Saturday, August 15, 2009

Real women aren't magazine cover-models or mannequins

Yesterday, I watched an amazing story on the Today show about how a recent magazine cover photo of Kelly Clarkson was re-touched, and Kelly was not too happy about it.

Kelly Clarkson's Self magazine photo retouched

As you'll read and see at the link above, the magazine editor-in-chief of SELF magazine was brought on to the Today show to explain why they drastically retouched the picture of Kelly Clarkson to make her look much thinner than she really is.

As we all know, Kelly has her curves, but, like so many women, Kelly is proud of these curves. Yes, there is a difference between curves and being overweight, but for some women, they are never EVER going to look like women on magazine covers (or as mannequins in the store). I'll admit, I'm one of them... my thighs touch and my arms are bigger at the bicep than my forearm. And I like it.

For Kelly, she was very unimpressed that Self magazine would do this to her image. But, as you can see the editor-in-chief from SELF had issues of her own: this woman looked like she'd been eating paper towels and ice chips for a few weeks before appearing on the show. Her arms were seriously scary. And, I, out of most people I know, do appreciated vascularity in a woman's arms when she's lifting heavy at the gym. But, this woman just looked like she needed a good meal. It was scary.

She obviously thinks women in this world are too fat, including Kelly Clarkson, who was invited to be on her magazine cover.

It seems that no woman would be thin enough to be on magazine covers today, which is a topic I've blogged about before. Even the cover models themselves.

This is exactely why women today need to stop judging themselves based on these images. Most women have thighs, and when they bend to the side, they probably will get a little roll. Most women even over the age of 25, usually have a little pooch not because they don't know how to take care of themselves, but because nature and gravity have their ways.

Here is another take on this story by examiner.come: Do magazine covers set unrealistic expectations?

Women usually only have a super flat stomach plus perfect thighs and arms for three reasons:
a) They're 18 or younger
b) They have wonderful genetics
c) They're right about to step on stage for a bodybuilding/figure show and have been dieting and exercising insanely for the past 16 or more weeks.

So, ladies, unless you're one of these, enjoy the skin you're in. Yes, workout hard and eat well to attain what God will let you, but know your limits. If your mother has hips, you probably will too, and that's ok. (Guys actually really like hips and don't think boy hips are all that attractive.)

You can look great and feel great, but you likely won't look like women on magazine covers. Make your role models real women in your life either in real pictures or in person. No matter who we are, we all have our imperfections, but the bottom line is that if we don't like ourselves for what we can be, no one else is going to make us look any better.

Even Kelly isn't happy about her new body - but apparently SELF magazine doesn't think she should be'' herself... she should be the 'self' they think she should be.



Michelle said...

Great thoughts -- I've also been noticing lately that older women (40+, 50+ etc) are making their way into magazines, commericals, and the like. This is great on the surface to see more equal demographics represented, but their faces often seem unnaturally smooth and have too perfect skin. It seems like the media is showing off older generations without losing its obsession with youth.

Larissa in San Antonio said...

I was especially peeved by the Jessica Alba touch-ups when I saw the before and after pics last year. These pics were taken no too long after she had her daughter, and, as a mother with a daughter almost HER daughter's age, I felt especially sucker-punched when I saw these. The Alba pics were deceitful not only to women in general, but to mothers. Sure, there are women who are fortunate enough to look unscathed mere weeks after giving birth, but the majority of us are struggling with our post-baby bodies while also negotiating conflicting messages that tell us to "love our bodies, stretch marks and all" and to wear high heels during our ninth month of pregnancy and bikinis before our babies are a month old, because Hallie and JLo are doing it. Even products like the Popper Stopper, a sticky used to smooth down "offending" protruding belly buttons and have the perfect basketball belly are creating unrealistic expectations for mothers-to-be. I could go on... I teach Women's Studies and some of my research interests are motherhood and pregnancy, so this is an especially personal topic for me! :)

Roland said...

I think it's a shame. The people at the magazines are out of touch with what the public really wants to see. Sure, there are people who love the skinny look, but that's not the norm.

Kelly Clarkson is beautiful, as is the 1st season of Friends Jennifer Aniston, the St. Elmo's Fire Demi Moore, Like A Virgin Madonna, and any, any, any unstarved Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Where's the common sense when these women aren't thin enough and Jessica Biel is too bulky? Don't get me started there...

Zach said...

Just my thoughts as a man, a picture of a fit nutritionally healthy woman (healthy genotype expressed no matter what the dimensions!) is far more attractive than any touched up glam photo of a model who is either made out of plastic or has very little muscle and an unhealthy metabolism caused by starvation eating.

Cassandra, you're a good role model for women (and men!). My wife and I find your site a tremendous resource.

Casey said...

The editor for self also made the off hand comment that when she went and ran a marathon, she was so proud that she had her picture taken. She then went on to "touch up" that picture since she didn't like what she saw.

I think that speaks volumes about the leadership at these types of magazines.

HappyTrails said...

I just came across your blog via another blog and am excited to have found you! You are preaching the truth! As an avid trail runner and cyclist, I much prefer an athletic, healthy build on a person than the emaciated, skeletal look Hollywood tells us is the perfect look. I am looking forward to reading more from you!

Cassandra Forsythe said...

Thank you all for your comments. This topic is so dear to my heart. I detest most magazine covers... they set such an unrealistic goal for any woman to strive for.

Larissa: I'm very interested in your work. For myself, being 2 months pregnant, I have a whole new appreciation for mothers and the struggles they go through with their image thanks to today's actresses coming out perfect 6 weeks post-baby.

