Carrie Underwood as Almay’s “American Look”

As is made clear through the title of this course, what is considered to be “America” and “American” have been central themes discussed in each of our readings, especially related to girls and women. As Gruesz discusses in her keyword “America” essay, who can be called American can be defined in many ways including geographical location, nationality, and language, just to name a few. As a consumer of media, I have begun to pay closer attention to the context in which America/n is used. This is when Almay’s makeup commercial featuring Carrie Underwood caught my attention. With the tagline “The American Look”, Almay portrays “American” using Carrie Underwood, a white, blond country music singer as their prototype. Similarly, in reading Kirsten Learns a Lesson, Kirsten’s Americanness was appearance-based as she was contrasted against Singing Bird, her Indian friend (Shaw). In both Almay’s commercial and Kirsten Learns a Lesson, being American is defined as whiteness, negating the other reasons one would identify as American.

Almay sets the stage of “Americanness” very clearly. In fact, it is quite over the top. The commercial begins with an American flag waving in the background, then cuts to Carrie Underwood at what appears to be a football game viewing party, with her song “American Girl” playing in the background. Finally she tells us that Almay makeup will give us “The American Look.” Assuming Carrie herself has the “American look,” we can infer Almay’s idea of American is white skin and blond hair based on the spokesperson they chose for this commercial.

In comparison, in Kirsten Learns a Lesson, Kirsten is considered to be an American, as she is included in the American Girl series. She also has blond hair and white skin. Where it becomes interesting is when she meets Singing Bird, an Indian girl whose tribe lives near Kirsten. We never see Singing Bird portrayed as an American like we do Kirsten, although she and her family have lived in the geographical space now called America for much longer than Kirsten and her family have. The choice the American Girl company made by choosing Kirsten to represent what it means to be “American” is deliberate.

4 thoughts on “Carrie Underwood as Almay’s “American Look””

  1. I, too, find it very interesting that the perfect American girl prototype is blonde-haired, blue-eyed, white-skinned females. However, this is also the cookie-cutter look for very Nordic women, which Kirsten was, even while living geographically in America. How can two very different nations covet the same ideals for women? I think that’s a cool thing to ponder!

  2. This is very interesting! I hadn’t really thought about how Kirsten was considered American versus singing bird being the “other” or “outsider”. I think you show perfectly how the media portrays “Americaness” simply in one commercial, even though there are many examples. The idea of white skin, blonde hair american has become such a norm that many don’t even realize when it is used in commercials, movies, and songs, as I didn’t with the Almay commercial.

  3. I really love this discussion of what is considered to be “American”. What is portrayed as “American” like in the Almay commercial, is typically far from what the realistic portrayal of an American would be. I remember having this discussion in one of my other classes, and a lot of minority groups in American are often hurt by what being American is portrayed as because more often than note, it is primarily portrayed as people with white skin. I think this idea of American is very interesting to look at in the discussion of dolls and books chosen by the American Girl Company. As we have seen in class, the dolls are primarily portrayed as white, and only recently has the company included more girls of color. I am glad that we are reading the stories of girls who are not simply white because I think it does paint a broader picture of America. However, out of the three girls we have looked at, can you really consider any of them to be truly American? I don’t know if any of these girls would have even identified themselves as American.

  4. This is such an interesting post! I have often thought about Almay’s slogan “The American Look,” and what it actually means. I actually work part time for the Almay (Revlon) company, and therefore, I stock products and am very familiar with all of the “American” cosmetics the company produces. For example, a vast majority of the foundations and concealers made by Almay come in three shades, light, light/medium, and medium. But with such a restricting shade range, where does that leave girls who have darker skin tones, ones more similar to that of Singing Bird’s, rather than Kirsten’s? Do the girls who can’t match their skin tone to an Almay product have an un-American look, regardless of where their citizenship is? The slogan of Almay has changed countless times within the past few years, but I can certainly agree that the current slogan of “The American Look” leaves a lot to be desired.

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