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

Maya Angelou Thinks You are Strong & Beautiful

Once a week, I’d like to make an encouraging post on the subject of beauty. It’s nice to mix in light, encouraging topics, right? I think so. This weeks encouraging post is geared toward all women who need a confidence boost to get through their Friday. 

Maya Angelou, born in 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, is best known for her autobiographical works, such as I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She is a writer, a poet, a director, a screenwriter, a playwright, a singer, a historian and a teacher. Most recently, she has been teaching at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. You can click on this link if you want to read her 2013 interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Although her poetry is criticized by some and praised by others, I like to look at poems individually. I cannot judge her other poems, but I like this one. To me, this poem describes a woman who draws admiring eyes, not because she is perfect, but because she is confidant. And she is confidant, not because she is perfect, but because she has accepted herself as she is. This acceptance of her entire self, which is so rare to see, makes her stand out from the crowd like a tall and sturdy sunflower in a field of slumped-over daffodils. When you accept yourself as you are, you say, “Okay this is what I have to work with. Now let’s see what my strengths are.” In this way, you get to know yourself which, in turn, gives you confidence.

Imagine that you are an art major and you have to present an enormous painting for a class project. If you have spent all your time worrying about the little imperfections (that line is a little crooked, I don’t like how dark the background is, that person’s eyes are too close together) then you aren’t going to know how to present the painting in a favorable light. In fact, you won’t really know how to present your painting at all. You spent all your time wondering how you could fix its few weaknesses instead of concentrating on its many strengths. And, thus, you really don’t know your painting.

In life, be sure your prepared. Childhood and adolescence are your time to examine and explore your strengths and weaknesses so that you know how to present yourself in a favorable light. From job interviews, to social situations, to everyday life, you need to know how to best present your strengths that you are confidant in. If you know you’re funny, tell a joke. If you know you’re better one-on-one then find someone who needs a friend. If you’re gifted athletically, teach a class at the gym or try out for a team. Play to your strengths instead of focusing on your weaknesses.  Extra Hint: Each time you play to your strengths, you gain more experience in that area, which makes that strength even stronger. Then people start to notice that strength and compliment you on that strength and then hire you because of that strength. And then you gain more confidence! What a cycle.

That’s my interpretation. If you have any insights feel free to leave them in the comment below. Sometimes poems mean something different to each person who reads it, but I think that this one is rather straight-forward.

Phenomenal Woman

by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

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.”

Society is the Problem, But We’re Society

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People blame society and the media for all the self-esteem issues in the world. However, we as individuals make up society and control the media.

Society is a group of people who can be grouped together based on religious beliefs, culture, and geography, right? So if the American society needs to change, that really means that the 313.9 million individual Americans need to change. Ah, so that’s the problem. How do you convince 313.9 million individuals, who each have their own frame of reference, to not judge people based on looks, to greet everyone with enthusiasm and treat everyone with politeness no matter if they are old, young, big or small.

Can you imagine a society made up of individuals who were literally blind to beauty? I have a dream. . .

So, as a society, we individuals also control the media. How? By deciding what to spend our moneytumblr_mrabxcp1Dy1sxq0pho1_500 on. When individuals buy magazines with size 0 models on the cover, they contribute to that magazine’s revenue. Add a couple hundred thousand more buyers and boom that magazine is doing good business. As soon as enough individuals stop buying celebrity gossip magazines, they will go out of business and disappear. Same for teen pregnancy shows, celebrity gossip sites, etc.

If a trashy television show has a lot of viewers, advertisers come running because they want their ad to run on a show that has the most viewers. Naturally, they want a lot of potential customers to see the ad that they paid someone to make. So, if you complain about these things, make sure you yourself aren’t contributing to their success.

I chuckle to myself when I hear everyone in the U.S. denying that they watch “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” because both shows are obviously doing well. Somebody is watching. And by somebody I mean millions (including me maybe). What?

Okay great, that’s depressing. What do we do about it? First, realize that you will never get 313.9 million sinners to forget about outward looks. We are naturally attracted to beauty. I mean hey, I’m writing this blog and I struggle with that. Second, know that the things you watch and read affect your mind. Your mind controls what you think and talk about. If you find that all of your conversations start with “Hey did you see what *insert celebrity name* did?” or if you find that all of your thoughts center around “I wish I had her *insert body part*” then you should clean out your media intake. No need to beat yourself up about it. Just make a simple clean out of your computer, television shows, movies, etc. Protect your mind like you protect your heart.

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.