Model Behavior and a Train of Thought

MODEL-MORPHOSIS - T Magazine Blog -

Model Hannah Gaby Odiele for Marc Jacobs

Confession: There are few things I find more engrossing than model “before and afters.” There’s a whole genre of this stuff, with variations like “Celebrities without makeup!” and “They have cellulite too!” and “Stars: They’re Just Like Us!” and I can’t pull my eyes away.

The example above is from the New York Times Magazine in a series called Model-Morphosis (It’s interactive! Yippee!) but here are a few other examples from the blog I Waste So Much Time

Supermodels without makeup.-2

Supermodels without makeup.-1

Supermodels without makeup.I think the word “engrossed” is the right one. It’s not “fun” per se, to sit and parse the appearances of beautiful people looking less beautiful, but I do find it some twisted combination of mesmerizing, fascinating, horrifying, reassuring, and enlightening. I see pictures like this and in quick succession I think:

a) Wow, she is not attractive

b) That was mean. Stop judging.

c) But like, really, that is all make-up and hair and lighting and photoshop…

d) Maybe I could look like that with make-up and hair and lighting and photoshop?

e) Hold up. Why do I want to look like that?

f) This is fucked. Why is our standard of beauty so far outside the spectrum of what actual humans look like?

g) I want no part of this.

h) Except… look how much bigger her eyes looked like when they added mascara…

i) Maybe I should invest in some good mascara

j) But why are big eyes a good thing? What’s wrong with the size of my eyes?


l) Except not as perfect as they are… with make-up and big hair and lighting and photoshop…

m) But if people don’t know about the make-up and hair and lighting and photoshop…

n) Then they just think that these women are abnormally beautiful,

o) Which they are not, because they are just normal looking humans.

p) What does it mean if we think these women are normal?

q) It means we start doing things like shaving our jaw bones

r) and getting eyelash extensions

s) and injecting collagen into our lips.

t) That shit is scary.

u) So…maybe it’s okay if everyone knows that this not what they really look like?

v) So… maybe these “before and afters” are actually kind of an educational tool?

w) We should teach media literacy in schools. There should be warning labels on magazine covers.

x) I hope I don’t have daughters

y) That’s a really sad thing to say.

z) I hate everyone and we are doomed.

Related Post: Average-sized fitness models. Who knew?

Related Post: How old is she really? Underage models.


Filed under Advertising, Body Image, Gender, Media

20 responses to “Model Behavior and a Train of Thought

  1. Beauty is and will always be culturally defined, and women today can define beauty as just being ourselves and that’s it. But that’s too boring, apparently.

  2. Emily

    a) Yes to this train of thought
    b) This reminds me of Cameron Russell’s TED talk and showing images side-by-side of being out with friends and then dolled up. Were you the one that posted it?

  3. Katrine

    Holy C… That jaw-shaving link is horrid! And – with you all the way, it sure sparks some sick comfort to look at photos like that – followed by the self loathing you so adequately describe:)

  4. Really like the way that you don’t only critique the problems, but also state how hard it can be to fight against the the narrow definitions of ostensible beauty.

    On the point of narrow definitions, one seldom tends to see non-white women in these publications. To be clear, I’m not criticising you at all for the pictures included in this post, and I know that the points you’re making aren’t overtly related to race. I only bring it up to add an extra layer to the discussion.

    • Great point. Didn’t even get into that can of worms which is both related and separate. Sigh. What a mess.

      • Indeed. Google imaging the word “beauty” being a case in point.

        That’s part of why it’s tough for any marginalised group – in this case being women. The things that have kept them “in their place” are endemic, with many multitudinous tentacles.

        It’s very difficult to combat an enemy that can figuratively attack one from so many difference angles, and in so many different ways. But that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t try, which you do well on this blog.

  5. One guy’s response:
    a) Someone give this woman a sam’ich. She does not look well.
    b) At least the one in the middle looks like it might be the same person in both shots.
    c) The last one looks like a not-particularly-attractive friend of mine.
    d) If they turn a fraction of an inch in any of the “pretty” shots, I bet they go back to looking like aliens.
    e) Or skeletons.
    f) Or extremely sleepy children who are nowhere near the place where they get to take their nap.
    g) None of these women look like they’re enjoying their job.
    h) Hair and lighting and make-up and Photoshop(TM) are doing an awful lot to cover up some serious damage these women are doing to themselves.
    i) I hope no one thinks this is a good idea.
    j) I really hope the women I’m dating don’t think this is a good idea.
    k) I hope I don’t have daughters.
    l) No, wait. I hope I do have daughters, so I can explain to them that not a single guy I know thinks this is a good idea.

