Face Value

FACE VALUE: The Hidden Ways Beauty Shapes Women’s Lives
Autumn Whitefield-Madrano
(Simon & Schuster; 2016)


Autumn Whitefield-Madrano

Photo Credit-Siouxsie Suarez

A self-proclaimed beauty obsessive, author Autumn Whitefield-Madrano spent more than a decade working at women’s magazines, where she witnessed firsthand the crafting of mainstream messages about beauty.  In FACE VALUE: The Hidden Ways Beauty Shapes Women’s Lives (Simon & Schuster; 2016), she thoughtfully examines the relationship between looks and science, social media, friendship, language, and advertising to show how beauty actually affects us day to day. Building on the tradition of Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth she complicates and modernizes the issues for this generation.

For decades, we’ve discussed our insecurities in the face of idealized, retouched, impossibly perfect images. We’ve worried primping and preening are a distraction and a trap. But have we focused too much on beauty’s negative influence?

In a video conversation with Authorlink’s Editor-in-Chief, Doris Booth, Autumn explains that what we consider as “facts” about beauty aren’t necessarily true. In doing heavy research on the subject and interviewing nearly 100 women and beauty experts, she found there are many conflicting opinions about how beauty is lived out in our lives. What we usually think of as true, may turn out to be more myth than reality.

The idea that women’s self-images are harmed by the media, for example, isn’t born out in Whitefield-Madrano’s research. Many women may actually identify with media images and feel better about themselves as a result. 

Almost all women have fluctuations in their self-images, the author finds. “Women have a much richer relationship with the way they see themselves” than is generally believed, she believes. One can feel she looks terrible on a given day and 24-hours later see herself as good-looking. 

Whitefield-Madrano explores how body image relates to self-esteem, how  social media has affected our ideas of beauty, and how our notions of beauty affect friendships and romantic relationships on a day to day level. 

In her research, Autumn interviewed women with an extraordinary relationship to beauty—body builders, morticians, dominatrixes, nuns—and found that while the beauty imperative had affected them all negatively at times, their stories were surprisingly positive, too. Finding the core of that contradiction became her task with FACE VALUE, which gives a collective perception of beauty a fresh coat of paint with equal parts social commentary, cultural analysis, careful investigation, and powerful personal anecdotes. It is provocative and empowering—and will be a conversation starter for women everywhere.

Watch the full 19-minute interview here, and pick up a copy of FACE VALUE at major bookstores or online.  Authorlink recommends it as one of the most intelligent books we’ve read on the subject. 

Praise for Face Value

“This is a valuable addition to contemporary feminist writing, providing much-needed perspective to a pervasive issue that young women and staunch feminists will glean much from, whether they agree with the author’s findings or not. Ideal for readers new to the subject but also great for anyone interested in social science and history.”

Library Journal, starred review

“In Face Value, Autumn Whitefield-Madrano perceptively interrogates the (often unearned) power that is beauty. In doing so, she reveals how ambivalent women are about this power even as it tangles with every element of self and community. Eye-opening.”

—Jennifer Baumgardner, author of Look Both Ways

“A fascinating and fun look into the world of beauty and the major role it plays in our daily lives.”

Jennifer L. Scott, New York Times bestselling author of Lessons from Madame Chic

“Beauty may be a $58.3 billion industry, but Face Value provides an antidote to the popular idea

that women are beauty’s mindless victims…Fresh, compassionate and funny, 

Face Value will make you rethink your own relationship with beauty.”

Rachel Hills, author of The Sex Myth: The Gap Between Our Fantasies and Reality



FACE VALUE: The Hidden Ways Beauty Shapes Women’s Lives

By Autumn Whitefield-Madrano

Published by Simon & Schuster

On sale June 21, 2016

$25.00 hardcover; 265 pages

ISBN: 9781476754000; E-Book ISBN: 9781476754055


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Autumn Whitefield-Madrano is the creator of The Beheld, a popular blog that examines questions behind personal appearance. Her writing has appeared in Marie Claire, The Guardian, Jezebel, The Hairpin, Refinery 29, Business Insider, Salon, and many other media outlets, and her exploration of the ways beauty shapes women’s lives has been featured by The New York Times and NBC’s Today show. She lives in Astoria, New York.  

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