Bare Escentuals has its first major ad campaign, and they're touting it as an un-retouched look at real women with natural beauty. They also say they selected the women based on their answers to questions about their lives and not their looks, which is almost true.

It's a gimmick, but it's a smart one, especially given the cartoonish images most beauty companies are still pushing. The tagline is "Be a force of beauty," and in the above commercial, an actress says that "pretty is what you are. Beauty is what you do with it." Leslie Blodgett, the executive chairman of Bare Escentuals, told The Times, "Hopefully it's a rally cry for ‘Don't just be pretty and sit there and get your picture taken and do nothing.' "

She also said of the blind casting, "Do you know what a huge risk that is? What if all five of them were blonde, blue-eyed and 30?" Answer: It would look like every other ad campaign.

It wasn't that big of a risk. Yes, the Bare Escentuals execs didn't see the women, but the process did include some visual filtering. 270 women were asked to complete a questionnaire about their lives, and 78 were chosen based on the answers. But then casting agents interviewed the women in two rounds, narrowing it down to five, so it's not like there were going to be any surprise uglies. All of the women chosen are conventionally gorgeous — it is, in fact, a beauty campaign — but they are also apparently older than 30, and not all of them are blonde.

They also range in biography:

One finalist is a volunteer firefighter and another is an environmental scientist. Ms. Shahidi, an actor and mother of three, says she has undergone multiple knee surgeries because of playing basketball, has an "irrational fear of dog poop" and used to ride a motorcycle in college.

In the print campaign, and in the video above, the signs of these women's lives are visible on their faces. The Times says the company only color corrected, and Blodget said they left in "every line, wrinkle, puffy bloodshot eye. We have a responsibility as a beauty company to start changing the images that women see."

What this tells us is that beauty companies are listening to a market of women telling them that they're sick of "aspirational" images — i.e., heavily retouched ones — and want at least a semblance of reality. Good for them. Now let's see if it sells.

Beauty Might Not Be Blind, But The Casting Call Was [NYT]