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Inspiring makeup ads show women embracing flaws, not hiding them

April 2, 2014 at 5:40 PM ET

If you’ve never felt inspired or uplifted by advertisements for makeup — overtly airbrushed and unrealistic as they typically are — you’re far from alone. But one new set of empowering ads might just change the game.

Dermablend Professional, a brand of corrective cosmetics designed for people with skin conditions, is out with a pair of ads in which the subjects reveal their flaws, rather than conceal them.

One ad stars Cassandra Bankson, an acne sufferer since childhood who’s now a model and YouTube star for her makeup tutorials — one of her how-to videos on covering up acne has more than 22 million views alone. The other ad stars Cheri Lindsay, a volleyball coach with the skin pigmentation condition known as vitiligo (who is also a star of popular YouTube tutorials).

The two-minute ads are structured as simple testimonials dubbed “Camo Confessions," and show each woman filmed against a basic background, speaking frankly and emotionally about her experience with a skin condition, after using a cloth to remove the makeup from her face.

In 2012, Cassandra Bankson became a viral video sensation for her YouTube tutorials.
TODAY, Tim Coburn Photography
In 2012, Cassandra Bankson became a viral video sensation for her YouTube tutorials.

The women touch on tough topics like bullying and strangers’ reactions, but also address how they’ve overcome those challenges to arrive at true peace and confidence. And both say they’re here to empower other women to do the same.

“I think a huge misconception in the world is that we think perfection exists,” Bankson says in her testimonial, after telling the tear-jerking story of coping with severe acne in her youth. "We think that in order to be successful, we have to be a certain way. But in reality, in order to be successful and happy, all we have to do is be ourselves."

In her ad, Lindsay tells the story of how vitiligo completely changed the look of her face over just three years. Afterward, she shares the powerful lesson she learned: "Don’t hide. There's something wrong with everybody. Nobody’s 100 percent perfect.”

Bankson, 21, developed acne in middle school and opted for private study away from the cruelty of classmates. She eventually graduated two years ahead of her class — and went on to big success as a model. In addition to modeling, she’s now a media personality, blogger, and student, and is working on developing her own nonprofit focused on sharing the message of self-love.

She thinks the ads will be uplifting for viewers because they highlight — rather than hide — the truth.

"As a model, I'm used to being edited via image manipulation, or if unedited, I'm still always in hair and makeup for hours to get the perfect look,” she told TODAY.com. "This ad is the first time any brand has recognized me for who I am with my insecurities, and in doing so, shows other people that it’s all right to express our feelings and live happily with our imperfections. It wasn't until I started revealing myself through video blogging that I realized other people are going through the exact same thing — they're just as afraid as I am to let anyone else know.”

She described the feedback to the new Dermablend ads as “overwhelming, heartbreaking, and so inspiring.”

Video: Cassandra Bankson caused a social media storm when she posted a video showing her putting on makeup and talking about her struggles with acne. She talks to TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie about how the response helped build her self-image and her career.

The response has come in the form of emails, YouTube comments, and Facebook messages from people who've shared deeply moving notes of support — and solidarity. "I grew up feeling so alone, yet this ad has helped me connect with so many other people who have gone through the exact same thing,” Bankson said. "I’m not alone, and neither is anyone else."

Indeed, the very things Bankson perceived as flaws as a kid actually turned out to be part of her career success — and such a source of inspiration for others.

“I used to try everything to fix my skin," she said. "But for me, being successful is measured by what I can do for others, and I would have never found my purpose in life without having acne."

Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of home and travel blog Homebody in Motion. Follow her on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

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