Adventures In Airbrushing

This morning, SELF Editor in Chief Lucy Danzinger appeared on the Today Show to defend the magazine’s extreme retouching of singer Kelly Clarkson’s body. In the September issue, ironically SELF’s “Total Body Confidence Issue,” Clarkson says, “My happy weight changes. Sometimes I eat more; sometimes I play more. I’ll be different sizes all the time. When people talk about my weight, I’m like, ‘You seem to have a problem with it; I don’t. I’m fine!’

But from the look of the drastically altered photo on the cover, SELF isn’t fine with it. She looks so much thinner than she is in real life, it’s laughable.

Danziger and SELF have not denied airbrushing the photo -– in fact, they stand by their decision, with the EIC offering the following explanation on her blog:

“Kelly has this amazing spirit, the kind of joie de vivre that certain people possess that makes you want to stand closer to them, hoping that you can learn what they know. In this case, you get the feeling Kelly has not let fame spoil her, but also that she was just born confident, with a generosity of spirit that is all about others and rarely about herself. She is, like her music, giving and strong and confident and full of gusto. Did we alter her appearance? Only to make her look her personal best. Did we publish an act of fiction? No. Not unless you think all photos are that. But in the sense that Kelly is the picture of confidence, and she truly is, then I think this photo is the truest we have ever put out there on the newsstand. I love her spirit and her music and her personality that comes through in our interview in SELF. She is happy in her own skin, and she is confident in her music, her writing, her singing, her performing. That is what we all relate to. Whether she is up or down in pounds is irrelevant (and to set the record straight, she works out and does boot-camp-style training, so she is as fit as anyone else we have featured in SELF). Kelly says she doesn't care what people think of her weight. So we say: That is the role model for the rest of us.”

This is all spin and makes less than zero sense. “Only to make her look her personal best”??! Wait, in the article, she just said she’s very happy with how she looks. What the magazine is saying is that Clarkson’s personal best isn’t good enough, that she needs to be teeny tiny to truly be at her prime.


On the Today Show, plus-sized model Emme joined Danziger and made a fabulous comment about how the airbrushing insinuates that Clarson was a “Before,” and whether she knew it or not, she was desperately in need of an “After.” The cover photo is her After.

SELF clearly hasn’t done themselves any favors, particularly with (ready for this monster segue?) the country of Britain. That’s because the UK’s Liberal Democrats party is calling for an official ban on airbrushed images. This comes in response to an Oil of Olay ad of Twiggy which shows her with totally smooth, wrinkle-free skin. Twiggy is almost 60. Her skin does not look like this – no 60-year-old’s does. It’s not bad in any way, shape or form…it just IS.

“Liberal Democrats believe in the freedom of companies to advertise but we also believe in the freedom of young people to develop their self-esteem and to be as comfortable as possible with their bodies, without constantly feeling the need to measure up to a very narrow range of digitally manipulated shapes and sizes," said Jo Swinson, who oversaw the policy paper calling for the ban, which will ask the Advertising Standards Authority to ban all altered or enhanced images in advertising aimed at those under the age of 16. Those ads aimed at adults would need to clearly relate the extent to which they have been altered or enhanced.

Lastly, in an effort to combat the evils of Photoshop, renowned fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh (he shot this pic which just about every college boy I ever knew had plastered up in his dorm room) has shot a host of famous, above-30 supermodels without makeup or excessive retouching for the September issue of Harper's Bazaar. Flyaway hair or zits may have been erased, but that’s it.) Lindbergh says airbrushing makes women in magazines look like "objects from Mars," and feels "that for years now it has taken a much too big part in how women are being visually defined today. Heartless retouching should not be the chosen tool to represent women in the beginning of this century." Check out the pics of Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Helena Christensen and Amber Valetta here.

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