Cassey Ho "Decodes" Instagram's Beauty Ideals in an Experiment
Tue, April 20, 2021

Cassey Ho "Decodes" Instagram's Beauty Ideals in an Experiment

Fitness instructor and influencer Cassey Ho expressed her opinions with body acceptance in the digital age by doing an experiment. / Photo credit by Ian Allenden via 123rf



Cassey Ho is a fitness instructor and influencer whose YouTube channel, Blogilates, has amassed millions of fans and followers because of her uplifting exercises, explained Darcy Schilf of American media company Insider. Created in 2009, Ho’s channel now has more than 4 million subscribers and 1.5 million followers on Instagram. Her workout program, POP Pilates, features Pilates and energetic music without using any equipment. 

Ho uses her online channel to provide people with “guided fitness instruction and motivation.” She recently opened up about her struggles with body acceptance in the digital age. In one of her viral videos, The “Perfect” Body, Ho was shown editing herself in a mirror to show the negative effects of cyberbullying on body image.


Why Ho Wants to Analyze Instagram’s Beauty Ideals



The fitness guru has always been interested in analyzing the current culture. In a 10-minute video, Ho revealed her rationale for conducting her experiment, saying that influencers have been around for centuries. Before social media, beauty standards were dictated by where a woman lives and her ethnicity, she added. 

Women’s magazines in the late 1800s showcased their own perceived “ideal” body types and fashion trends. In the 1950s, women in media shaped the norm of beauty. Currently, social media is the platform for promoting beauty ideals, stated Ho. 


Project on Determining Instagram’s Beauty Standards 

Ho used statistics from Social Blade, a social media data website, to find the 100 most-followed women on Instagram. The site revealed Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, and Beyoncé as the top most-followed Instagrammers. 

In Ho’s study, she analyzed photos of those 100 women and picked 22 physical attributes, ranging from flat (but not muscular) abs to plump lips. She also took note of their height, face shape, hair color and length, and nose size. For her, the aforementioned characteristics are the “Instagram beauty standard.” She studied the photos of women to discern any trend or pattern. 



Ho collaborated with a fellow researcher to ensure the findings of her study were accurate, although she admitted that the “science wasn’t perfect.” The women’s heights were easy to find online, but not their chest and butt size as these are subjective, Ho shared. 

Interestingly, only 5 out of the 100 females she studied were plus-size. Ho was shocked by what she discovered considering she’s aware of body positivity. According to Ho, her project showed that users follow a “type of beauty standard” whether the individual subscribes to it or not.

With the help of her team’s artist and photographer, Ho’s photos were photoshopped to abide by such standards. The shots were made brighter and given more saturated colors. The influencer’s physical appearance was altered to have bigger eyes, a heart-shaped face, and an hourglass figure, per her analysis. 


Positive and Negative Feedback

Ho shared her before and after photos on Instagram and in a YouTube video with her fans to help them be aware of social media’s ideals. Commenters lauded Ho, writing that her analysis was eye-opening. She stated, “I wanted to share the photos with my followers and say, 'Here are the facts, here's what I found, and I want to know what you think. She admitted that it was interesting to see the reactions of people to her project. 


Ho analyzed 100 photos of the top most-followed women on Instagram and picked 22 physical characteristics that are the beauty standard of Instagram. / Photo credit by Oleksii Hrecheniuk via 123rf


But the praises also came with the bashers. Some users lambasted Ho’s edited photos, arguing that they were glad not to follow Instagrammers who looked similar to her edited photographs. There were others who slammed Ho for focusing on physical appearance rather than the talents of the women she analyzed in her study. She reflected, “Some fans who said, 'I'm so glad you don't look like that,' made me think that the project brought out this kind of reverse shaming.” 

But she wasn’t shaming anyone. In fact, Ho only wanted to present her findings with regard to the beauty ideals on Instagram. Undoubtedly, people questioned the effectiveness of her workouts because she doesn’t “look a certain way” in her photos or doesn’t have a particular body type. However, fitness professionals like herself know that achieving one’s fitness goals involves hard work and grind. Even genetics is a factor, Ho asserted. 


A Clear Line Between Being a Fitness Instructor and a Model 

Users need to remember the distinction between Ho’s work, as she is a fitness instructor and not a model. As an instructor, Ho shows how to get the body the person wants and make them feel happy. However, perceiving her as a billboard and expecting her to appear in a certain way is a different story. She added, “I wish people would remember that everyone's health and fitness journey is going to be different.” 

Ho is among several influencers who posted side-by-side photographs online to show “there’s more to Instagram than meets the eye.” Videos and images of photoshopped images and their original counterparts bring light on the reality of social media, enabling users to step back and evaluate how they are affected by the online world, Ho explained.