America Ferrera on ‘Failing’ to Live Up to the Beauty Standard & Becoming a CoverGirl

Elizabeth Denton
America Ferrera on ‘Failing’ to Live Up to the Beauty Standard & Becoming a CoverGirl
Photo: CoverGirl.

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Major congrats are in order for quadruple threat America Ferrera. She’s a CoverGirl! Ferrera is kicking off her partnership as the face of Clean Fresh Skincare. And she’s pretty excited. “It’s so thrilling and kind of like a surreal dream to be invited into the CoverGirl family and to say ‘I’m a CoverGirl’, which is not something that I would have ever imagined growing up I’d be able to say,” she tells STYLECASTER over Zoom.

“I grew up not necessarily seeing examples of beauty standards that included a lot of who I was and I think that it’s a really momentous thing that the narrative around beauty is beginning to shift toward including more and more kinds of people,” she continues. “And also because of that, we’re coming to understand beauty as universal and beauty as about what makes us unique and what empowers us and loving ourselves. I love being a part of this conversation and it does make me giggle to say, ‘I’m a CoverGirl.'”

Those of us about the same age as Ferrera, 37, remember her as Ana in Real Women Have Curves, Carmen in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Betty in Ugly Betty. In these roles, we were told — in so many words — that Ferrera is different, different than the beauty standard of the early 2000s when Paris Hilton and Nicole Ricci were “It girls.” Ferrera felt it, too. That’s why becoming a CoverGirl is such a big deal.

“If I had gone back and told little America that she was going to be a CoverGirl, I would have said, ‘Oh, I found a way to become a blonde, skinny white girl?'” she says, laughing. “‘Actually, you stayed exactly who you are and the conversation around beauty evolved and shifted and there’s space for you in that conversation.’ That is an incredible message for all of us. You don’t even have to be young. We all need to expand our ideas of our beauty standards.”

And it wasn’t for lack of trying. Ferrera did everything she could to fit in, wearing the designer gowns, getting professional hair and makeup and smiling on the red carpet. But it didn’t work. As viewers, we may have been thinking how gorgeous she looked (I know I did!) but she didn’t feel the part.

“From the beginning of my career, I was held up as this role model for breaking the beauty standards but I was still a 17-year-old child figuring it out for myself,” she says. “I didn’t know I was beautiful. All I knew was I was failing an expectation.” Seeing others embrace their unique beauty, helped her on her own journey. “Body image-wise, gender spectrum-wise, I feel like there are so many more inspiring examples of all of us embracing our own uniqueness saying, ‘this is beautiful,'” she says. “

As a mom of two, she’s having to think about teaching her own kids to love themselves. Luckily, she’s been through it herself.  “I’ve been on my own personal lifelong journey with beauty just being a young woman in this culture absorbing really unrealistic beauty standards that had nothing to do with who I was in the world,” she says. “Of course, finding my place within that, I’ve certainly done my fair share of trying to become things that I’m not. I’m happy to say, I’m very much on the other side of that and feeling like I want to embrace my beauty and feel empowered by it and do it for me and have fun with it, let it be a tool for my own self-expression.”

That self-expression is about having fun with beauty, not feeling like it’s this opressive expectation. For Ferrera, part of that is prioritizing skincare. Because she has to wear so much makeup for work, on camera and on red carpets, she likes to feel her most natural self just with hydrating, glowing skin. “I can throw on mascara and a tinted lip and I can look fresh and like myself,” she says.

Ferrera’s favorite CoverGirl products are the vegan and cruelty-free Clean Fresh Hydrating Cream Cleanser ($13.99 at Ulta) and Clean Fresh Weightless Water Cream Moisturizer ($19.99 at Ulta). “They’re soft and velvety and they feel lush without feeling heavy,” she says. Most importantly to me, they make me feel hydrated. They’re great on their own or great under makeup.”

covergirl cream cleanser

CoverGirl.

covergirl moisturizier

CoverGirl.

Ferrera is teaching her kids to feel beautiful in their skin, too. “I want my daughter and my son to have a relationship to their own beauty that’s expressive and an understanding beauty as more just what you see but what’s coming through you,” she says. “And if you want to have green hair and blonde streaks and glitter, go for it! But do it because it’s fun and not because it’s an expectation you’re trying to meet.”

She’s showing her daughter how gorgeous her natural hair is, too. “My daughter has really curly hair and I had really curly hair but I was made to not like my curly hair, that my hair had to be straight to be presentable,” she says.”I agonized over every time I had to do anything my hair had to get blown out and I didn’t know how to do it and it wasn’t enough to show up as me. I was never taught to care for the authentic hair I had but to change it and there’s so much anxiety in that.”

Ferrera is thankful she already went through her own journey towards self-acceptance, so she can support her kids, whoeever they become. She adds: “The journey to true beauty is the journey to loving yourself exactly as you are and using all the fun stuff about beauty and fashion and makeup to express that.” Amen.

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