There’ve been a number of people in the media lately who have challenged our ideas about who can–or should–be “pretty” as they move through the world. Not just transgender women like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox, but also men like Gerard Way and Adam Lambert, or the performers who’ve carried seven seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race. As a concept, gender–and thus femininity and the idea of who defines pretty–is a lot more fluid in our conception of it than it has been in the past few centuries.
That’s something that Japan-based cosmetics brand Shiseido explores in detail in a new ad for its home market. The spot, directed by Sho Yanagisawa of The Directors Guild, features a number of pretty, feminine-presenting young people in schoolgirl outfits and long hair, with the camera providing a point-of-view shot of someone entering a classroom. It pans around a bit, giving a close-up of all of the delicate features on the students’ smiling faces, before the reveal: they’re all actually teenage boys, wearing wigs, outfits, and a whole lot of Shiseido makeup. The ad pans around the room as the fellas get a make-under, pulling away the feminine accoutrements, and a couple of points get made: One, that apparently this makeup is so good that even a bunch of masculine-looking boys can look feminine when they wear it, and two, there’s space for everyone who wants to to be pretty. As timely campaigns go, this one touches on some downright relevant themes.