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Opinion | Sexuality

A Campaign for (Kind of) Real Beauty

"Real" fashion models may present as many problems as their hyper-stylized counterparts.

Over the past week, I have mentioned the April issue of French Elle - whose cover features European celebrities without makeup or Photoshop retouching - to nearly every woman I know. Each of them has echoed the sentiments ringing from every corner of the fem-blogosphere: "What a refreshing response," they say, "to the airbrush culture that has become synonymous with American fashion magazines." "How great it is," they gush, "that we can celebrate natural beauty and provide a healthier standard for women."

But Matthew Yglesias of The Atlanticquestions the assumption that the "Stars Sans Fards" (translation: "without rouge") on Elle's cover are somehow more "real" or even more "empowering" than the typical fare. He even considers this a step back:

A lot of people have done a lot of work over the years to get people to understand that images you see on magazine covers are not images of actual human beings. They're complicated collaborations between photographers, hairstylists, makeup people, and digital image-retouchers that use real people as an important element of source material. The results have an extremely vivid hyperreal quality to them that we intuitively respond to as if we're just looking at pictures of people, but we can come to understand what's really happening and that nobody ought to beat themselves up over not looking like a computer-retouched image.

So, now that we have "real" models to compare ourselves to - models who are still abnormally beautiful, professionally ...

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