The other day my friend Sarah over at Running on Healthy wrote this great post about one of America’s favorite former trainwrecks Britney Spears who has since revamped her image AND her body. Glancing at any recent photo of her, you can’t deny how fantastic she looks. Except for maybe the cover of Women’s Health magazine. Because…Britney is that even you?
She looks fit, fab, and as Sarah pointed out, not unlike Heidi Klum. Among other things she went on to discuss not only how refreshing that seeing curvy models in print would be, but also the role that photoshopping plays in all of it. Here are these women with perfect, flawless bodies that none of us could ever achieve because, well, in most cases that level of perfection simply does not exist. I would know this because when I lived in Santa Barbara I did a year stint in the fashion industry working in advertising and marketing. I designed large displays, billboards, and catalogs, many of these featuring models that we would choose from various agencies and hire in for photo shoots.
And then? I would edit them. And edit them. And edit them. The job itself was cool, but the editing? I hated doing it.
At absolutely every job I’ve ever had there have been countless requests from people to clean up photos in Photoshop. One thing I’ve always prided myself in is my ability to edit a person in a photo so that they look exactly like themselves except maybe a little less shiny, a little more relaxed, a little less tired, etc. The man I worked for at this particular job had no shame. I would often edit the models to such an extreme degree that they were barely recognizable from the girls who had shown up for the shoot. Every single flaw, vein, and wrinkle came out. Body parts were slimmed and shadowed to create better muscle tone. Noses were diminished. Jawlines were accentuated. I changed hair, eye, and even skin color. The list goes on.
Here’s an example of one them. She really wants to sell you some Uggs:
This is about the fakest photo I ever had to put together right down to the fact that it’s snowing in Santa Barbara in the middle of the summer. And on the bottom left are some of the fugliest boots to ever exist on this planet.
That model was absolutely beautiful in person and yet I had to spend literally HOURS erasing every tiny mark, scar, and pore off her skin.There is not one body part on this girl that was not photoshopped in some way. Those aren’t even her real knees. They’re KNEES. You wouldn’t think something like that would even be necessary, but my boss did and I guess anything you can do to make a person even more visually appealing? I don’t know. I would have much rather put the unedited photos on a store sign or billboard because I believe that realness is so much prettier than perfection. I often wondered if it makes models feel weird seeing themselves edited that way or if they just got used to it after awhile. Working there completely changed the way that I look at women in print and for that I am actually very thankful.
Like so so so many women I spent years beating myself up about my body. While the knowledge of all the Photoshopping couldn’t completely change the way I viewed myself in the mirror, it did make me realize the level of unattainability I was comparing myself to for so long. All the little things that make me so uncomfortable about my appearance probably aren’t so different from how movie stars and models look in real life.
So the next time you see a picture of some other-worldly abs in a magazine and think “wow I wish those were mine”, just think of me and all the times I sat with my eyes burning and my nose 3mm away from a computer screen, smoothing skin and toning up midsections to look just like that.
Unfortunately I did not Photoshop those boots to be that ugly though. They achieved that all on their own.
Never forget that you’re all beautiful the way you are.