Galya Talkington said...

I loved your post, and the post pregnancy issue is very close to my heart, since I specialize in pre and postnatal training. Some of the young moms I work with take forever to get a more realistic grasp on what is humanly possible through proper nutrition and exercise and setting realistic goals is extremely challenging, given the media grounds we have to work with. Sometimes they are flat out frustrated. To make matters worse, I live in a country where a lot of moms literally starve themselves to stay thin during pregnancy, saying this or that celebrity did it and "look they are just fine...''. Look at the brushed up photo...riiiiighttt...

Funny too, I often find myself touched up in magazines and I have to fight for publishers to send me the heaviest models they can find for photo shoots. Some of the exercise shoots I direct for beauty magazines, we literally have to pretend the model is doing say a plank, or a wide squat, because there is no way they can get in that position...then there are contracts and $ interests and looking realistically at what media exists for, so we cannot always be frustrated at them, but rather teach people to be critical and know why models look a certain way and normal people don't.

Anonymous said...

I don't see why women get so bent out of shape over magazine covers and mannequins. I do agree that touching up Kelly Clarkson without here approval is a slap in the face.

However, women just need to accept we live in a superficial world -- and it's not some conspiracy. It's also not the media brainwashing people into thinking that thin women with curves in all the right places is ideal. Media is changing rapidly and as opposed to content being dictated to consumers, consumers are demanding content. Market researchers don't advise putting fat or average looking women in movies, TV and the cover of magazines because that's not what the market wants. Deal with it.

I also think that people give the media way too much credit. Much of the bias in favor of beautiful women is based on reality. Go out on a Friday night. Who is making the guys break their neck the hardest to get a second look? It's the same women you see on the cover of magazines, on TV and in the movies (minus the touch ups).

Go to a high-school, who is getting the most attention. It's the girls who are the prettiest, skinniest and have the biggest boobs.

Come to Santa Monica Pier, who are all the husbands risking their ass sneaking peeks at. It's the women who resemble exactly what you see in the media. Not the women pushing a stroller with sagging boobs a crew cut and pale skin.

To conclude, I believe the content we see is just a reflection of reality (arguably on steroids).

On average nobody is interested looking like the average women with two kids a pooch and stretch marks because they are not sexy. They are a dime a dozen and boring. Kudos to them for being a mom and blah blah blah. They signed up for pregnancy and all that it comes with. I see them everyday, everywhere -- they are boring looking and relatively easily attainable(compared to the thin hot chick in the body hugging dress who is just so hot you can't help but stare).

Jessica Alba, Halle Berry and Marisa Miller are exceptional, scarce, hard to get and very real. Moreover I live in Southern California and I see girls who look just like them all the time and their ages run the gamut. Sometimes it's genetics but more than anything it's a lifestyle choice. They stretch, run, lift weights and eat exceptionally healthy.

Lastly. Women are on the covers because market research suggest they are what people want to see. You can argue the stats are biased, skewed or whatever but, I'm not buying it. I deal with Nielsen and other research firms all the time and they have integrity. If people wanted to see average women on the cover of magazines in droves some blood sucking producer, publisher or ad man would jump all over it to make a buck. Fact of the matter is there is no money in it. If you think that there is a market for average looking women in bikini's on the cover of Mens's magazines, playing the lead in movies, and starring in television shows. Do what everyone else does. Put your money where your mouth is, perform some research showing there is a viable market, raise capital, allocate it to media projects and see if people watch, read, buy or listen. It has rarely worked in the past and likely will rarely work in the future. When it does it's never a big enough hit to justify pouring cash into it when you can get much higher margins creating content around what your market desires.

I could go on but, I'm over it.

In a nutshell, I think your making a mountain of a molehill. All of your problems sound more personal (and in your own head) than anything. The media is just giving the the vast majority of people who use media what they truly want to see. Their is no conspiracy. Regular women are just jealous of hotties. Just like I'm jealous I can't play basketball as well as Kobe Bryant.

Excuse me for any spelling errors. I wrote this in haste.

Anonymous said...

One more thing...

Women usually only have a super flat stomach plus perfect thighs and arms for three reasons:
a) They're 18 or younger
b) They have wonderful genetics
c) They're right about to step on stage for a bodybuilding/figure show and have been dieting and exercising insanely for the past 16 or more weeks.

Some other reasons that women might look like the above is they don't overeat, they work out and run everyday, they do yoga, shall I go on....Why is it in my very real life I see women with the above named attributes every day.

Cassandra Forsythe said...

Thanks for your thoughts Anonymous. Yes, it's true, there are many women that look very good (perhaps not like magazine covers), because they eat well, exercise often and take care of themselves. It's a great thing.

But, not all women "sign-up" for pregnancy willingly. But, they act responsibly when it does happen and they do their best to keep their figures and sanity while building a healthy human. Stretch marks can't be helped for some women.... and it hurts to get them - both physically and emotionally. However, until you've had your own children, don't preach about how easy it is to keep a star-studded physique without a heck of a lot of help and probably a lot of airbrushing/botox/lipo.

Jessica said...

Thank you for this post. I sincerely believe we should never stop having this conversation. Ever. Young women must continually be reminded they are good enough just the way are. And if they happen to have the inclination to be healthier, fitter, faster, and/or stronger the reasoning should soley be based on improving themselves to be the best individual they can be. NOT to become the cover of a magazine. So thanks again!

I hope Kelly Clarkson never succumbs to the pressure in her industry. Keep it up Kelly!