When Beauty Is Your Brand


A couple of weeks ago Oprah televised a show advocating the fight against the anti-aging movement.  It featured two very beautiful women aging gracefully; Sharon Stone and Cameron Diaz who have embraced growing older the “healthy way”.  The discussion was mostly about how our society perceives youth, beauty and aging and more importantly how this affects women, although men these days are not immune. In my personal and humble opinion this episode highlighted the history of where we went wrong in pursuing our health goals.

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Although the show was informative and as usual, a good discussion it begs me to ask the question of just why we have been listening to celebrities regarding our own personal health journey?

From Beyonce’€™s vegan €˜cleanse€™ to Gwyneth Paltrow€™s gluten-free of charge recipes or Madonna’s  reported ‘air diet’ which includes holding food within the mouth but not ingesting it.  We are quick to try to next best thing. If there is such a thing.

Sure they are beautiful but does exterior beauty automatically mean healthy? Or have the two become interchangeable in our minds?  Perhaps, as Oprah told Ms. Stone it must be different when beauty is your brand.

Is it Ms. Winfrey?  Aren’t we all trying to be beautiful?

The whole world is chasing beauty.  But, I wonder if we even know what we are looking for anymore.  Do we truly know what it means to be beautiful?

From health comes beauty.

If you didn’t know already, the most famous modern celebrity patient is surely Lance Armstrong.  Diagnosed with far-advanced testicular cancer in 1996 and told he would most likely not survive, the 25 year old Armstrong beat the odds and lived.

Then, resuming his bicycling career, he proceeded to win the sport’s most demanding and pretigious race: the Tour de France.  Indeed, he won it seven times, more than any other cyclist.

Armstrong wrote two books about his life, started the lance Armstrong Foundation and made countless public appearances to discuss his personal experiences with cancer and how the disease might best be conquered in the future.  Armstrong’s first book, published in 2000, was entitled It’s Not About The Bike: My Journey Back to Life.

The title and the book made the important point that Armstrong’s battle with cancer was much more important and meaningful than what he had accomplished in cycling or elsewhere in his life.

But of course, it really was all about the bike.  Had lance Armstrong simply been an anonymous survivor of testicular cancer, his recovery would have been compelling to very few people.

We take cues from celebrities on what to wear, what to watch and how to spend our money. But we’re also listening to their health advice, and that could be dangerous.

So why do we listen?

Human beings are wired to emulate people they admire, says Steven Hoffman, assistant professor  at the DeGroote school of medicine, who examined studies dating back to 1806. It’s called the “self-esteem motive” — following advice from celebrities who match how we want to perceive ourselves by purchasing products they endorse.

Celebrity status causes a “halo effect” that gives celebrities “a cloak of generalized trustworthiness which extends well beyond their industry of expertise,” Hoffman’s article says. By wanting to follow in celebrities’ footsteps, their admirers also follow their health advice.

New research from McMaster University suggests that common folk are hard-wired to take medical advice from celebrities.

We take cues from celebrities on what to wear, what to watch and how to spend our money. But we’re also listening to their health advice, and that could be dangerous.

We take cues from celebrities on what to wear, what to watch and how to spend our money. But we’re also listening to their health advice, and that could be dangerous.

And given that some of them think oral sex is linked to throat cancer we might be putting our own lives at risk, suggests new research published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal.

“It makes sense to follow a model’s advice on fashion or an actor’s advice on presentation, or a former president’s advice on foreign policy,” says Steven Hoffman, assistant professor of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics in the Michael G. DeGroote school of medicine at McMaster.

“But it doesn’t make sense to follow Jenny McCarthy’s advice on vaccines.”

So why do we listen? Human beings are wired to emulate people they admire, says Hoffman, who examined studies dating back to 1806. It’s called the “self-esteem motive” — following advice from celebrities who match how we want to perceive ourselves by purchasing products they endorse.

Celebrities are often early leaders of herd behaviors, whereby people naturally tend to make decisions based on what others have done in similar situations. Wanting to follow in their favorite celebrities’ footsteps, many will ignore their personal information and imitate the celebrity health choices they observe.

This behavior initiates an informational cascade: the celebrity’s decisions are passed to others, who make the same choices. As the number of followers increases, the herding effect lengthens and strengthens, spreading from person to person and changing health behaviors along the way.

For instance, actor Angelina Jolie’s preventive double mastectomy after testing positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation led to a heightened interest in genetic testing. However, since BRCA mutations are rare, testing is only recommended for women with a high risk or family history of breast cancer. Jolie’s announcement may have catalyzed a herd seeking the test, including many for whom it is neither appropriate nor cost effective.

This desire stems from a process marketing researchers call meaning transfer. For many people, celebrities represent important social or cultural meanings that become associated with ideas or products they endorse.

People in turn consume endorsed items in hopes of acquiring these traits.  Tobacco companies are infamous for using celebrities to sell their products. Through fostering close relations with movie studios and prominently featuring stars in advertisements, companies transfer the attractive and sophisticated image of celebrities to their cigarettes. The strategy works: smoking in movies has been found to alter perceptions of and susceptibilities towards smoking among adolescents.

Celebrity status causes a “halo effect” that gives celebrities “a cloak of generalized trustworthiness which extends well beyond their industry of expertise,” Hoffman’s article says. By wanting to follow in celebrities’ footsteps, their admirers also follow their health advice.

Celebrities may be successful medical advisers because consumers see in them attributes they respect and want to emulate.

But, ultimately, there is a need to fundamentally rethink and better understand where people obtain their health information and what makes them act on it.

Understanding why people follow celebrities’ medical advice and developing strategies to exploit the implicated biological, psychological, and social processes to promote evidence based practices represents a good start. However, doing so may require fostering constructive relationships with celebrities, allowing them to become important partners in improving health.

We have to think about who we trust for health advice and why we might be trusting them before we follow them blindly regarding our own health journey.

Source: BMJ

Live and Learn. We All Do.

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About julia29

Hi. My name is Julia El-Haj. I am a Hall of Fame Athlete, an MBA, Professional Certified Marketer, Certified Youth Fitness Trainer, a Specialist in Sports Nutrition and a licensed Real Estate agent. I gave up my "seat at the table" to be home with my 3 children because that's where I was needed most. I blog about everything with Wellness in mind.
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