SK-II enlists Simone Biles and other Olympic athletes to challenge the world’s ‘toxic’ beauty standards

·5 min read

PAID FOR BY SK-II

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 12: Brand Director of SK-II Japan YoeGin Chang speaks onstage during The 2020 MAKERS Conference at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown on February 12, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for MAKERS)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 12: Brand Director of SK-II Japan YoeGin Chang speaks onstage during The 2020 MAKERS Conference at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown on February 12, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for MAKERS)

It is widely covered that strict beauty standards are a strain on society, but when you pull back and look at the numbers — at how the rate of millennials who undergo cosmetic surgery procedures now outpaces those of older generations, for example, or how culturally-imposed body shame leads to increased rates of physical sickness in women — do you really begin to grasp the toxic effects that an “ideal beauty” can have on us all.

And it’s not just in the U.S. The beauty competition is global, and the Japanese-based beauty brand SK-II will leverage its partnership with the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 to take what it considers to be the “one competition that no one signed up for, but still everyone ends up in.”

SK-II’s #NOCOMPETITION campaign, in partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Olympic athletes, aims to call out the toxic competition in beauty that women face every day.

SK-II Brand Director YoeGin Chang announced the Olympic athlete-focused initiative at the MAKERS Conference in Los Angeles on February 12, 2020.

As brand leader for SK-II, Chang recalls meeting with women and realizing that we are all thrown into an unwanted universal competition: “A competition that is so ingrained into society, a competition that is able to dictate how we should look, feel and act. But healthy competition is expected to bring out the best in us. It pushes us to do things beyond our imagination, making such a wonderful experience for those in it and watching it. But there’s one place it is not, where it’s toxic, and that is beauty.”

In an interview, Anita L. DeFrantz, vice president of the IOC, explained that the partnership is more than a relationship between the intersection of sports and beauty, reminding us that “there is one race, the human race. We need to stop messing around with other stuff; we’re all human. As for beauty, how do you win in a beauty competition? You can’t. It’s a nonsense thing.”

In Seoul, where Chang was born and which she described as “one of the world’s most beauty-obsessed countries,” she said she experienced first-hand the toxicity of beauty competition.

She described a nickname used when she was growing up in Korea that was supposed to define an “ideal” woman: a “bagel,” which is a woman with a cute baby face and glamorous body type. Chang explained that, when walking down the streets of Seoul, “it is not uncommon to see women with the perfect ratio: big eyes, sharp nose, small face — that’s a thing — with a perfect, sharp jawline.”

Chang also shared how she grew up being told that her face didn’t meet Korean beauty standards. “I was told it was too round, and how, with a bit of help, I could fix it. And it would be just right, which would get me a better job, better career, and even a better man. I must admit, after hearing it so many times since my high school days, it got to me. I found myself wondering: perhaps I do need some help, some fixing to look right. To do better.”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 12: Brand Director of SK-II Japan YoeGin Chang speaks onstage during The 2020 MAKERS Conference at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown on February 12, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for MAKERS)
SK-II Brand Leader YoeGin Chang announced its #NOCOMPETITION initiative at the MAKERS Conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday, February 12, 2020. The program will feature Olympic athletes representing countries from around the world who will compete in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and star in a series of six documentary shorts debuting later this year.

SK-II has enlisted Olympic athletes from around the world — including U.S. gymnast Simone Biles and Japanese surfer Mahina Maeda — who will compete in the Olympic Games in Tokyo this year to help share the message and encourage others to share their story using the hashtag #NOCOMPETITION.

“I’ve learned to put on a strong front and let most of it slide,” Biles shared in a tweet. “But I’d be lying if I told you that what people say about my arms, my legs, my body… of how I look like in a dress, leotard, bathing suit or even in casual pants hasn’t gotten me down at times. … Today, I say I am done competing VS. beauty standards and the toxic culture of trolling when others feel as though their expectations are not met.”

Maeda, who will compete as a surfer in the first Olympic Games in history to include a surfing competition, tweeted “I’m competing to be the best athlete in the world, not to be the ugliest, skinniest, or most beautiful. Beauty rules don’t apply to everyone and I can proudly say I live by my own.”

In addition to Biles and Maeda, SK-II’s program features Ishikawa Kasumi, a two-time Olympic medalist in table tennis, LiuXiang of China who holds world-records for swimming, Japanese volleyball player Hinotori Nippon and Olympic gold-medalists, Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsutomo, who play badminton for Japan.

Chang said she hopes the #NOCOMPETITION program will help women everywhere realize that they don’t have to play by the “rules” of this unwinnable race, that they should feel empowered to define what it means to be “beautiful” on their own terms.

To learn more about the SK-II #NOCOMPETITION initiative, watch the trailer below:

FROM SK-II:

Competition. We say it’s a good thing. That it brings out the best in us. It pushes us further, drives us harder, makes us stronger. But there is one place where it is not. BEAUTY. It is the one competition that no one signed up for, but still everyone ends up in. Competing beauty standards, rules and limitations. These toxic competitions dictate how we should look, act and feel, creating pressure that holds us back in our daily lives. As the world celebrates the beauty of competition at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, SK-II teams up with top Olympic athletes to declare #NOCOMPETITION, in a stand to take the competition out of beauty. Because pressure should never dictate our choices.