DEMOCRATIZING BEAUTY: AVON'S GLOBAL BEAUTY AMBASSADORS AND THE TRANSNATIONAL MARKETING OF FEMININITY, 1954-2010
University of Kansas
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Using the records from Avon Product's, Inc. corporate archive housed at the Hagley Museum and Library, this dissertation explores the migration of the Avon Lady from the suburbs of the United States in the 1950s to today's global marketplace. Rather than merely selling lipsticks and perfumes, I argue that Avon's direct selling system is a geopolitical project that has - and continues to- capitalize on national differences by presenting Western beauty practices as key to modernity; ideal femininity as something achieved by consumption of beauty aids; and the work of an Avon Lady as a gateway to "civilized" society. To better isolate key moments in Avon's global expansion, each chapter examines specific discourses over the last fifty years that have helped produce and sustain Avon's far flung geographic reach and influence. Some examine these moments within the geographic and cultural/political/social context of the United States, while the others examine how they operated outside the United States, especially in Latin and South America. Together, they document the strategies Avon developed to harness the power of women's social networks to facilitate the global sale and appeal of its products. A critical examination of Avon's transnational history presents new ways to discuss the gendered dimensions of globalization and transnationalism; the emergence and global influence of U.S. and Western commercial beauty practices; the geopolitical dimensions of selling beauty; and the impact of popular social and political movements on corporate branding enterprises.
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