She’s Too Thin. So Airbrush on Some Curves.

I came across a somewhat disturbing – and confusing – article a week or two ago, and I’ve been meaning to share my thoughts on it since. It’s been well-documented throughout the years that the media uses airbrushing to “perfect” models. To thin them out. Reduce blemishes. Smooth imperfections.

But Photoshopping models to appear bigger? They can’t be serious. It sounds insane, but “reduced retouching” – airbrushing additional curves on a model deemed “too thin” – is a very real thing.

The media has long determined what society views as important, or relevant, or in this case, beautiful (I have a degree in media and mass communication. It’s all about the agenda-setting theory). Today, it seems, curves are once again in. With the popularity of curvy stars on the rise – think Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, the Kardashian sisters (all of whom are still at most a size 6 … on a “fat” day) – magazines have taken to adding a little extra cushion to their models. People want to see curves, they say. They want to see “real” shapes. “Real” women. Enter Photoshop. Add a little hip. Add a little cleavage. Lessen the protrusion of a bony hip or collarbone.

Which makes me wonder … why don’t we make a blanket change, and simply start employing models who appear to have eaten in the last month? With the wide array of shapes and sizes we come across every day, how hard could it be to seek out curvier, more healthy looking models? As consumers, we readily accept beauty ideals that are shown to us. If curvy is beautiful, we want to be curvy. If stick-skinny is beautiful, we want to be stick-skinny (heck, think about 300 years ago … if you were overweight, you were considered beautiful because it meant you had enough money to eat). So why not encourage our models – those who are supposed to be the example of the ideal beauty – to be as unique and varied in body type as the “real” people out there – those who aren’t plastered across magazine covers?

I’ll admit, by the time I got to high school, I thought that, at 5’5” and 120 lbs. max, I was fat. (I now I realize how delusional I was.) How did I end up this way? For one, I blame being in late elementary school during the height of the “heroin chic” era of the early 90s had a negative effect on my body image. Add in the couple extra lbs. I carried at the time (my mom tries to tell me that everyone is a little chubby at 11 years old, but I’ll have none of it), and my general insecure sense of self, and we have the perfect storm feelings of body inadequacy.

Granted, several years have passed, and I’ve developed a somewhat better image of what I see in the mirror each day. Am I completely happy with where my body is now? No. Will I ever be? Probably not. But I push myself in the gym and I stay aware of the foods that go into my body. I’m easily in the best shape of my life, even if I can still pinch a little more than I’d like to on my abs or my arm or my hip or my thigh.

But it took me a long time to get here. And there are a lot of little girls – and yes, even boys – out there who are developing these same body image issues because the media takes a digital knife to an “imperfect” model, instead of embracing that it’s okay for perfection to be unattainable. We don’t need to be airbrushing models to be thinner (seriously, the average model is a size 0. I couldn’t fit my leg in a size 0) – or bigger – than they already are.