Dean O'Brien's Blog

New Project – Beauty and the East

with 10 comments

I’m sitting outside a bar one Sunday afternoon in Kiev, Ukraine watching the world go by.  A young lady on the opposite table leans forward and tells me ‘There are no ugly women in Ukraine, only lazy ones’.  Referring to the fact that if you are prepared to put the time and effort in, you can look beautiful.

Going back as far as the 1940’s when John Steinbeck travelled to Ukraine with photographer Robert Capa he mentioned many times the beauty of Ukrainian women.  He stated ‘We noticed as everyone does that the Ukrainian girls are very pretty, mostly blonde, with fine womanly figures.  They have flair, they walk with a swinging stride, and they smile easily.  While they were not better dressed than the women of Moscow, they seemed to carry their clothes better’.  

Fast forward 70 years later and not much has changed.  The Lonely Planet guide for Ukraine (2011) goes as far as to state ‘It is often said that the women unashamedly place much greater emphasis on their looks, personal grooming and sometimes outrageous sexualised fashion sense than their Western counterparts‘.

It’s not all glamour though as one can imagine.  Stories of females fainting at work (due to not having enough money to feed themselves as they place higher priority on purchasing beauty products) are just the tip of the iceberg.

My latest project ‘Beauty and the East’ aims to document this obsession with beauty in Ukraine.  How advertisers target the female audience, and sell them this image of the ‘ideal woman’.   It takes into account the representation of beauty, visual attraction and cultural variance.   



Written by Dean O'Brien

January 4, 2014 at 1:20 am

10 Responses

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  1. This sounds like a fascinating project.

    Your post reminded me of something I read recently which you might find interesting. It was an essay on Eurozine called ‘Yulia Tymoshenko’s Two Bodies’ and partly dealt with how this Ukrainian obsession with beauty carries over into the political realm and how that brings about a stark contrast between women in politics in Ukraine and women in politics in many western nations.

    From the article:
    “​In contrast to western female politicians such as Angela Merkel or Hillary Clinton, Yulia Tymoshenko’s image has been aggressively feminine.”

    “Tymoshenko’s visual appearance corresponds to her style of political communication, which appeals to feelings and emotions rather than rational arguments. Its aim is seduction rather than persuasion.”

    Here’s the link if you’re interested:

    Really enjoy your blog, by the way.

    Danielle Ryan

    January 4, 2014 at 4:10 am

    • Thanks for the comment Danielle and link to the article. Yes, Yulia Tymoshenko’s image has appeared in many of my blog posts in the past and will be making a regular appearance in this project I’m sure. In fact, I have been working on a post about Yulia this morning, so I should be posting that next week. Thanks again for the feedback,

      Dean O'Brien

      January 4, 2014 at 11:44 am

      • Looking forward to reading it, she’s a fascinating political figure.

        Danielle Ryan

        January 4, 2014 at 4:41 pm

  2. Good luck with this new project Dean, I reckon this could be a life-long happening for you!

    Rupert Neil Bumfrey

    January 4, 2014 at 9:02 am

    • Thanks Rupert. I had been thinking about this project for quite some time, so it’s great to be able to launch it at long last.

      Dean O'Brien

      January 4, 2014 at 11:48 am

  3. Excellent project mate, really looking forward to it!


    January 4, 2014 at 9:09 am

  4. Hello Dean, I’ve spent about two years researching Ukrainian values for a television project. There’s a huge difference between Russian and Ukrainian mentality, and that makes up a helluva lot of difference in the role women play in these countries. You may want to check out the documentary on Ukraine genetics recently done by Ukraine TV Channel – I am not sure it is available in English though.


    January 4, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    • Thanks for the comment. Yes I was aware that although visually many westerners view Ukrainian and Russian women as the same, their personal outlook is different (not to mention their environment). I have not been able to source that documentary, so if you can find a link to it that would be great.

      Dean O'Brien

      January 4, 2014 at 3:05 pm

        Alas, this is in Russian/Ukrainian


        January 4, 2014 at 3:40 pm

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