Photoshopping, digital alteration, image manipulation, blah blah blah. Everyone talks about the fact that so many images of women are “perfected” with the help of technology, but do we really understand how serious this issue is? Like exactly HOW MUCH these photos are manipulated to fit some seriously unrealistic ideals that we view constantly? And do we understand that it isn’t just fashion magazine covers that feature altered images? It’s everywhere.

While the vast majority of images of women are being digitally altered, so are our perceptions of normal, healthy, beautiful and attainable.

One of the main strategies used to reinforce and normalize a distorted idea of “average,” which sparks body anxiety when we don’t measure up, is media’s representation of women as extremely thin (meaning much thinner than the actual population or what is physically possible for the vast majority of women). This is done by consistent use of models and actresses that are extremely young and thin and by making the models and actresses fit their idea of ideal of youth and thinness and beauty through digital manipulation. This unrealistic form is consistently represented across almost all media forms, along with blemish-free, wrinkle-free, and even pore-free skin, thanks to the wonders of digital manipulation as an “industry standard” that is openly endorsed and defended by magazine editors and media executives the world over.

What we see in media, and what we may be internalizing as normal or beautiful, is anything but normal or beautiful. It’s fake. It’s a profit-driven idea of normal and beautiful that women will spend their lives trying to achieve and men will spend their lives trying to find. Until we all learn to recognize and reject these harmful messages about what it means to look like a woman, we all lose. And we don’t want to lose.

So here’s to taking back beauty — and the Photoshop phoniness that makes us crave seeing reality even more. Please help us spread the word about media manipulation by sharing these images on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, your own blogs, and unite with women in grasping our beautiful realities! Need more help developing body image resilience that can help you overcome your self-consciousness and be more powerful than ever before? Learn how to recognize harmful ideals, redefine beauty and health, and resist what holds you back from happiness, health, and real empowerment with the Beauty Redefined Body Image Program for girls and women 14+. It is an online, anonymous therapeutic tool that can change your life, designed by Lexie & Lindsay Kite, with PhDs in body image and media.

Note: Some of these images are inappropriate for young or very conservative readers, or those seeking to avoid eating disorder triggers. We always take caution to exclude any truly explicit images, and never include nudity, but the occasional bikini does cause offense at times, even if the image demonstrates an important message. Please proceed with caution. 

Demi Lovato on the July 2012 Cosmo, discussing her battle with bulimia. Classy, Cosmo! Real classy


Sources say America Ferrara’s head was pasted onto another woman’s body for this phony Glamour cover.


This scary display of digital manipulation in action was caught on popular clothing store Ann Taylor’s website in August 2010, when the women behind the feminist website Jezebel discovered the “before” image (on the left, obviously) being displayed while the startlingly narrower “after” the image loaded. The already stunning model’s hips and thighs were shrunk to strikingly thin proportions, but her waist simply looks ridiculous. After Jezebel reported the glitch (and thank goodness for that!), Ann Taylor fixed it and sent an apology their way, saying, “We want to support and celebrate the natural beauty of women, and we apologize if, in the process of retouching, that was lost. We agree, we may have been overzealous on some retouching but [going] forward we’ll make sure to feature more real, beautiful images.” Unfortunately, Ann Taylor is a notorious repeat offender.


Faith Hill on the July 2007 Redbook cover. Right arm? Suddenly appeared on the cover. Left arm? Cut down by at least 1/3 of its original size. Wrinkles, normal complexion or any other signs of life on her face? Erased. Back? Sliced out almost entirely. Enough said.


Kate Winslet on the Jan. ’03 British GQ cover. Acclaimed actress Kate Winslet is notoriously beautiful and curvaceous, so it’s not surprising men’s magazine GQ would want to include her on their cover. What IS surprising is that they removed her curves entirely, leaving extremely thin legs that bear no resemblance to her own and a rightfully upset actress. She told Britain’s GMTV, “I don’t want people to think I was a hypocrite and had suddenly gone and lost 30 pounds, which is something I would never do, and more importantly, I don’t want to look like that! … They made my legs look quite a bit thinner. They also made me look about 6 feet tall, which I’m not – I’m 5 foot, 6 inches.”


Keira Knightley in the “King Arthur” movie promotional poster image. She goes from naturally thin and small-chested to a D cup in every promotion she’s featured in!


Same model, differing degrees of Photoshopping on REAL printed ads, Oct. 2009. Ralph Lauren responded: “After further investigation, we have learned that we are responsible for the poor imaging and retouching that resulted in a very distorted image of a woman’s body. We have addressed the problem and going forward will take every precaution to ensure that the caliber of our artwork represents our brand appropriately.”


Beyonce before and after Loreal’s digital manipulation. Beauty whitewashing is a startlingly widespread issue. Click the image for more information on the sad trend.


Former high fashion model, Crystal Renn, battled a deadly eating disorder for many years before deciding to switch to “plus size” modeling for health purposes. Photographer and Fashion for Passion founder Nicholas Routzen said that Crystal looked thinner because the photos were “…taken from a higher angle with a wider lens,” but tha t“I shaped her … I did nothing that I wouldn’t do to anyone. I’m paid to make women look beautiful.”


