Recently our queen, the reining feminist goddess Beyonce, was the subject of a massive photo leak – over 200 un-retouched photos of Bey were released on a fan-run website. The photos are so-called “outtakes” from a 2013 L’Oreal Paris beauty advertisement, showing Bey in heavy make-up advertising L’Oreals infallible brand of lip-stain. Beyonce has been a L’Oreal spokesperson for some time, appearing in print and television ads for their makeup and hair-care products. Now, I’ll admit I haven’t looked at all 200 photos – I looked at two of them – but Beyonce is fucking #flawless in both of them.
Beyonce is flawless in these photos not because she’s Beyonce, but rather because she’s a real person with pores, redness and pimples. These so-called imperfections bring her down to Earth with the rest of us, who by the way are also flawless. The reality is, most of us have no idea what celebrities actually look like. Take away the magic wand of Photoshop and they look just like everyone else. Stray hairs, freckles, birthmarks, stretch marks, acne scars – we all have them.
Fans were accusing these un-retouched photos of being manipulated to look bad, as they were hesitant to believe that this is what their queen’s skin might actually look. Some even sent death threats to those who posted the photos. Why do these kinds of photos cause such backlash when they have to do with celebrities? Is it because it messes with our mental image of what that celebrity should look like – or does it go deeper?
Most of us probably accept that what we view from the media is often Photoshopped to look flawless. While Photoshop does in some cases have benefits – my graduation photo was Photoshopped to remove a crease from my gown – we always expect celebrities to be altered in advertisements. Thanks to the Internet most of us have seen the differences in photographs such as Lena Dunham’s Vogue cover. The use of Photoshop without disclaimer or without full understanding is dangerous, since everywhere we turn we see photos of what the media tells us is the perfect woman. Viewing these distorted images cause us to look at our own bodies and think that there’s something wrong with how we look because we’ll never obtain this ideal image – not even celebrities.
When celebrities get backlash from their un-edited images, this means we’ve become accustomed to the practice of unhealthy Photoshopping. If Photoshop had never been invented, would we even realize that most of what we consider flaws today are actually not flaws at all? Do we understand that we’re hurting our well-being in the long run over the dream of an ideal?
So what can we do to change things? Well, to start, celebrities could demand photos not be altered. As consumers we could stop buying magazines that show heavily edited images. We could demand that advertisements be truthful in how they portray their products. We all know that foundation is a great makeup product, but we also know that putting on foundation won’t erase our pores – on ourselves or on Beyonce.