground movements which slowly sidetracked feminism from its historic goal, in order to melt the idea of equality inside the concept of singularity. Far from advocating for one or the other of these political views, I just wanted to explore a small part of this fascinating universe and outline some of its roots by rediscovering interesting figures and talented creators who all have in common to be attentive to changes that challenge the norms in general. This instructive sequence help us to understand why Venus slowly gives way to Janus in the Pantheon.

Beyond Beauty is an i-D (Vice) original series presented by the british tattoo artist and female activist Grace Neutral. Each episode is composed as a unique documentary, sets out to explore individual expressions of beauty in an environment of permanent tension, prohibition or antithetical modes. Grace seeks encounters with influential, unknown or extravagant characters around the world to learn more about their lifestyle and unearth the different ideas they stand for. The first season of Beyond Beauty focused on body image, mainstream influences of K-Pop, gang culture and plastic surgery in South Korea. The series also approached more sensitive topics like fighting sexual harassment and racial discrimination in Sao Paulo, Brasil. The issues of femininity and identity are always underlying.

Downtowngirlsbball is a short film directed by Elena Parasco. The work is conceived as a fragmentary document, a visual diary mixing moods and sounds via two minutes of total immersion in the summer games of the artist-based, women’s basketball team in Chinatown, New York. Behind these harmless moments of life emerge a moving portrait of competitive-minded women engaged in a “gender-fluid, all-female sport squad” of Downtown Basketball League. The creator’s game on transitions reflects the state of mind of the athletes. In her own words, Parasco “was interested in constructing truth told strongly through the female gaze behind this specific group of girls, of basketball players, not creating a story within it”.

H&M Autumn Collection stood out by promoting an entertaining, opinionated, off-beat and fearless clip full of bad-ass, independent and free-willed women shown in realistic every day life situations instead of parading. The film created by Gustav Johansson is aimed to redefine the feminine essence by drawing on the most inclusive H&M collection of this year. Generally well received and extensively discussed in fashion media, this ad contrasts a little with the canonical representations usually offered by the brand. Lauren Hutton, Adwoa Aboah, Hari Nef, Pum Lefebure and Jillian Hervey fronts H&M’s new campaign for autumn 2016, accompanied by a new version of “She’s a lady”, created and performed by the duo Lion Babe.

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