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The hypocrisy of Joe Jonas’s bizarre injectables campaign

From co-opting the language of body positivity to the extreme fear of ageing, the new campaign from Joe Jonas highlights just how toxic beauty culture can be

If you haven’t seen Joe Jonas’s new celebrity endorsement campaign, titled Beauty On Your Terms, let me describe it to you now. Joe Jonas lies in bed. “Who wants to wake up looking like someone else?” he asks over jaunty background music. “Not me!” The singer then gets up, and starts to walk through a sunlit house. “There is no one way to define beauty…” he continues. “...With a smart toxin like Xeomin, it’s on my terms.”

That’s right. This campaign, full of body-positive language about defining beauty on your own terms and looking like yourself, is actually promoting Xeomin AKA botulinumtoxin-A, a cosmetic injectable that smoothes fine lines and wrinkles, similar to Botox (Xeomin’s rival brand). 

If the message of the campaign seems to you at all incongruous with the product it’s selling, that’s because it is. The brand has co-opted body positivity rhetoric – language meant to encourage people to feel good in their own bodies, to boost self-esteem and counter toxic, impossible beauty standards – and used it to persuade you into buying injectables to change your face so that you can fit into these mainstream beauty ideals.

Accompanying the campaign video is an interview with People magazine. Here, Joe Jonas, 33, delves more deeply into his “anti-ageing journey” and shares how part of getting older is becoming more comfortable in our skin. He wants to break the stigma of men getting injectables “to smooth out some of those frown lines and wrinkles that come with age”.

“We can be open and honest about it and be confident and not really shy away from speaking our truth,” he tells People. Using this type of language and messaging to sell injectables is becoming increasingly common as brands, medical practitioners and advertisers have made the savvy move to reposition both non-invasive cosmetic procedures and cosmetic surgery as a form of personal empowerment and (choice) feminism. It seems to be working. According to the Aesthetic Plastic Surgery National Databank, the number of Botox procedures performed in America increased by 54 per cent between 2019 and 2020, and fillers were up by 75 per cent.

What’s increasingly becoming clear, however, is that not only do these types of procedures not seem to be empowering individuals, it is also creating enormous pressure on the collective. By adhering to this oppressive system of beauty, we are raising the baseline of beauty ideals and making them less and less accessible to achieve for everyone but the very rich. The beauty ideal is demanding more of all genders and as a result, we are in a self-esteem crisis. Eating disorder rates are skyrocketing, and half of both men and women experience body dysmorphia. Research done by body care brand WooWoo found that one in ten British women said they “hate everything about their body” – almost half of them said these feelings affected their mental health, and over a third said pressure about their bodies came from social media.

It’s no wonder, then, that people are getting into debt to pay for cosmetic procedures, sacrificing necessities like food to afford the costs. “We are socialised to be desirable and to think our value is being wanted,” psychotherapist Charlotte Fox Weber told Dazed. “If you feel that your survival depends on being appealing, it becomes a matter of life and death. Psychologically, it feels absolutely desperate.”

If this weren’t bad enough, the audience that is being targeted for these procedures is getting younger and younger, with the message being that injectables like Botox and Xeomin are “preventative”. This is a pure marketing ploy. “That’s not how it works,” Dr Amina Ahmed told Dazed back in May. “All botulinum toxin does is paralyse the muscle. So because you’re not moving the muscle, the skin is not getting creased and lines don’t appear.” As botox starts to wear off, those wrinkles will appear.

All the same, young people are getting ushered onto the treadmill of expensive treatments that will need to be topped up forever. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons found that 19 per cent of the roughly 4.4 million cosmetic Botox injections performed in 2020 went to women under 40, and 12,000 of those procedures are in girls ages 13 to 19. The Department of Health estimated that as many as 41,000 botox procedures were carried out on under 18s in 2020 (the UK has since banned the procedures for minors). 

This absolute fear of ageing is so strong that Kim Kardashian admitted to The New York Times in June that she would be willing to “eat poop every single day” if it would make her look younger. Clearly, the stigma that needs to be broken is not the “stigma” of men getting injectables but the stigma surrounding ageing. The stigma that means if you have a couple of frown lines at the age of 33 you can’t be confident. 

“I feel like at some point you make that decision for yourself – the things that you want to do, the things that you want to wear, even to the hair products you put in your hair,” Jonas says in his People interview, adding that he has stepped away from the pressure to look a certain way. “You get to an age where you just go, ‘OK, I don’t feel those pressures anymore.’” But it’s exactly that pressure that has forced a man in his early 30s to feel that he couldn’t be his “best self” without injecting his face with toxins to stop the natural process of ageing. And while Jonas, as a celebrity in the public eye, is undoubtedly under more pressure to look a certain way, he also wields more power and influence than most people. The system is rigged against us all, but he has the platform to challenge it, rather than uphold it. Breaking the stigma of ageing, instead of the stigma of Xeomin, is the first step.