- TikTok’s new filter “Bold Glamour” has taken the platform by storm in recent weeks.
- It’s been praised and criticized for simulating conventionally attractive features with uncanny precision.
- The feature is so unrealistic on me that it feels like a reminder of how AI still struggles to process “faces of color.”
I recently met an influencer-industry expert named Meredith Rojas for coffee. In 2022, Rojas was named the chief brand officer for a major influencer marketing agency called Captiv8 and has worked with big-name influencers like Collins Key and Bretman Rock.
My hope — like any journalist— was that she would divulge a few of the industry’s best-kept secrets.
Instead, she pulled out her phone to show me “Bold Glamour.” It’s a filter that has taken TikTok by storm in recent weeks for simulating features deemed “attractive” by mainstream beauty standards. Think thin nose, full lips, strong jawlines, sculpted cheekbones, and for women, poreless skin, defined eyebrows, and a shimmery makeup look.
Rojas called it the “2023 version of Instagram face.”
She positioned the phone to capture both of our faces on screen. To me she looked like a glossy, airbrushed, internet-approved version of herself. On the other hand, I looked virtually unrecognizable, suddenly sporting glazed-over eyes, injected lips, and synthetically smooth skin.
That’s when I began to wonder: Who is this filter was really made for?
Bold Glamour has appeared in millions of videos on TikTok because of how seamlessly it melds into certain users’ faces. And on users with conventional, Eurocentric features, Bold Glamour looks like a wash of well-applied makeup. On others, like me, it’s just a reminder of what we’d look like with a TikTok upgrade.
How Bold Glamour works
While TikTok announced a new spate of generative AI features for creators in February, the platform did not respond to Insider’s request for a comment on whether the Bold Glamour filter relies upon AI.
But Luke Hurd, an augmented reality specialist who has worked on filters for Snapchat and Instagram, told Insider that Bold Glamour relies on machine-learning technologies, specifically those known as Generative Adversarial Networks, or GANs.
Hurd said GANs work by processing images in real time by “fighting them” against each other. In this case, the technology will take a phone video of a user’s face and compare it to a dataset of images, aiming to match those images against a user’s own cheeks, eyes, eyebrows, and lips. Hurd said that by matching those images fast enough, and at a high enough video frame rate, the technology creates a Bold Glamour-ized video of your own face.
The reason Bold Glamour looks so synthetic on certain faces, like mine, is because the dataset of images it uses is based on popular culture, Hurd said.
“If we were to do this in the 90s, everyone would be looking like Gwen Stefani in the 90s,” he said. “Now, it’s the Kim Kardashian look.” That means Bold Glamour likely blends best with people that already have those features.
The need for a better beauty filter
The filter has drawn criticism from those who worry that its ability to distort reality will threaten the self-esteem of young users. Rojas told me that the “mom in her” is concerned that the more “hyper realistic” these filters become the more they will impact how young people see themselves. Just this week, Katie Couric posted a video with the Bold Glamour filter saying “I’m not a fembot and these filters are not cool.”
But the more I scrolled through TikTok, the more I saw disappointed commentary on Bold Glamour too, especially from those whose facial features didn’t necessarily fit into TikTok’s ideals.
The argument that a filter like Bold Glamour can subtly distort a users’ sense of reality, beauty, and very self is certainly valid. At the same time, Hurd told me that he often receives messages from creators (especially in other countries) who tell him that filters are a vehicle for self-expression.
Filters like these are an essential part of our online culture — one that’s rooted in self-expression and experimentation. And people will use beautification filters like this regardless of the consequences. But instead of filters that homogenize users into a singular standard of beauty, we could adapt them to suit a broader range of facial features and shapes.
Because if it’s possible to wake up five-minutes before a meeting and look deceptively put together with a filter — as one TikToker illustrated with Bold Glamour — then I definitely want in.