Gil Zamora is an FBI-trained forensic artist. He worked for the San Jose Police Department from 1995 to 2011. According to the bio on his Web site, Gil completed more than 3,000 sketch interviews, helping to solve more than 1,000 investigations in the process. As the police artist for the largest police department in Silicon Valley, Gil was the go-to guy in countless high profile criminal investigations.
Then, the sketch artist got a call from the folks behind the Dove line of beauty products, talking about an interesting sketch concept. Dove wanted to show women their real beauty by having the sketch artist draw them based on their own descriptions.
“When I heard about the experiment, the opportunity to work on this, I was very eager and kind of looking forward to the challenge of coming up with these sketches,” Zamora said. “I have a daughter myself and it kind of hit home.”
Here’s how it played out.
“I showed up to a place I’d never been and there was a guy with a drafting board,” said one participant, named Suzanne.
“We couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see us,” said another named Melinda.
Seated at a table, with each woman sitting alone on a couch and a curtain between them, Gil asked them to describe themselves, something as simple as “tell me about your hair.” Unlike some sketch artists, he doesn’t use reference images, instead dealing with the person’s real memory on its own by way of non-leading questions to visualize the features.
“I didn’t know what he was doing, but then I could tell after several questions that he was drawing me,” Suzanne said.
Olivia says her chin protrudes when she smiles. Suzanne’s mother had told her she has a big jaw. One woman describes herself as having a fat, rounder face. Shelly says she gets more freckles as she ages. Kela thinks she has a pretty big forehead. All real self evaluations, most not containing any beauty descriptors.
Once Gil gets a sketch, he thanks the women and they leave without him ever having seen them. Here’s where it gets fun.
The only information any of the women had been told to do before the sketch was to get friendly with another person. For Suzanne, it was Chloe, who was then brought in and asked to describe her; she did so, describing how she was thin with visible cheekbones and “a nice, thin chin.” Other describers noted their respective women having different positive beauty features like “nice eyes” that lit up when she spoke, a “cute nose,” or “very nice blue eyes.”
The women are then shown the sketch drawn from their own descriptions next to the sketch from the real description of whomever it was they had met. In many cases, the difference is like night and day and their reactions are priceless. Some of the participants clearly had a negative self image, but with help from Gil’s sketch talents, other people were able to show them the real beauty they possessed.
She looks closed off and fatter, sadder too,” one woman commented, with tears welling up in her eyes.
“The second one looks more open and friendly and happy.”
“I should be more grateful of my natural beauty,” Suzanne says.
The message is clear and the answer is real: “You are more beautiful than you think.”