Purpose: This paper examines the ways in which popular women’s magazines construct the notions of female beauty and identity and the extent to which the representation reflects the ‘real’ woman in (sub) cultural locations such as Sabah, Malaysia. Given advertising’s ubiquity and omnipresence, it is of concern in the developing world that it has become a powerful social force capable of constructing consumer identities and influencing purchasing decisions on a regular basis. Method: This study is underpinned by semiology and constructivism and deploys semiotics (de Saussure, 1983) to deconstruct signs and discover the deeper ideological function of advertising and promotion. International and local Malaysian magazine front covers and product advertisements were selected for a semiotic reading. Findings/Results: Both international and local magazines portray women in sexualized ways and despite attempts made by locally distributed international magazines such as Cosmopolitan to localize images, models continue to represent mainstream global-national values of beauty, filling locally distributed women’s magazine pages with images of the perfect woman. Likewise, despite the desire of locally produced magazines to represent local values and ideals of beauty, mainstream global values appear to be determining factors even in family-oriented Islamic-value based magazines such as Keluarga Harmoni. Implications: Thus in local and international magazines distributed in Malaysia the notions of beauty remain almost the same, the single difference being the promotion of local products associated with local celebrities in the former and international products associated with Western celebrities in the latter.
e-Journal of Social & Behavioural Research in Business / Vol. 3, No. 1, pp.14-28