This will be the most head-spinning quote you will read all week (unless you read that story about the “new teen trend” of drinking vodka through their eyeballs – that one’s got a couple of doozies that’ll make you grab the nearest adolescent and shake them): “The editor of the top-selling health and fitness magazine in the U.S., Self, has admitted: ‘We retouch to make the models look bigger and healthier.'” Keep in mind this is the same mag that skinnified Kelly Clarkson to the point of unrecognizability not long ago. Sure you knew that everyone from catalog models to Demi Moore to WWF wrestlers is photoshopped to have thinner waists, less hip and, in the case of the wrestlers, no nipples (seriously), but did you know about the increasingly common practice of reverse photoshopping?
Robin Derrick, creative director of Vogue, explains, “I spent the first ten years of my career making girls look thinner -and the last ten making them look larger.” This isn’t the first time reverse photoshopping has appeared in the news – Cameron Diaz got her “manly” lower ab definition smoothed out for Cosmo – but the controversy erupted all over again earlier this week when this:
British mag Healthy admitted to adding about 30 pounds to model Kamila because she showed up to the photo shoot looking “really ill and unwell.” This scandal caused Leah Hardy, a former editor at Cosmopolitan, to write an article for the Daily Mail first explaining this bizarre practice (it has something to do with designer sample sizes being designed for boys needing to be modeled by women who look like boys but then photoshopped to approximate some features of a real woman so as to appeal to the real women who buy the magazines, with nary a mention of Victoria Beckham which must have taken immense restraint) and apologizing for her part in it.
I, for one, appreciate her apology. For one thing Cosmo got me into serious trouble with my parents growing up when I took a picture of my then 14-year-old sister holding my contraband Cosmo with the title “Your Orgasm” prominently displayed on the cover. It might have ended there had I not sent the picture to a few of our friends – and this being before Facebook, I actually printed it out and sent it (can you imagine?) – who then passed it to a few more friends who then… well, it got back to my parents. I don’t remember how my sister felt about her instant – and unintentional – celebrity but my parents sure weren’t amused. I had to write everyone involved letters of apology. Oh yes I did. Had it been ten years later my sister would have gone viral and I would have had to pay a professional to scrub her Google results. Who knew that Cosmo would be what makes me appreciate being old? But that is neither here nor there. It was this quote from Ms. Hardy that warmed my fashion mag-deadened heart:
“At the time, when we pored over the raw images, creating the appearance of smooth flesh over protruding ribs, softening the look of collarbones that stuck out like coat hangers, adding curves to flat bottoms and cleavage to pigeon chests, we felt we were doing the right thing. […] But now, I wonder. Because for all our retouching, it was still clear to the reader that these women were very, very thin. But, hey, they still looked great! They had 22-inch waists (those were never made bigger), but they also had breasts and great skin. They had teeny tiny ankles and thin thighs, but they still had luscious hair and full cheeks.Thanks to retouching, our readers – and those of Vogue, and Self, and Healthy magazine – never saw the horrible, hungry downside of skinny. That these underweight girls didn’t look glamorous in the flesh. Their skeletal bodies, dull, thinning hair, spots and dark circles under their eyes were magicked away by technology, leaving only the allure of coltish limbs and Bambi eyes. A vision of perfection that simply didn’t exist. No wonder women yearn to be super-thin when they never see how ugly thin can be.”
Did you ever think you’d live to see the day when a Cosmo editrix says, “How ugly thin can be”? Do you think we are finally realizing that there is such a thing as “too thin”? Does reverse airbrushing surprise you?