Photoshop: the Bad News & the Good News

In my last post I talked about the extensive work that goes into making models look perfect in order to advertise clothes for the average-looking woman. It just doesn’t make sense. Advertisers pick out the prettiest girls in the world, put them through hours of hair and makeup, set up the perfect lighting, get the best cameras, spend hours taking the pictures, and then, the icing on the cake, they photoshop those pictures. Voilà! Parfait!

But that’s not the end of the story.

Part deux begins when a normal girl/woman decides to look through a magazine or to watch some television. Now Prweb.com says that “72% of women wear size 12 or above.” So for some girls normal means a size 12, and, for others, normal means a size 2. Tomato. Tomahto. Potato. Potahto. But, you see the problem is that all women see the same thing when they view advertisements: perfect-looking size 0 – size 2 women smiling, flouncing around, and picking up all the men.

We can’t make specific commercials for each and every woman in the world. But can’t we at least expand the range of girls in the advertisements? Would that hurt?

I saw these photos of Diane Keaton via a thread on Reddit (advice: if you value your grades, time with your family, and sunlight please do not sign up for this website). Now Keaton is currently 68 years old. She’s allowed to look a little old, right? This is a picture from the Golden Globes which took place on January 12, 2014:

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No big deal. She looks like a 68 year-old should, right? Now this is a picture from a L’Oréal commercial that played during a commercial break for the Golden Globes on January 12, 2014:

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Unless L’Oréal is using an archived commercial from 1990, I’m pretty sure some heavy photoshop went into that commercial despite the fact that she already had hours of hair and makeup and the best lighting set up possible. Was photoshop really necessary? Why couldn’t she have just looked her age? She certainly would have appealed to the common woman more.

Now here’s a company that decided to take the opposite approach (this is the good news):

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In case you aren’t a female young adult, Aerie is a lingerie store that opened in 2006 as a sister store of American Eagle. They just released this announcement on Friday via their Facebook page. Take a look at the top two comments:

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What did I tell you clothing stores? What has everyone been telling you? If you would stop making your models look like these otherworldly perfect plastic dolls then people will see that you are real and genuine and they will want to buy your clothes more. Aerie was the first to figure it out. I’m interested to see who follows suit. Even if it’s just for the money, it’s a small step in the right direction.

Here’s the first video from the #AerieREAL campaign (released January 17):

And here are some photos from the campaign.

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The girls are obviously still in the top-tier for looks, but I didn’t see any ribs and I see some curves and even some moles. Besides, Aerie is still selling clothing to young adults so we can’t be too hard on them. Business is business.

But, overall, I love this campaign! It’s fresh, fun, and real. I even liked their facebook page, which I don’t do very often because who needs 100 “LIKE OUR PAGE” advertisements on their news feed? So thank you Aerie. You get a well-earned like from me (in addition to the 1.2 other million likes of course).

Get with the program L’Oréal! #AerieREAL

Aerie Twitter: @Aerie

Aerie Facebook: Aerie

Aerie Website: Ae.com/Aerie

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Social Anxiety: a Serious Disorder Requires a Serious Solution

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For the poem that inspired this mini series of posts on social anxiety click here. If you want some basic information on social anxiety for some context click here.

This post will be about my thoughts on social anxiety based on research, experience, and conversations with others. 

Everyone gets nervous in social situations every once in a while. Perhaps at a big business convention or at a dance for all the incoming freshmen.

But imagine waking up in your dorm room with a sinking feeling because you’re already nervous about eating breakfast in front of people in the dining common. So you eat in your room. Then you head to your first class with your head down to avoid eye contact with people. You sit in class and begin working. But you can’t concentrate because you feel like everyone is watching you. Like a spotlight is on you. And everyone is scrutinizing your every move. And no matter how many times people try to tell you that you’re just an extra on stage – the same as everyone else – you can’t shake the feeling. Your next class is across campus. There will be so many people you will have to walk through. The bell rings. You exhale, put your head down, and walk. Your mind is already tired, and you’ve only made it through first period.

