Britney Spears’ unretouched photos: That’s ‘imperfect’?
Britney Spears is the latest celebrity to join the “here’s what I really look like” club, releasing before-and-after retouching photos of herself for her latest Candie’s ad. The Daily Mail proclaimed it “refreshing” that one of the world’s most famous pop stars would allow her imperfections to be highlighted.
Sure, I give her props — it must be scary to think about people who are used to seeing a carefully choreographed image getting to see the real thing. That of course supposes that the whole world hasn’t been privy to the unraveling and re-raveling of Britney Spears over the past couple of years. But put that aside for a minute. There’s nothing but upside to taking control of your image and saying hey, here’s what I look like before Photoshop comes into play. Whether or not it really is a way to talk about the unfair beauty expectations placed on women, it reads like an interesting statement, and that’s never bad.
But let’s take a look at the pics for a minute. Sure, there are definitely alterations that you can see — particularly given the giant arrows that point them out. But — and I realize it’s her job to look great — any sane human being would be hard-pressed to find much wrong in the unretouched picture. Spears’ body in the “before” picture practically screams, “Here, kids — this is what working out several hours a day can do for you!” She’s 29 years old with two kids, and she looks damn good. How insane are standards of beauty in advertising and show business that that body pre-airbrush is an example of imperfection?
The Spears pics follow the May issue of Marie Claire magazine, which feature Jessica Simpson sans makeup and looking a good 10 years younger than she does with a full layer of paint. She’s an undeniably beautiful girl, and even if this is all marketing in service of her show “The Price of Beauty,” she’s savvy enough to carry the message through. As some Jezebel commenters point out, professional lighting and a serious photographer are going to help anybody out, but I bet Simpson would look great even in the laptop webcam that makes me look like something out of “Paranormal Activity.” Ditto for Kim Kardashian, whose recent makeup-free pics are as good an endorsement for DNA and regular facials as anything out there.
They’re still not in the same league as Jamie Lee Curtis, who went without Spanx, makeup or airbrushing in More magazine’s September 2002 issue. She still looked fantastic, but let’s face it: Curtis chose to grin and bare it when she was past the metabolism heights that Spears and Kardashian are still enjoying, and who was closer to real women (ones who take good care of themselves) than virtually anyone in most magazines. And for my money, they’re not even close to the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, which actually did feature people of all shapes and sizes, rather than merely in ads for weight loss programs that continually point out why we’re not good enough.
I get that what’s being sold to us — including the unfair standards of beauty imposed both on celebrities and on all the rest of us — is fantasy, aspirational, and clearly unreal. We love the impossibly perfect because they’re not just like us. They’re compensated mightily for the trouble, so even with all of the added problems that fame and perfection bring, I don’t feel too bad for them. But I do encourage them to keep this kind of thing coming. While we gobble up the fantasy, it’s an utter relief to see behind the magic once in a while. And it’s important to to give credit to those who get it — if only to serve as a counterpoint to the 10-procedures-in-a-day nightmares who don’t.
P.S. Hat tip to Chloe Angyal — thanks, Chloe!