ANADiva (Arabic for “I’m a diva”) is the brainchild of 26-year-old Gwen Bou Jaoude. As part of the campaign, she has launched a social networking site where members can discuss representations of beauty, and a competition to create the campaign’s character. The website is one of the first Lebanese initiatives to demonstrate that other means of self-expression exist for women, Bou Jaoude said. “This online community proves that there are still members of the public who are against this metamorphosing of our society.”
The campaign will conclude with an alternative fashion show that celebrates real women’s bodies in all their shapes and sizes. Lebanese cartoonist Stavro Jabra and Nienke Klunder, a Dutch-American photographer who works with the themes of body image and self-expression, have already signed up to collaborate on the campaign, as has web developing company Star Point Star, who offered to design the website.
“Everyone has a different opinion of beauty,” Bou Jaoude said, adding she hoped the ANADiva campaign will improve Lebanese women’s perceptions of themselves, celebrate individuality, and encourage critical thinking about mainstream standards of beauty. “The public should be given an alternative” to the one currently toted by the mainstream media and advertisers, she added. “They brainwash you [about how you should look] without you even realizing.”
One of the reasons Bou Jaoude decided to launch the campaign was she felt the Lebanese, through surgery, were losing their cultural identity and becoming carbon copies of their European and North American counterparts. Lebanese women should embrace their looks, Jaoude said. “Variety is healthy within a society.”
Cosmetic surgery and the cosmetic industry are lucrative trades – according to the International Herald Tribune, in 2007 alone, the two were estimated to be worth around $14 billion in sales globally. More and more women, though also men, are opting for surgery, swelling the industry’s coffer’s by an additional $1 billion each year.
In a questionnaire conducted by ANADiva of 65 Lebanese women between the age of 21 and 38, 46 said they would go under the knife in order to “look sexy.” With billboards, television adverts and pop stars offering a narrow, airbrushed image of beauty, “women are striving to look like an ideal that doesn’t exist, an ideal that has been digitally created,” Bou Jaoude said. She cited statistics showing that the average individual comes across 600-625 images of women that have been digitally enhanced. Bombarded with images of perfection from a young age, Bou Jaoude said it wasn’t surprising so many Lebanese women contemplated plastic surgery.
As the ANAdiva campaign states, “The average person currently faces the pressure of upholding certain “body commandments”: women are expected to be thin, tall, toned and glamorous. In particular, Lebanese women are feeling compelled to meet such “commandments” at any cost, creating ‘look alike’ females.”
Out of the seven women questioned by The Daily Star, only one said they would describe themselves as “beautiful,” and three said they had already had or were seriously considering plastic surgery. Five of the women said they knew people who were on diets or had eating disorders.