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9 Beauty Icons You've Probably Never Heard Of
Machiko Kyo

9 Beauty Icons You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

An Iconoclastic List of Beauty Icons

issue ten : icons & iconoclasts

By Kat Nugent

While the beauty industry is slowly becoming more inclusive in its notion of what it means to be ‘beautiful’, our collective concept of a ‘beauty icon’ is still sadly steeped in eurocentric standards. The restrictive criteria pushes countless iconically beautiful women (and men) to the margins of our beauty narrative and leaves us with a limited definition of a beauty icon which is discriminatory and quite frankly, boring. 

There’s no denying that Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly are all iconic but what about Maria Felix, Sadhana Shivdasani and Ruth de Souza? Never heard of them? Well you’re about to. Here’s our (by no means exhaustive) iconoclastic list of beauty icons that you need to know about. 

Name: Maria Felix 
Country: Mexico
Signature Look: Sharp Arched Eyebrows 

Considered to be “the most beautiful face in the history of Mexican cinema”, Maria Felix is a Mexican actress who captured the hearts of the country during its cinematic golden age. A muse for artists such as Jean Cocteau and Diego Rivera, she is best known for her iconic role in the film Dona Barbera in which she plays a powerful ranch owner who asserts her authority by dressing in men’s clothing –  a bold move when screen heroines at the time were expected to be docile and submissive.

Image via

Sadhana Bollywood Actress

Name: Sadhana Shivdasani
Country: India
Signature Look: Pixie Fringe
A sixties icon who isn’t white and/or stick-thin, Sadhana Shivdasani, lovingly known by Bollywood fans simply as Sadhana, is an iconic Hindi actress whose pixie fringe was India’s answer to Audrey Hepburn’s. Styled for her role in her first film, Love in Simla the iconic fringe was soon copied by thousands of young girls across the country throughout the decade.

Image via Times of India

Zhou Xuan

Name: Zhou Xuan 
Country: China
Signature Look: Pin-Up Curls 

Nicknamed the ‘Golden Voice’, Zhou Xuan was a legendary singer in 1930s Shanghai who won over the hearts of China with her enchanting song-bird vocals and beautiful smile. A woman of many talents, soon after finding fame in the music industry, she became an acclaimed actress starring in twelve films and singing the theme songs for many of them.

Image via China.Org

Cass Elliot

Name: Cass Elliot
Country: United States 
Signature Look: Flower Power

You may have heard of The Mama’s and the Papa’s singer, Cass Elliot (also known as Mama Cass) but chances are that you’ve never considered her a beauty icon. The first woman on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, she confidently confronted relentless fat-shaming and became an icon for American women who didn’t fit into the size 8 concept of beauty.

Image via Pop Expresso


Name: Jacqueline Charlotte Dufresnoy a.k.a Coccinelle 
Country: France 
Signature Look: Platinum Blonde Beauty

With all the makings of an iconic blonde bombshell, Jacqueline Charlotte Dufresnoy, known by her stage name meaning “ladybug” – Coccinelle – was an iconic transgender actress, club singer and entertainer who founded the transgender rights organisation ‘Devenir Femme’ (To Become Woman). Her bouncy blonde curls, vivacious curves and fearless determination to be the most authentic version of herself has established Coccinelle as a role model for all women.

Image via Repubblica

Christine Hakim

Name: Christine Hakim
Country: Indonesia
Signature Look: Beauty Spot 

With a beauty spot to rival Cindy Crawford’s, Christine Hakim is an Indonesian actress, documentary-maker and activist who has served as Indonesia’s goodwill ambassador to UNESCO since 2008. Famous for her girl-next-door characters in Indonesian rom-coms through the 70s and 80s, today she is loved for her activism in the country, focusing on education and supporting the film-craft in Indonesia.

Image via Beritagar


Name: Bruce Wayne Campbell a.k.a Jobriath
Country: United States 
Signature Look: Porcelain Skin & Ethereal Makeup

Declaring himself to be the “true fairy of rock”, Bruce Wayne Campbell, known by his stage name Jobriath, was the first openly gay rock star. Unlike glam-rock idols before him who had hinted at homosexuality in their performance, Jobriath made it loud and clear. His bold and unapologetic insistence to be himself made him an easy target for homophobic critics and audiences alike. Today, he lives on as an icon, his gender-bending costumes and ethereal effeminate make-up symbols of his self-love in a world that was against him.

Image via NY Times

Machiko Kyo

Name: Machiko Kyo
Country: Japan
Signature Look: Hikimayu Eyebrows

From princesses to prostitutes, revered Japanese actress Machiko Kyo has been attributed with reshaping and modernising Japanese cinema through her bold and tradition-bucking character portrayals. One of her boldest beauty moves was her adoption of Hikimayu, the pre-modern Japanese practice of removing the eyebrows and replacing them with powdered ink smudges on the forehead.

Image via BFI

Ruth De Souza

Name: Ruth de Souza
Country: Brazil
Signature Look: Bare-faced Beauty 

As a member of the Black Experimental Theatre in Brazil, Ruth de Souza was a bold actress and one of the first black woman to perform dramatic theatre in brazil. The collective was founded to battle racism and create opportunities for Afro-Brazillian people within the dramatic arts, causes that she was highly passionate about supporting throughout her lustrous acting career. After being awarded a scholarship, she studied at Harvard in the United States before returning to Brazil and acting in further films, one of which led to her being nominated for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival making her the first Brazilian actress to be nominated for an international award.

Image via Enciclopedia Itaucultural

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