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Maybe you’re skeptical about this illustration. Perhaps you’re thinking, why can’t people just get over themselves? No one cares what they do, no one is watching. And, besides, everyone gets nervous sometimes. Well, here’s my response: I think that this is one of the disorders that doesn’t seem serious unless you have it. Psychologists have determined that there is a marked difference between having social anxiety and having a social anxiety disorder. And note that this is listed as a disorder. And it does affect its victims.

I have talked at length with a friend who has social anxiety. She often seems weary because, let’s face it, our society is a very social society. And I think that’s good. We are meant to be with people. Long ago, when we figured out how agriculture works, we all gathered together in cities. We knew that we could help each other if we came together.

But, just take a moment and think about how many activities take place under the scrutiny of the public eye each day. Walking, talking, eating, drinking, answering a question in class, going to the mall with friends, even just studying in a room with other people. While most of these activities seem commonplace to you, to 19.2 million people in America, many or all of these activities cause them great distress. Everyday. Now that’s exhausting.

And, unfortunately, there is no cure all. Telling someone to “Stop being shy” or to “Stop being so nervous” is not going to do anything. It’s like yelling “Grow legs!” to a rock. Nothing is going to happen. Psychologists can prescribe medicine but, as with most mental disorders, this can only do so much.

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 10.34.52 PMSo, if you have a friend or family member who suffers from social anxiety, try to place yourself in their shoes. Remember that, especially in college, you are around other people all the time always. And, for some people, this type of environment sucks away their energy. Note: Of course, this can be said of many different issues. Everyone you see on the sidewalk is currently going through some type of trial, be it small or big, short-term or long-term. So be nice and considerate to everyone in general. 

And, if you suffer from social anxiety, try to place yourself in other people’s shoes. First, remember that they have their own issues that they are dealing with. That boy who sits next to you in class probably isn’t scrutinizing your work ethics. He’s too busy trying to pass the class so he doesn’t get yelled at again by his parents who are never proud of him. The girls who were laughing behind you on the sidewalk probably weren’t making fun of your clothes. They were simply reminiscing about their weekend activities. And your classmates probably don’t criticize your eating habits behind your back. They themselves are struggling with eating too much or too little at times.

Second, realize that if you never talk to people, people will probably never talk to you. If you always have your head down and your phone out, people will probably not talk to you. And if you never say yes to an invitation to go somewhere, you will probably not get invited anywhere. I know it’s hard to be social – that’s why we’re talking about social anxiety – but put yourself in their shoes. They probably aren’t rude people for not talking to someone who doesn’t talk back or for not inviting someone who never comes. They themselves dislike being rejected by you – no matter the reason why – just as much as you hate being rejected by others. Don’t give yourself a free pass. You can hurt others even whilst you yourself are hurting.

Is there any solution?

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Now, I know it’s hard to change your thinking patterns. But, I think that the best cure may simply be to forget about yourself. Completely. For a whole day instead of thinking about what others are thinking about you, try to think about what others are thinking about themselves. Is that boy in your class struggling with math? Offer to help him in study hall. Is that girl in your sorority having a hard time because her parents just got a divorce? Offer a listening ear. Are your parents struggling to get dinner on the table? Offer to help cook for them.

At first, this may seem scary to forget about what others might be thinking about you. But, even though I am not a psychologist, I am positive that this is effective. Soon, tuning in to other people’s needs will become second nature to you. People will begin to see you in a new light. They will appreciate that you give your time, energy, money, talents, or whatever it is in order to help them. Even if they don’t say so out in the open, people know when someone is making a sacrifice for them. And they appreciate it. And they remember it.

And soon, these people will be more open to you. As you can imagine, people are much more receptive to people who not only say that they care, but also show that they care. Soon you will find that you have a wide range of loyal friends. Now that, my friends, is living. Not staying inside feeling fear and anxiety all the time. Do not let yourself be defeated. Make yourself go out, and make yourself concentrate on others. Don’t clam up, because once you enter the comfort of your shell, you might not come back out. Break the shell. Smash it. Smash it so that shutting yourself in isn’t an option. Because you have so much to offer. Even to just one person, you could be that listening ear or helpful hand that they need to make it through something really hard. Be open to people, and they will be open to you.

Note: the comic I used comes from Social Anxiety Comics

TED Talk: Looks Aren’t Everything

If you’ve never heard of TED talks, then stop reading this and visit this link. You’re back already? Don’t you feel smarter?

