Winnie Harlow Encourages People To Find Beauty In Everything

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Image: Instagram

You may recognize Winnie Harlow from season 12 of America’s Next Top Model… in fact, she’s hard to miss. She first came into public view as a contestant on the show with a skin condition called vitiligo, which causes loss of pigmentation in the skin. Since then, she has become a model who focuses on encouraging everyone to find beauty within themselves even when they do not fit societal norms of “beauty”.

During a TED Talk, Harlow discussed the impact that growing up with such a visible condition had on her life — from being bullied to becoming the bully, she says during the talk that the only reason she ever felt like she wasn’t beautiful is because someone else told her she wasn’t.

Harlow’s sentiment is a powerful one. Who is telling young girls and boys that they aren’t beautiful, after all? We are — in advertisements, on television, on social media, everywhere — they are bombarded with messages of what is beautiful and more importantly what is not.

A study conducted in 1996 the amount of time an adolescent watches soaps, movies, and music videos is associated with their degree of body dissatisfaction and desire to be thin. While that information may seem outdated, that is the exactly the point I want to make. In 1996, exposure to media caused body dissatisfaction in adolescents— Imagine how much more frequently adolescents are exposed to these images in 2016. According to CBSNews.com, we’ve gone from being exposed to about 500 ads a day back in the 1970’s to as many as 5,000 a day today.”

So though the message to find beauty in everything may seem cliché, it is exactly what the world needs. That, and more models, actors, and media portrayals of people like Winnie Harlow — individually beautiful.

 

Photoshop Is More Powerful Than You Might Think

Most people are well aware that images in media and advertising are Photoshopped to some degree but, do we really know how powerful the editing software can be? Until I watched this video, posted in an article on TODAY, I was unaware of how severely images can be altered.

The original photograph and edited version don’t even appear to be the same model. Elizabeth Moss, founder of Rare Digital Art, a high-end retouching boutique in New York, made the videos to show people that virtually nothing goes untouched in Photoshop. While you would expect imperfections to be erased, Moss also demonstrates facial reshaping, enlarges her eyes, even changes where shadows from the mask appear.

In an interview with TODAY, Moss justifies the use of Photoshop by saying it is necessary to produce impactful image.

“Often when you see an image that boasts ‘no Photoshop,’ the lighting is pretty flat and boring,” Moss said. “Does society win in that situation where we’ve forced the photographer to light in a way that he might not have otherwise because he’s afraid of what the subject might look like without Photoshop?”

While it may be true that the harsh lighting calls for a bit of retouching— there is a fine line between retouching and creating a completely new image.

Moss also said in her interview that people shouldn’t compare themselves to media or advertisements..

“I hope that young people understand that what they see in magazines should not be setting a beauty standard for them to try to achieve,” she said. “Even without retouching, models make up such a minuscule percentage of the world population it’s crazy to compare yourself to them. Then they have makeup, stylists, the best photographers, and people like me spending days to make the beautiful look even more beautiful.

If it is not a beauty standard that people wanted to achieve, how would companies sell products? Consumers purchase beauty products to obtain the look sold to them by that advertisement but the images aren’t an accurate representation of the product at all — so what are companies really selling? An ideal. And to say that people shouldn’t compare themselves to an standard being sold to them is almost insulting… it takes the responsibility away from the industry and allows them to continue to make money off consumer insecurities, which is exactly what they want.

We Are Raising Girls Who Hate Their Bodies

“As a child, I never heard one woman say to me, “I love my body”. Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. No one woman has ever said, “I am so proud of my body.” So I make sure to say it to Mia [her daughter], because a positive physical outlook has to start at an early age.”
-Kate Winslet
After I read this quote for the first time, it stayed in the back of my mind… and thinking about it made me realize that growing up I had never heard a woman say to me that she loved her body either — something was always not toned enough, too big, could be fuller, enhanced, you name it.  Why is this? Why do women hate their bodies? More importantly, why are we inadvertently raising young girls to feel inadequate as well?
It’s obvious that the media has a huge influence on perceptions of body image and unhealthy ideals that are a result of the constant bombardment of airbrushed, flawless models. But does it really have an impact that carries beyond personal dissatisfaction into how we raise our children?
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, “42 percent of first- to third-grade girls want to lose weight, and 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat.”
It is heartbreaking that almost  half of third graders want to lose weight, and an overwhelming amount are afraid of being fat when they should be concerned about learning and playing with friends. And collectively, we are raising young girls to feel and think that way — the fashion industry, the beauty industry, media, fat-shamers, mom’s and sisters who hate their bodies, and men who ridicule them.
While there are great strides being made towards body positive advertising, media portrayals, monitoring pro-anorexic and pro-bulimic posts and pointing out what isn’t right as a society… Winslet really may be on to something. The place for a real change to start is at home, with mothers telling daughters what they love about themselves and encouraging them to embrace things that may not be seen as ideal — but instead unique and beautiful.

Nykhor Paul Is Tired Of Apologizing For Blackness

The fashion industry has undeniably made strides towards becoming more diverse, including models of different races, ethnicities, skin colors, and looks in recent years more than ever. While the change is certainly a positive one, it may not be as progressive and positive as it seems.

Model, Nykhor Paul, explained in an Instagram post last August the struggles she still faces as a “blue black” model working in the industry…and even more so, other models hesitancy to speak out against these issues due to fear of not being booked for jobs.

