StyleLikeU is an ambitious project run by mother-daughter team, Elisa Goodkind and Lily Mandelbaum. In the form of a YouTube channel and a website, they have created a multimedia platform to promote their vision of style and beauty.
“I don’t know how it was like for you growing up, but I’ve spent most of my childhood hating my body.” Says daughter Lily Mandelbaum in the video about StyleLikeU’s mission. Elisa Goodkind, her mother, was a fashion stylist who grew dissatisfied with the fashion industry and its tendency to promote one surface image: “I had to fill the frame with the same five celebrity faces and one exclusive ideal of beauty”. As much as she originally liked her job, there was something deeply uncomfortable about the way the industry made girls and women feel: “I realised that the same magazine covers I was styling were destroying my daughter’s self-esteem”.
In 2009, Elisa decided to quit her job and focus on this eye-opening project with her daughter Lily. Based on this idea that style is more than what we wear or how we look, they explore people’s spirit and identity in the form of several docu-series.
So far, the series that received the most success is the What’s Underneath project that has helped many young girls and women to get over their anxieties. Self-acceptance is one the main themes in this project that aims to show us that what’s on the inside matters the most in style.
The project consists of authentic video-portraits from 5 to 15 minutes where all kinds of people are invited to take their clothes off, little by little, while talking about their insecurities. By undressing themselves, they strip emotionally in front of the camera in a sense of catharsis to embrace who they are.
The honesty of these videos with powerful titles such as The new supermodel won’t be retouched or Leaving the tabloids bullies in the dust contributed to the success the series. As many videos went viral, they had a therapeutic effect not only on the interviewed, but also on the viewers. They represented something else than perfection, just truth.
“I thought I was not good enough”, says interviewed plus size model Iskra Lawrence whose portrait has received many views. She explains her struggles growing up and working in the modelling industry with constant pressure to lose weight: “We’re sold something so inauthentic.” Iskra also talks about those “toxic thoughts” hidden everywhere in magazines that damaged her self-esteem. In another portrait, we hear fashion designer Gail Chovan, who survived breast cancer, as she mentions society’s mistake in telling us that “everything has to be luxury, perfect and beautiful”. “Life is precious. It’s the unpreciousness of clothes makes them more interesting, I think”, she says.
Along with Winnie Harlow, Viktoria Modesta or Shaun Ross, Melanie Gaydos is one of many models now challenging the fashion industry. As a part of the What’s Underneath series as well, Melanie talks about her genetic disorder, ectodermal dysplasia, and how it affected her relationship with beauty. “In your body is a good place to be, because it’s the only place you can be”, she says, underlining how happy she is about her appearance now. As of today, Melanie Gaydos’ video-portrait is the most viewed on StyleLikeU’s YouTube channel.
StyleLikeU’s initiative is part of a broader movement in fashion that tends to redefine today’s notion of beauty and perfection. Although we have never been so saturated with such uniformed notions of beauty that require youth, perfect skin and thin photo-shopped bodies than today, the norm is slowly shifting. It is now about being thankful for our body, forgetting society’s beauty criteria and embracing our flaws, because it’s ok to be different.
Words: Pauline Schnoebelen
Tags: #stylelikeu #style #fashion #beauty