Challenging conventional beauty standards one music video at a time

Challenging conventional beauty standards one music video at a time

This summer, “Cake by the Ocean” by DNCE was inescapable. You know the “Ai yah yah yah, I keep on hoping we’ll eat cake by the ocean” song? If you did some digging into what the lyrics really meant or watched the video, you may have noticed that it was a Jonas Brother fronting the band. Other than that, the video plays into the usual music video tropes including hypersexualization of the women’s body parts with lingering shots of their breasts, butts, and bodies.

DNCE’s next video “Toothbrush” created headlines but not for the usual reasons of misogyny or male gaze, but rather, due to the leading lady, Ashley Graham. Graham is an up-and-coming model who has appeared on the cover of the “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue” and in the pages of “Vogue,” “Glamour,” and “Elle.”

But the most surprising thing is that she is a plus-size model.

Yes, a Jonas Brothers-fronted band made a video normalizing a relationship with a man and woman who is a size 14/16. Pop culture will never stop being surprising.


Graham’s leading role in the video allowed her a platform to talk about her experience as a plus-size model and challenging “conventional” beauty norms. She is quoted in “Billboard, “[The typical video girl] doesn’t accurately portray what our world looks like, especially because the average size woman is a size 14.”

In addition to Graham speaking out, bloggers and journalists used this as an opportunity to write their own thoughts. On MTV News, a writer noted, “Because romantic, sensual images of plus-size women in this form of pop culture are rare, Graham’s low-key performance sends an even stronger message: Full-figured women exist, and there is no reason to hide or for the public to shame them.”

Showing female body types that are not tall, thin, and white send an overt and subconscious message to the viewer that beauty is not limited to one type of body. Hopefully, this stirs up an internal and external debate with the viewer on what is attractive and normal and healthy. What a great message to send to the 48 million viewers who have already seen this video.