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Paul explains that makeup artists are often unprepared and models with darker skin tones are asked to bring their own makeup to professional shows while those of lighter complexions do not.

“Just because you only book a few of us doesn’t mean you have the right to make us look ratchet. I’m tired of complaining about not getting book as a black model and I’m definitely super tired of apologizing for my blackness!!!! Fashion is art, art is never racist it should be inclusive of all not only white people, shit we started fashion in Africa and you modernize and copy it! Why can’t we be part of fashion fully and equally?”

Paul is not the first model to speak out against this issue either… Supermodel, Tyra Banks, told HuffPost she had to create her own foundation kit in order to avoid embarrassing makeup artist mishaps. Her advice to every model is to “come prepared”, saying that, “Yes, complain. Get the word out. Spread the word. But, while you’re spreading the word, make sure that you’re looking right and tight and take it into your own hands.”

After all, are we really making strides in an industry when people of color are still being treated differently? When they are forced to bring their own makeup to sets and are a statement in the show…. Not really. Hopefully Paul, along with Banks and other influential models are able to bring this issue back to the forefront to  demand that they are not only represented in the industry but also respected and treated equally.

Lena Dunham Accuses Magazine of “More Than Average” Photoshop

Something surprising happened recently, especially in the world of media and relentless age of Photoshop. Lena Dunham was featured on the cover of spanish magazine, Tentaciones.

Dunham was not impressed when she saw the released version of the cover… and she posted an Instagram of the image claiming that “BUT this is NOT what my body has ever looked like or will ever look like -the magazine has done more than average Photoshop.”

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The surprising part is that in an open letter from Tentaciones to Lena Dunham, the magazine denies any use of Photoshop whatsoever:

“Here at TENTACIONES, we acquired the photo via the Corbis agency, and we used the original that they sent us without applying any kind of retouching. Those who are familiar with and follow our magazine will know that we do not use Photoshop nor other digital tools to change the physical appearance of our cover stars, nor in the features to be found inside. On this occasion, the only thing we did was to crop the image to adapt it to the format of our front page.”

You can see there original photograph from the shoot on photographer Ruven Afanado’s Facebook post or check out this gif comparing the two images.

Dunham responded to the open letter with yet another Instagram post captioned:

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“But it’s a weird feeling to see a photo and not know if it’s your own body anymore” “I’m not blaming anyone (y’know, except society at large.) I have a long and complicated history with retouching.”

Dunham is certainly right that society at large is to blame for the altered perception we have of body image and ideals, and there are very few instances where it turns out the image is presented in it’s true form. But maybe, just maybe both Dunham and Tentaciones are on to something by demanding and using accurate representations of body image in media. Even more so, like Dunham said in her caption, getting to the bottom of this (issue) in a bigger way.

First Gigi, Now Jennifer

In 2013, Jennifer Lawrence appeared on the cover of Flare Magazine, very heavily Photoshopped— they moved bones. Lawrence has been known to speak out about struggles she faces in Hollywood regarding weight or appearance and is an advocate for body image positivity.

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On the right is Lawrence, un-retouched and stunning. On the left is the edited image, where as you can see her collar bone moved a little lower because the bones were just unbearable before, right?

In an interview with Yahoo! following the images release Lawrence explained about how she felt about the issue, “the world has this idea that if you don’t look like an airbrushed perfect model,” she said. “You have to see past it. You look how you look, you have to be comfortable. What are you going to do? Be hungry every single day to make other people happy? That’s just dumb.”

Obviously Lawrence does not approve of the heavy handed airbrushing and reconfiguration of her appearance…. but if you look closer at the images you’ll notice something else is missing from the retouched photograph. Lawrence’s moles, like model Gigi Hadid, Lawrence too has fallen victim to the removal of something which makes her inherently unique and beautiful for the sake of flawless, airbrushed skin.

Today, Cosmopolitan posted 10 photographs of the actress sans moles, to show that you really never know what is being removed in editing.

First, Lawrence as she appears in real life:

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Getty Images

Then the moles make their disappearance thanks to the magic of Photoshop.

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What exactly is wrong with leaving people’s bodies how they appear naturally? Would it eliminate some of the insecurities projected onto us by not seeing flawless airbrushed images everywhere we look? It would be nice to see something a little more real and human — especially when the editing isn’t necessary in the first place.

Body Image & Men

Though we normally are more aware of the use of Photoshop in media and advertisements featuring women, the powerful editing tool is also used for men.

Original photographs from a Calvin Klein campaign featuring Justin Bieber in boxers recently surfaced, and to no surprise the two images do not match.

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Bieber’s body overall seems to have been enhanced, his muscles more prominent and defined giving him an larger stature. The lighting of the photograph is also completely different, shadows appearing in places where they were not before.

While it is so easy to focus on how body image affects women, men too are being toned and enhanced in ways that do not reflect how they actually look— creating just as in women, an industry based unrealistic ideal.

Which brings us to point that, body image issues are not just for women, men face them too.

A study published in JAMA Pediatrics found, “that nearly 18 percent of boys are highly concerned about their weight and physique.” The study also found even more that, “of the boys who were highly concerned with their weight, about half were worried only about gaining more muscle, and approximately a third were concerned with both thinness and muscularity simultaneously.”

Where do these insecurities come from? The same place they do for women, from media and advertising portraying unrealistic ideals, and then societal pressure to meet those standards. Its important to acknowledge that the images we are presented with in media are not realistic, even for the people featured in them, even for men.