Walking through the farmer’s market in Union Square with my bestie Wayne, when two aspiring, fashion-y, intern-types approach us: “Can we take your pictures for Beautiful Stranger.TV?” They hand us a glossy ad. “We scout attractive people in New York City, ask them what they do, who they’re wearing. You could be featured on our site!!!”
We promptly sign the waiver. A week later I get an email from the Beautiful Stranger mailer host: “Check out who made the cut,” or something similarly, superficialy elitist. I didn’t make it. What’s worse, they write me everyday as if to say, “Artsy intellectual you might be, but you’re still wondering – secretly hoping even – that this week you’ll be crowned Beautiful Stranger of the Superficial Cyberworld!” And the horrible thing is, they’re right.
I continue to click, proof that “Andi & Max” the editors and self-proclaimed “Style Sleuths” behind Beautiful Stranger can turn the same manufactured insecurity invented by martini-guzzling Mad Men in the 60’s into something profitable. Even Jobs is in on it: “Sign up to win a beautiful iPhone!” (As opposed to an ugly iPhone?)
Either way, Beautiful Stranger.TV embodies the hopes and dreams of the advertising industry in the era of post-guerilla dot com marketing; a independent-looking micro-site where big media companies can reach more eyeballs across a larger gradient. That’s precisely what SOAPnet.com hoped to achieve when they acquired Beautiful Stranger.TV and 45 additional mini-networks this past year.
The glossy site consists of a blog by the editors (OMG! Group of girls standing outside F.I.T sporting chipped nail polish. A new trend?), a beautiful-person-on-the-street photo gallery, and a beautiful-person-on-the-street video gallery, where better-than-average-looking individuals rattle off on camera vital statistics like occupation, who they’re wearing, and environmental efforts.
The site claims that any name-brand namedropping is genuine. “A company cannot pay its way onto the pages of Beautiful Stranger.TV…they have to earn their way there.” Just like the site’s viewers!
And so, when a featured 17-year-old Elite model is asked what she’s wearing, her candid response, “Forever 21” (and you thought is was something expensive!) is the network’s way of shouting out industry peeps, while simultaneously perpetuating the myth that Forever 21 looks great on everyone, and giving the clothing company a little poke that it might think about advertising on the site.
Whether a company is paying to be part of the action, or genuinely endorsed, the potential for plugging is out of control. Which brings me to Natalie, the networks newest featured star. Natalie is a beautiful stranger because she carries a two thousand dollar Zac Posen handbag, has good skin, and writes for Nylon.
She’s wearing a dress by TopShop (Kate Moss!) and dreams of writing for style.com and to “Be really influential.” What’s staggering, however, is the number of plugs Natalie’s two-minute, aggressively cut (and you thought MTV promo’s were seizure-inducing) shtick contains: 14 to be exact. Everything from University of North Carolina, to Target, to Valentino is laundry-linked alongside Natalie’s web video guiding aspiring beautiful strangers everywhere to shop, buy, and apply… Or enter to win a beautiful iPhone.
Yet it must be said: the site is super-concise, clean cut, and dare I say, moderately interesting – if you’re in the mood for that sort of thing. And with a mega-network like SOAP backing it, I’m inclined to think Beautiful Stranger.TV will be sending more emails I’ll probably click to open…out of sheer curiosity.