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Body ImagePop-CultureSelf-esteem

When Super Models Aren’t Super Enough

By September 17, 20097 Comments

Over the years I’ve posted a number of blogs about body image and how tremendously the images of women in the media shape our understanding of beauty. And while most of us realize that these images represent a tiny percentile of the entire human race–and likely an unhealthy, semi-starved percentile at that–it turns out these women don’t even live up to the images themselves.

Just check out this video released by the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty:

As shocking as this video may be, it documents a practice that is actually quite commonplace today: Airbrushing. The term “airbrush” dates back nearly a hundred years ago when photographs were literally airbrushed with paint to minimize flaws or change details. Today, this term refers to any kind of digital alteration of a photo.

The extent to which airbrushing can alter a woman’s physique, face, or any “undesirable” feature is quite remarkable. Just check out these airbrushed women:

Kim Kardashian Airbrush

Kim Kardashian is known for her beautiful curves, but they are noticeably minimized here. Apparently she was too curvy.

Keira Knightly Airbrushed

While Kim Kardashian was too curvy, Keira Knightly wasn’t curvy enough, as this movie poster clearly conveys. Which one is it, people??

And now, the one that takes the cake…

Gisele Airbrush

Gisele  Bundchen, international super model, is pregnant in this picture. But you wouldn’t know it. Why? Because they airbrushed out her pregnant belly!

Now I’ll admit there was a part of me that breathed a huge sigh of relief when I realized how thoroughly these beautiful women had been altered before appearing on the front cover of magazines. (and News Flash ladies–those six-pack abs you see on women who’ve birthed 3 children are often airbrushed and touched up as well!) It’s as if we’ve finally admitted that the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. These women aren’t real–not on some ideological level in which we mean that real women don’t have time to look that way–but in a very literal sense. The images themselves aren’t real. Those women don’t actually look like that.

My relief, however, quickly morphed into something else entirely. I was deeply disturbed that our culture’s standard of beauty is literally unattainable. In what can only be considered reckless marketing, these magazines are selling an outright lie. We’re not just seeing the prettiest of the pretty–we’re seeing the touched up, doctored version of them. The Father of Lies has found his weapon, and we are the target.

How, then, are we to combat this onslaught? The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty created a second video that offers a really wonderful answer:

“Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does.” But don’t stop there. Talk to your friends, your family, younger women at your church, and most importantly speak truth to yourself. Our best defense against the lies of Satan is the truth of Christ. And our fellow soldiers in this fight are our sisters. So help them fight, but not by affirming them in areas that the world values, thereby feeding back into this culture of distorted beauty. Instead affirm them in the unfading beauty of their gentle spirit and the adornment of their good deeds. Affirm them in their modesty, their purity, their passion for Christ, their servant heart, and their hospitable kindness. Affirm them in those things which God calls beautiful, not the world. It’s not wrong to affirm women in their outward beauty, but we need to check our priorities. A pretty face is nice and all, but a woman who fears the Lord is truly worthy to be praised.


  • Laura Hanlon says:

    LOVE this post. It brings tears to my eyes thinking about how much women struggle with this issue and to think of what my daughter will someday struggle with.

    You are completely right about how we need to take action! I’m definitely gonna get right on this…

  • You may be interested in an initiative my company has started – Real Ms. World. Basically this is an online contest where participants are judged based on what they are, not how they look. Do check it out at and do spread the word if you like what you see.


  • Anonymous says:

    I agree that airbrushing and the impossible ideals held up in the media are fraudulent and dangerous. However, I don’t think the insecurity and self-abasement that so many girls (and women) have is entirely or even primarily due to these photos. Most of us know that models in the magazines are airbrushed, and that Barbie is not a realistic replica of a human. However, there are PLENTY of girls we know (or at least see) who DO have these ideal bodies. Whether they get them by dieting and exercising stringently, I don’t know, but there are definitely near-perfect-10’s all over the world (and here in NC you can just drive thru UNC’s campus if you don’t believe me) and these are the people that we so often want to emulate and be like. I don’t really know where I am going with this other than to say that just knowing models are airbrushed is not the answer. There has to be a way to get girls to know down deep that even though they don’t look like the dainty sorority girl OR Heidi Klum, they are still beautiful and valuable.

  • Sharon says:

    That is a really great point! In some measure, the problem isn’t simply that we’re comparing ourselves to unattainable images of beauty, but that we’re comparing ourselves to one another at all.

  • Rick says:

    Awesome post. As a dad of two daughters, a daughter in law & grand daughter, I’m going to be sharing this one with my girls. Thank you for helping me to tell them how beautiful God has already made them.

  • Meags says:

    The interesting thing is that the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty ads are also airbrushed.

  • sherri says:

    If we fill our minds from childhood with barbie dolls and flawless princesses from childrens stories and then continue on to fashion magazines while being bombarded the entire time by tv images for however many hours a day, we’re going to reap the results.
    It’s cause and effect.

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