    Also, I like how E.H.M.’s brain works. Keep it up, Rosie.

    • Thanks David! Love your format 🙂

    • Another comment

      The left side photos are *makeup and lighting references*, i.e. taken to emphasize what needs to be “fixed”, done mug shot style which is inherently, and in this case intentionally, unflattering. Normal good bone structure looks weird in a mug shot.

      “c) The last one looks like a not-particularly-attractive friend of mine.” is an equally creepy comment. Why are the choices between “airbrushed fantasy” and “not attractive”, “damaged” or “alien”? I also question the idea the left side photos reveal “some serious damage these women are doing to themselves.” Having blemishes with less or no makeup does not equal damaged.

      If you look around at people in their teens and 20s, many are full lipped, naturally slender, perky and dewy and would look stunning with some makeup, lighting and retouching. If you look at the photos on the linked page, most of these women appear to have normal, if attractive bodies as well.

      Why is it necessary to body shame these women in this discourse? Why not acknowledge not even attractive people can live up to photoshop. Why rip them apart and imply their normal beauty is somehow unclean?

      • David

        I want to point out that in one breath you just told me that the left side photos are intentionally awful and then chastised me for finding them so.

        When I was talking about damage, I was not talking about blemishes or body type. I was talking about the fact that the first woman, in particular, appears to be suffering from actual disorder, rather than simply having a different shape. Perhaps that is just the incredibly unflattering light, as you say. Or perhaps I am bringing in the baggage of my many friends who did not escape modeling and dance without serious body dysmorphia.

        On one point, I absolutely concede, however. I should have just said that the third woman happens to look like a friend of mine. That was the real point of that thought.

  6. Another comment

    My first reaction was the photos on the left are more attractive. In part because the left photos (which are just as staged but use mug shot angles and lighting so makeup can see which details and blemishes need work) signal “authenticity” but also appear to be more three dimensional. The right pictures are so staged and retouched they seem 2D, like drawings.

    I’d argue The Gaze has changed to permit imperfection (for some viewers at least), although I wonder if this is an improvement.

    It’s been over a decade since Hot Or Not encouraged people to seek and judge beauty in amateur snaps. Now “no makeup” make up and fake candid and plain shots are a thing in fashion. Alas it’s still objectifying and artificial, and some of the key players in “authentic” glamor photography are real creeps, i.e. Terry Richardson, Vice Magazine and American Apparel.

    Even if all the gloss was omitted, it’s still about women as objects of attraction. Even if objectification is more inclusive, is it a victory? I don’t know.

  7. Some brilliant writing here. The topic reminds me of Shakespeare’s sonnets 18 vs. 130. In one the traditional European beauty is praised for simply meeting the criteria. In the other, the mistress is apparently vilified for being anything but traditional. However, sonnet 130 ends with the envoi couplet ” And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare// As any she belied with false compare.” Here the narrator is expressing the essence of true love. Love sees beauty in the thing loved and all else is less than that. Love is not in spite of flaws, it raises flaws to the new standard of absolute perfection. May you be loved so much that at eighty your lover turns to you with hunger and enthusiasm and drinks deeply from your beauty that glows unadorned in his or her eyes.

  8. My train of thought:

    a) Those women are prettier without all of the fakeness.
    b) It’s a shame they don’t believe it.
    c) But if they like to get done-up for photos, I guess it’s their choice.

  9. I really enjoyed your train of thought, since I’ve felt like that many times already!
    Those links you shared are shocking! I’ll try and remember them -specially the jaw shaving one- everytime I’m getting ready to go out, and feel frustrated by my features… And just like you pointed out Rosie!There is nothing wrong with my features! It’s just some lack of acceptance.
    Truth is, acceptances is beauty!

  10. Pingback: Beautiful « Smirk, Kiss and then Kill

  11. I completely follow your line of thoughts and have, in fact, spent time thinking almost the exact same things.

    Another discussion for another blog would be who has decided that beauty should be something that women should seek. Who cares if you are beautiful if you are intelligent? Who cares if you are pretty if you are a kind person?

  12. Pingback: 1 in 4 women don’t exercise because they’re unhappy with their looks | rosiesaysblog

  13. Pingback: Dove: Pioneer or Panderer? | rosiesaysblog

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