Photo Credit: Rolling Stone
Props to magazine editor and blogger Vanessa Raphaely (aka HurricaneVanessa) for pinpointing this annoying trend: The lovely and talented singer Adele has graced at least eight glossy magazine covers around the world lately, from Vogue UK to Elle Quebec to our very own Rolling Stone — and every shot is cropped to show only her head, shoulders, and maybe an intriguing bit of cleavage.
Yes, Adele has a stunningly beautiful head, shoulders and cleavage. But last time Vanessa and I checked, she was more than a floating head -- she was a fully stunning person with an entire body. Like, with legs and everything.
Alas. Poor thing is just the latest in a long list of curvy celebrities including Queen Latifah, Kirstie Alley and pre-Weight Watchers (but post-Oscar) Jennifer Hudson to receive the close-up crop treatment on magazine covers. This shot (called a "beauty shot" in magazine land) is used on almost every cover by lots of magazines (like Allure) because it shows off all the amazing makeup they use. Other magazines (like Cosmopolitan) almost never deviate from a more Barbie Doll-like, pulled-back, fashion pose because they want you to be able to flip inside and find out where to buy every little item of clothing their cover model is wearing. Fair enough.
And then some magazines switch it up all the time -- which gets them into tricky situations like Elle faced last September when it ran a four cover series featuring skinny Amanda Seyfried, Megan Fox and Lauren Conrad all in fashion shots... and Gabourey Sidibe in a particularly awkward (and potentially skin-lightened) cropped beauty shot. God forbid anyone would want to know what she was wearing or how it fit the rest of her.
Yes, of course, judicious use of cropping and angles go a long way towards making cover models look extra delicious. (They also go a long way towards doing the same on my Facebook photos.) And, there really isn't any point in putting someone on the cover of your magazine if they aren't going to make it look enticing. But Adele, Queen Latifah, Gabby... these women are enticing. They just don't happen to fit the current definition of beauty -- and nowhere is that definition more narrow than on a magazine photo shoot where clothes and shoes only come in sample sizes. As Tina Fey explains in Bossypants, "Don't ever feel inadequate looking at magazines. Just remember that anyone you've ever seen on a cover has a bra and underwear hanging out a gaping hole in the back. Everyone. Heidi Klum, the Olsen Twins, David Beckham, everybody."
So if the clothes don't really fit anybody, they can't quite explain this weird fat girl floating head phenomenon, or its sister trend, the ubiquitous naked plus size model photo shoot. I think it more has to do with what we're comfortable looking at in terms of women's bodies. That list includes big eyes, big hair and big breasts -- exactly what all these magazine covers highlight so well on Adele and co -- but it does not extend to big bodies in general. And that's why we don't get to see the rest of these women. Which is sad because I'm thinking, the more we see of them, the more beautiful they -- and women of all sizes -- will become.