TED talks are brilliant. They encourage creativity and innovation in politics, religion, and culture in general. Yesterday I saw the one titled ‘Looks aren’t Everything. Believe me. I’m a model.’ and I squealed with delight (not really). But I didn’t know just how relevant it would be to this blog. I have been trying to put my specific purpose for this blog into words and here it is via Cameron Russell’s closing statement in the above video:

“If there’s a takeaway to this talk I hope it’s that we all feel more comfortable acknowledging the power of image in our perceived successes and our perceived failures.”

That’s what I want. Like I said yesterday, we will never get 313.9 million individual Americans to forget about outward looks. We are biologically programmed to be attracted to and to respond better to physically beautiful things. But I think that we often ignore this issue. Sure we talk about the cruelty of the modeling business on girls’ self-esteem. But that’s about it. What about bias in the workplace? in dating? in receiving free stuff? in getting a traffic ticket? in getting frisked at the airport? Just because there isn’t a solve-all solution doesn’t mean an issue isn’t worth exploring and trying to understand.

Still don’t think it’s a real world issue? Listen to a few of Russell’s current statistics. In 2007 a student counted 677 models. Only 27 were non-white. “Of the 140,000 teenagers that were stopped and frisked [in New York], 86% of them were black and latino.” I know I’ve mainly been talking about the benefits given to attractive females, but there it is. This problem is so much bigger than most people are willing to acknowledge.

I want to leave you with another quote that I found particularly insightful and will be making a full post on later this week:

“There’s very little that we can do to transform how we look. And how we look, though it is superficial and immutable, has a huge impact on our lives.”

A Simple Post about the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty

In 2004 Dove (soap, body wash, etc.) launched a campaign to encourage women to celebrate their own, unique beauty. Where did their sudden warm-hearted motivation come from? A study that revealed a harrowing statistic: “only 2% of women around the world would describe themselves as beautiful.” In the past 9 years, Dove has worked hard to boost the self-esteem of women worldwide. Their unique methods include:

1) Using normal sized women in their ads, as opposed to a size 0 or 2

2) Producing the short film Evolution (watch it!) which documents the extensive lengths that models go through to look good: hours of hair and makeup and even more hours of photo-shop. This is the standard for girls who wakeup at 7:30am for their 8am class that they stayed up until 2am studying for? I don’t think so.

3) A series of feel-good ads encouraging women to let go of the pressure of looking perfect. Let go of society’s standards of beauty, and embrace beautiful you! Dove wants “to create a world where beauty is a source of confidence and not anxiety.”

Most of these ads are cute. Some are cheesy. But one made me smile and tear up at the same time. It’s called “Camera Shy.” It’s one minute long and there’s no dialogue, but I think it’s brilliant.

So true, right? My dad is a photographer. He always has his camera on him. Always. He says that’s the first sign of a good photographer: they’re always prepared. Let me tell you, he was always prepared. I think I was photographed more than Miley Cyrus as a child. Someone could make a flip book of me growing up. But I loved it! My sisters and I would make up dances or plays and then, after 20 minutes of practice tops, invite our parents to watch our grand performance in the family room. We would even offer them refreshments afterwards. Yes, crackers and water. We were proud of our hard work and we were confidant in our moves. We had on our pink tutus and we felt beautiful.

Everything was so simple back then, right? Those were the good old days (I can’t believe I’m already using that phrase! I promise I’m only 20). If you’re having a down day, I encourage you to take 3 minutes to just transport yourself back to a really joyful and cheery memory from childhood. Remember the sights, sounds, and smells. Picture the expressions on the faces of the people around you and just be there in the moment. Soak it in. Smile. Laugh. And be thankful for such simple and happy times.

Let’s try to get back to those simple times. Forget the standards of society. Let looks fade into the background of the new memories that you make today. One day you will look back on today, and you will not remember what you wore. Perhaps even tomorrow. But, you will remember running on the trail with your friend, going out to eat with your boyfriend, helping out at a soup kitchen, visiting your niece, or surprising your parents with a visit home. So don’t stress about your dress because, in the end, it really doesn’t matter. Live and love.