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Forensic Artist Proves Women Literally Don't Know Their Own Beauty

A new addition to Dove’s "Real Beauty" campaign asks a forensic artist to draw two sketches of women—one based on their own description and one from a stranger—with shocking results.

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Beauty is said to be in the eye of the beholder. Studies have shown, though, that when the beauty in question is a woman’s own, and the beholder’s eye is theirs as well, only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful. Dove has long been working toward shifting that paradigm with the alternately lauded and derided "Real Beauty" campaign. The brand’s latest effort at changing self-perception attempts to do so through eyewitness testimony.

Recently, Dove hired former police forensic artist Gil Zamora to illustrate some psychologically revealing sketches. In a campaign created by Ogilvy Brazil, a series of women described themselves to Zamora in minute detail, from behind a curtain. The artist in turn created composites as though trying to identify a criminal. Next, each participant was asked to describe another woman present. The results are dramatic and sort of moving.

Viewing the two sketches side by side—one based on self-description, one from a friendly stranger—it’s clear how unflattering the women’s own self-assessments are. Everything from face shape to nose size looks like a grotesquerie according to each woman’s own word—a wild deviation from the corresponding descriptions of strangers. Perhaps being confronted with objective evidence of their own attractiveness will propel these women to not be as hard on themselves.

Watch a short video about the campaign below, and look through more sketches in the slide show above.