Saturday, January 29, 2022

On the Loose: Beauty Inc

There is no perfection without an airbrush

Written by Leher Kala |
February 23, 2015 12:48:43 am

Three decades after Cindy Crawford posed for her first-ever magazine cover, an unretouched photo of the supermodel has gone viral on the Net. It features Crawford sporting an open fur coat, revealing a not-quite perfect midriff (yet a pretty enviable one for a 48-year-old mother).

In a separate incident, pop star Beyonce, 34, had the temerity to be seen in public with tired eyes and uneven skin. These images were first spun out as an empowering message for imperfection; that even legendary beauties have flaws. They were lauded for their courage to let themselves be seen as mere mortals — until it was revealed neither women wanted these pictures in the public domain.

It’s no secret that photographs of models in advertisements and fashion spreads in magazines are routinely touched up, brightened, buffed and polished. The magic wand of Photoshop is an acceptable untruth since you don’t become the world’s highest-paid supermodel or a pop star worth $400million by looking flawed like everyone else. Beyonce and Crawford have been shrewd in exploiting their good looks since they understand better than anyone how vital appearance is in show business. There’s big money at stake. It takes painstaking effort over years by PR companies to create the diva aura and image, literally, is everything. Who can blame them for attempting to control exactly how they want to be seen?

Critics of Photoshop say digitally altering fashion pictures creates a narrow ideal of beauty that influences young women and affects their self worth. Beyonce and Crawford are not morally bound to serve as role models for the vulnerable nor does this argument hold up in the social media era when everyone uses the inbuilt software on phones to spruce up pictures. In the hierarchy of scheming and lies, is it really such a big sin to try and look unrealistically good?

There are very few women who don’t try to look their best, not just rockstars. We’ve been altering our appearance way before Photoshop existed with make-up and accessories, and of course, plastic surgery. The fashion industry especially, is about myth and fantasy which is why garments seen on the ramp are never wearable. We expect a degree of glamour from beauty products that we might not from an ad for taps. It’s absurd to pretend an unaltered image is ideal, rather there should be guidelines set on how much an image can be altered. It’s OK to digitally remove a pimple but there’s something weird about a model gaining six inches in height.

It’s worth remembering that people who subscribe to keeping-it-real values don’t read glossy magazines anyway. The fashion industry’s quest for impossible perfection keeps cropping up but no profession is free of minor deceptions. Top journalists are rewritten by copy desks, authors are edited by publishers, every meal in a Michelin star restaurant is not made by the chef. Showing yourself off as marginally better than reality is bending the rules slightly but it’s not socially irresponsible.

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