The beauty message has been central to Australian social cohesion, with a majority of the country now believing in the message and many opting to see themselves as being beautiful.
This is despite a lack of data to back up the sentiment.
It is thought that a significant number of Australians, who are often perceived to be more outwardly attractive than their peers, may feel less comfortable with the idea of being seen as beautiful in the eyes of others.
“People don’t really understand that we are beautiful, that we do have the ability to be pretty,” says Kate O’Connor, a research associate at the University of Queensland.
“But I think that people are really afraid of looking at themselves as the perfect person.”
That fear is compounded by a society that is deeply entrenched in its cultural norms about beauty and the expectation of beauty.
The beauty industry is not immune to the influence of the industry’s marketing message, as the Australian Institute of Sport found in a recent study.
In its 2014 report, the institute concluded that women who watched sport ads believed women’s appearance was “worth less than that of men”.
A survey of Australian women by the National Trust for the Arts found that just under a quarter of women in Australia believe their appearance should be judged by the “man-as-object” standard of beauty; the highest proportion in the world.
“Beauty has become an object for men,” says the trust’s director, Mary Dyson.
“It is not for women to be beautiful.”
This idea that women’s beauty is something they can control is a cornerstone of beauty industry messaging, which has seen an increase in women wearing a high-fashion style to show they can be more self-assured and confident in their own skin.
The idea of beauty is seen as essential to the health of women’s health, according to the Trust’s report.
But while beauty is often viewed as a female attribute, according the report, it is still seen as a male-dominated field.
“The idea that we’re supposed to be this perfect, perfect, healthy, beautiful, confident person, the beauty industry has been pushing that,” says Dyson, who believes there are “tens of thousands of people who don’t feel that way”.
“If you’re a woman who’s been told that you’re not beautiful because you don’t fit in the model, you’re probably not going to like being in that industry.”
The beauty advertising industry has a long history in Australia, dating back to the Victorian government’s 1910 law that prohibited “manly man” advertising, which led to the creation of the Australian Body Image Board.
It was the body that began to define standards for beauty in the 1950s, and in the 1970s, it was the federal government that began its own beauty program.
However, the government has recently moved to roll back its beauty regulations and there are concerns the industry is now being used as a way to promote an unhealthy culture of beauty standards.
“We are very much in the middle of a culture war, and we’re in the same time as an internet culture war,” says O’Sullivan.
“If we can find ways to be a part of that culture war without losing our freedom of expression and freedom of speech, then we’re going to be successful.”
The push to be better ‘I’m not a beauty queen’ When O’Hara first started modeling, she was still learning how to make money, and had no idea how to navigate her own image.
Her modelling job was largely about proving herself to other women, but she felt “there was a huge gap between the way we looked, and how others looked”.
“When you get into modelling, there’s no money, so you’re basically going into it for the money, but you’re also doing this for the freedom of movement,” she says.
“There was a lot of pressure and a lot more stress.”
“There’s a lot pressure and more stress,” says Sydney-based model Kate O, 22, who also works as a fashion model.
“You’re basically working for yourself, and that’s really hard to get used to.”
“I’m so much more self conscious now about what I look like, and what I’m wearing,” she continues.
“I don’t know what I’ll do with my life after this.”
O’Brien says modelling is a way for her to “be a more authentic person”.
She was initially hesitant to go out, but once she started to feel more comfortable in her own skin, she felt she had a better chance of making money.
“Myself-confidence is so high,” she said.
“And I feel really comfortable in myself.”
The Australian Body image Board, which was created in 2006, has been credited with helping to shape standards for the Australian body, and has been an influential force in promoting women’s body image.
But it is unclear whether it is also working to change the way Australians view beauty, or whether it