Towson reveals beauty industry ‘illusion’

By: Annie Sragner, Arts & Life Editor

Last Wednesday, writer, producer, cinematographer and director of the documentary “The Illusionists,” Elena Rossini, made a stop at the West Village Ballrooms during the film’s Baltimore tour. “The Illusionists” aims to highlight how the beauty industry ultimately profits from consumer insecurities and unrealistic bodily expectations on a global scale.

“I started researching the subject and I found that a big problem is the globalization and how it is affecting beauty ideals in the rest of the world,” Rossini said. “In “The Illusionists” I show how western beauty ideals and images from TV, not just advertisements but movies as well, are actually being exported to the rest of the world and creating insecurities not just in women, but also in men and children.”

A key theme of the documentary is to demonstrate that money is the driving force behind the global beauty industry.

“One thing that really stuck with me was when she urged us to put your money where your values are,” senior psychology major Rebecca Ellison said. “I personally try to do a lot of charity and philanthropy, but I realized that something I can do is to spend more on things I really value rather than give to these organizations with ulterior motives.”

Ellison is also the treasurer of the student government association.

Towson partnered with Goucher College, Sheppard Pratt and the young-adult health website “If I Knew” to organize a Baltimore tour for “The Illusionists” featuring Rossini.

“I want students to feel that they can make a difference and know that we truly are powerful as consumers,” Assistant Director of Healthy Promotion and Education Kirsten Roller said. “If we stop buying these businesses’ products, their bottom lines will drop and they will make changes. We have seen it in the food industry and I think we’ll eventually see it here when people are fed up enough with the messages they are receiving.”

These media messages may appear harmless in everyday life, but they can affect society before we have the option to entertain them.

“If we don’t have positive self-esteem when we have babies, they are not going to feel it because it goes generationally,” “If I Knew” Health Educator Serena Shapero said. “A lot of women talk about their mothers and grandmothers and how they were in the world, so I think we have a great responsibility to ourselves and our community to uplift each other and to change our language about how to own our own enough-ness.”

Although beauty industries often target women, the values in this documentary also impact men in society.

“Appreciate yourself more and appreciate others more because you never know what people are going through,” senior international studies major Derek Amoah said. “I lost about 100 pounds, and I think now compared to where I was before kind of made me appreciate myself more now, but I wish I would have appreciated myself more back then.”

Rossini urges film viewers to approach advertisements with a thoughtful eye and to question what they see in everyday media.

“Media literacy is super important to think about,” Rossini said. “What is the purpose of this message and how does that make me feel? Is someone profiting from my insecurity? That is very important to keep in mind.”

“The Illusionists” is available for online purchase at

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