Most of us already know that models are photoshopped, airbrushed, and digitally manipulated to within an inch of there already perfectly formed little lives before we get to see the snaps. Shockingly though, many teenagers (and therefore the people who the ads are usually targeted at) believe that the people they see in magazines actually look like that. These are women which don’t bruise, don’t have stretch marks, have no scars or freckles or moles, and don’t have even the tiniest bit of cellulite – God forbid!
In reality, models are not that far removed from everyone else. Their skin still marks, they get tattoos, they have bad hair days. Women don’t look picture perfect all the time, but often female modelling pictures which have been photoshopped look slightly strange. Their figures don’t quite make sense, and they don’t have any of the natural lines you get from smiling or even bending a little. Sometimes even the shadows have been manipulated to achieve an industry created beauty perception.
Of course, sometimes celebrities go unretouched. It’s almost always a big deal when they do. As a child modelling agency, we think it shouldn’t be a big deal. There’s no need to print across the cover that this is ‘UNRETOUCHED’ and ‘TOTALLY NATURAL!’ – that should be a given. After all, we want our children to grow up comfortable in their own skin.
We aren’t just any old modelling agency. Here at Talent Management and Models Direct we take on models of every age, shape, size, gender and race in order to offer a portfolio of people across our books who accurately represent all walks of life. We think that it should be the responsibility of child modelling agencies to stamp this practise out.
What gets retouched?
Sometimes retouching isn’t exactly what you’d expect. Skinny arms, dropping the muffin touch and removing birthmarks are the usual aren’t they? Nope. There is actually a practise within photo editing which hides the signs of extreme thinness. Because being skinny is fashionable, but looking ill is not. Here’s an example which ran in Numéro in 2012:
In this picture, the model’s rib cage has been smoothed considerably, because her prominent bones makes her look ill. Leah Hardy, former Cosmopolitan editor, explained how she would have retouched photos when the models looked ‘frighteningly thin’. It seems the poor models can’t win. It shows that the expectations are just not possible. Waists aren’t increased – they’d be left at their 22-inches – but other areas were improved to conceal the very real signs of malnutrition. It tends not to be a practise of child modelling agencies to encourage weight loss, but many adult agencies have been known to. Given more full busts, better skin and thicker hair, you wouldn’t know that these women could be in the throes of a severe eating disorder – and even if you are you wouldn’t realise what this really looks like.
Manipulating the images sets a goal which no one can achieve. If you’re that thin bones will protrude, hair will thin, and skin will worsen. Unless you have an amazing metabolism you won’t have a 22-inch waist when you eat normally. We aren’t saying that magazines are the only reason that many women – and even children as young as 5 – worry about their weight, but it surely can’t help.
What is Aerie Real?
Aerie is American Eagle’s lingerie sister store. And they’re trying something a little different. In their most recent advertising campaign they feature women as they really look – hypothetical warts and all. You can see the odd stretch mark on a thigh, tan lines, and the way skin bunches when you turn your head at a certain angle.
These women aren’t fat, but they’re also not super skinny. They are a natural build which looks right on them. Of course, they are all pretty stunning without any outside help anyway.
Ideally, as a child modelling agency we’d like if this wasn’t just a selling point of an ad campaign. These photos are branded as #aeriereal, but perhaps, if other companies follow in their footsteps, this can just become something which doesn’t need to be commented on at all.