Mariah Carey on Elle Aug. 2008. Did Elle think no one would notice that Mariah Carey looked nothing like her real self?


Kourtney Kardashian, just 7 days after having her baby, is featured on the cover of January 2010′s OK Magazine. It looks as though she dropped her baby weight in one week! Interestingly enough, the Kardashians were advertising QuickTrim in this very issue.


We’re not big Britney fans, but we do think it’s pretty awesome that she let Candie’s release the before and after Photoshopping ads of her plastic-ized body!


Demi Moore on the cover of the Nov. 2009 “W” magazine. Her head appears to have been simply cut and pasted onto this model’s body.


Sofia Vergara’s arm appears to have been slimmed dramatically for this Pepsi “skinny can” ad. We are not supporters of this ridiculous ad tactic or the women-targeted “skinny can”!


When superstar singer Kelly Clarkson was digitally slimmed down almost beyond recognition on Self’s September 2009 cover, people noticed. Her appearance on “Good Morning America” within just days of the cover shoot proved that her body did not look anything like the very thin one that appeared on the cover. In a shockingly ironic twist, the issue she appeared on was titled “The Body Confidence Issue” and featured an interview inside where she explained how comfortable she felt with her body. Click the photo to read the rest of the twisted story, complete with shameless defense from Self’s editor.


Jessica Simpson on the Sept. 2008 Elle cover. The cover was shot in the same time period she was performing live. It is quite obvious Jessica was Photoshopped out of reality!


Kimoralee Simmons, past owner of the Baby Phat franchise, approved of this advertisement for one of her latest products. Kimoralee: mother, wife, business mogul, and…plastic doll?


The original photo retouching scandal! This is actually an illustration that looks much like photo, where Oprah’s head was drawn onto actress and singer Ann-Margret’s body for a 1989 TV Guide cover. Wow.


Gabourey Sidibe on Elle 2010. Even when the women are being recognized for something other than their beauty, like, say, an Oscar nomination for incredibly talented actress Gabourey Sidibe of “Precious,” magazines like Elle still feel the need to whitewash her in order to feature her image on the cover. Click the photo for more on the insidious trend of beauty whitewashing.


A 2009 Oil of Olay eye cream ad featuring Twiggy — one of the world’s biggest modeling/fashion icons for more than a decade, now she’s relegated to the unglamorous realm of photoshopping disasters for beauty industries lies. Straight-up lies. Amazingly, this ad was banned by the UK’s advertising watchdog after more than 700 complaints were gathered for a campaign against airbrushing in ads by the Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson. The ad was deemed to be misleading. Um … yep!


Tennis superstar Andy Roddick on the May 2007 Men’s Fitness. He said later: “I’m not as fit as the Men’s Fitness cover suggests…little did I know I have 22 inch guns and a disappearing birth mark on my right arm.” THANK YOU, Andy! We love the truth. Most often, these celebrities have absolutely nothing to do with the extreme alteration of their photos. Men are not immune to these ideals. Read more by clicking on the photo.


We don’t even need to show you a “before” pic to assure you Tina Fey had a ribcage both before and after this photoshoot for InStyle. We’re also missing the scar on her face and the proper placement of her head. It is likely Tina’s head was simply pasted onto another woman’s body, or at least misplaced on her own Photoshopped and slimmed body.


The UK fashion magazine Grazia admitted it dramatically slimmed down Duchess Kate Middleton on its May 2011 cover. As if that was even sort of necessary. Wow.


Kate Winslet is again the victim of a Photoshop hack job, this time by Harper’s Bazaar in their Nov. 2011 issue. Both of these photos were taken the same month!


Sarah Jessica Parker on the Aug. 2011 Vogue — wrinkle-free at age 46! We think not. We prefer to see a few signs of life on people, Vogue! No need for a cartoon version of an already beautiful woman.


Thank you to Elizabeth Fletcher of Union University in Tennessee for finding BR and designing this masterpiece to promote our cause through guerilla marketing in women’s restrooms! We’d like to recommend some online guerilla marketing by our beautiful supporters! Let’s see how many pins, shares, likes and blogs we can get for this powerful image! Ready?? Go!

For more information on how Photoshop Phoniness affects us, please read and share our research at these links:

Photoshopping: Altering Images and Our Minds

Beauty Whitewashed: How White Ideals Exclude Women of Color

Physically Photoshopping Ourselves Out of Reality

Please join us in shedding some light on Photoshop Phoniness by slapping one of our sticky notes on that magazine in the doctor’s office or checkout stand, the sign in the mall or at the bus stop, or even on your own mirror to remind you that “there’s more to be than eye candy” or “you are capable of much more than being looked at!” Support this cause by purchasing these messages as sticky notes, posters, postcards or fliers. Now go show your beautiful reality to the world and look eye to eye to spot real beauty and in your own life!

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