Beauty is only pixel deep


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Carte Blanche recently covered the "photoshopping" debate. It was sensationalist, feeding upon emotional knee-jerk reaction, and ironically it was as superficial as they claim the "beauty" industry to be.

Here's the blurb: "Most of us want to be thinner, prettier, browner, lighter or sexier than we believe we are. But how ethical is it to manufacture so-called beauty to conform to a particular aesthetic ‘norm’? Some in the public eye are happy with how they look and take exception to images of themselves ‘photoshopped’ beyond reality. Carte Blanche bares all. Sun 7pm"

Here's the Tweet: "How ethical is it to "manufacture" beauty?"

I believe I have enough cachet to comment on this subject; having worked in the "Men's Lifestyle" magazine category for a number of years. As the erstwhile Features Editor at the South African ZOO Weekly and the Digital Editor at FHM I have first-hand experience with this "unethical" practice.

TRUTH: ALL models are "photoshopped" or "retouched". In fact, in the magazine industry... screw that... the photographic industry, ALL IMAGES ARE MANIPULATED. Check out the cover of Getaway Magazine, or Country Life Magazine. Is that sunset really so vivid? Is the grass on that rural field really so green? The answer is an emphatic NO! Practically every single professional image that you see has been manipulated. Is this unethical?

What are ethics in media? As far as I'm concerned, ethics and media are juxtaposed. Nevertheless, is it unethical to enhance an image for aesthetic appeal? Would we have Leonardo da Vinci hung, drawn and quartered because he embellished Mona Lisa's smile?

Photography is an art. As an absolute "point and shoot" amateur even I know that the image you manage to capture is not exactly a reality. Using even the most basic camera, without zoom lenses and filters or post-production, you can create something that looks surreal. Lighting, lighting, lighting! I haven't attended any courses in photography but I think most will agree that lighting is probably the most crucial aspect of any shoot. Enough with Photography 101 though. You can take ANY model, even a swamp donkey, and using the correct lighting and basic photography skills you can make her/him look like a million bucks. Find the professional wedding pics of your "ugliest" friend for evidence of this magical ability.

What about yourself? Take a squiz at your profile pictures on Facebook. We're all a bunch of vain bastards. We'll always choose the pictures that make us seem more "attractive" as our profile pictures.


What really gets to me is that the "journalist" covering the story for Carte Blanche is all dolled up with lipstick, eye shadow, mascara... and probably a push-up bra. This righteously indignant feminist seems to love the fact that she's chasing down this ground-breaking story to reveal how the media is responsible for poor self image amongst women. Ironically, she spent at least an hour having her hair and make up done before appearing in front of camera. That's called "photoshopping" your head, you idiot.

So, girls, where do we draw the line? "OMG! I can't believe they made her hips look smaller in that photoshoot!" you'll cry, while happily adjusting the wedgie you're getting from your Spanx.

Women are experts at the art of illusion. Make-up, jewelery, fashion, lingerie etc. etc. etc. All designed specifically to deceive.

My mate Hagen, Editor of FHM, Tweets this in reply to me: "If we want pure authenticity, all models should be photographed the minute they step out of bed!"

Or Alyn, Deputy Editor of FHM, who says: "If you're going to bitch about superficiality, please be makeup-free when you do so..."

Or Natasha, who works at Heat, who says: "What I resented was the assumption that all us poor women have such fragile egos that looking at gorgeous images can completely ruin our self confidence... how insulting?"

Too true!

What is your self-worth, ladies, when you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror? Are you happy with what you see? Which points me to the problem here. It has NOTHING to do with the media and EVERYTHING to do with the psychological reality of women.

Arthur Miller said: "A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself." The media reflects society. The tail does not wag the dog. The media is NOT representing an aesthetic "norm" as Carte Blanche states. It's entirely not the norm. It is representing an aesthetic pinnacle. These 'shopped images are merely a creative and artistic representation of reality, and in no way attempt to force people to conform.

Why would you want to conform to an unattainable pinnacle?

There will ALWAYS be someone out there hotter than you, smarter than you, more successful than you.

As my brother (who is smarter than me :p) said last night, you should not be constantly looking at those people more successful, smarter and good-looking or famous and hankering after their lifestyle. You should rather be looking at those less-fortunate than you and be grateful for your own life.


Here's my personal reflection of working on photoshoots. Admittedly, as a red-blooded male, it is fantastic to be on a photoshoot with lingerie models. There you are in the presence of arguably some of the most beautiful women in the world and they're in their undies and it's pretty damned amazing. As with any profession, this novelty wears off. Take a male gynae for example. He sees punani day in and day out and you expect him to act professionally... and he does (hopefully). Now, take off your clothes, lay back on the bed, put your feet in stirrups and ask some random guy off the street to come and 'ave a look-see. His eyes will pop out on stalks.

That's the difference. Nevermind that though. Here you are on a photoshoot. There are stylists, make-up artists, hair stylists, lighting guys, the photographer, his assistant, the model and a plethora of tools and gadgets dedicated to creating an image. It's art.

You'll quickly find yourself - everyone on the shoot, in fact, model included - seeking to create an image that is beautiful. Aesthetically pleasing. You'll even start looking at the reality in front of you as a final printed image. "That's gonna look amazing in the mag!" you'll say. You start looking at the reality in front of you - a hot babe in her undies - as a page in a magazine, rather than just a hot babe in her undies right in front of you. This, I suppose, is called the "Photographer's eye". When you're able to look at something random, but once captured correctly through photography, it becomes art.

With all the lighting, make up, hair, clothing, filters, artistic eye etc. this image then goes into post-production. Maybe the model had a bruise on her thigh from bumping into a table? That gets removed. Complexion is smoothed out. Colour is enhanced. Any number of digital tools are brought into play to create a beautiful image. And that's all it is.

Is the model truly that beautiful? Honestly, yes... in a way. In fact, she is more so. There is no way an image of someone can ever compare to their beauty in the flesh, so to speak.

Would I rather look at this image of someone, or be in their presence? With all their supposed flaws, I honestly doubt you would choose the image above the reality.

So why do people take an image as reality?

It happens worldwide. Here's Kelly Clarkson for example:

Are we really being hoodwinked? Is there some media plot? Is media responsible for creating a negative self-worth?

Comfortable in your own skin

The picture on the right is of 20-year-old model Lizzie Miller. She's a plus-sized model at size 12-14, although this is normal by most standards, so the "plus-sized" is a bit of a misnomer. This picture appeared in the September 2009 issue of Glamour Magazine in the US. It was accompanied by an article on feeling comfortable in your own skin... and Lizzie clearly does. Welcome to the real world, a world without photoshop. This is what a happy, beautiful and confident woman looks like in reality.

However, women will be the first to point out and laugh at her "flaws".

The most important advice for any woman is to feel comfortable in her own skin. Beyond the clothing, beyond the make-up, beyond the lingerie, this is what will radiate and resonate with other people. If you are a "plus-size" woman then I hope you take this to heart.

If you feel sexy, confident and happy then you will look sexy, confident and happy.

If you allow something so superficial (the media, magazine covers etc.) to affect your self worth... well then, you're ugly on the inside too.

PS: I also wrote THIS about using clothes to make you look slimmer. Is this just not another deception? Who is to blame here? Media? Or simply the fact that people enjoy looking their best? Where do we really lay the blame for lack of self-worth?

The blame for your self-worth lies with you. The sooner you accept that responsibility - and stop blaming external media - the sooner you'll feel comfortable in your own skin.

Pause for thought
Dove Evolution Advert - fanning the flames

Did you know that beer has the same effect as photoshop?

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