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Journal article

"The Woman You Want to Be": The Changing Face of Fairlady Magazine, 1985-2005


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Taylor & Francis Group
Africa | Southern Africa

Feminine identity has always been complicated by race and class in South Africa. The history of beauty pageants, like sporting contests, demonstrates the extent to which culture and contemporary politics intertwine. Examining the cover model choices of women's magazines offers a fruitful means of tracking the complex interplay between beauty, power and politics. This paper explores cultural endorsements of femininity as they are represented on the covers of one of South Africa's oldest women's magazines. Using a content analysis of the covers of Fairlady from 1985 to 2005 the paper asks questions about how Fairlady mediated ideas about beauty, race, gender and nationhood in recent history. The paper reveals the essential role of the popular media in communicating the values of Nelson Mandela's Rainbow Nation. It finds that this role is highly contradictory, however, and the representation of women is shaped by socio-political and cultural shifts and racialised discourses of beauty...


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