The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is one of my favorite events of every winter season. This year, though, I feel like the backlash against both the fashion show and the fact that celebrity images in the media are retouched has been stronger than usual, and I wanted to comment on this.
The reason I love the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is for the beautiful designs, the performances, and yes, the fantasy of it all. I’ve been a sucker for those oversized wings, the glitter, and the entire production for years. I’m also 5’2”, Asian-American, and I haven’t been a size two since middle school.
The most common thing I hear from fellow ladies in response to the VS Fashion Show is, “Ugh, I feel fat.”
The day it aired this year, I saw a friend post a lovely image to Facebook saying “You are beautiful.” She captioned the image with, “This is for all the girls being hard on themselves right now . . . seeing lots of comments on Facebook and realizing it’s VS Fashion Show night . . . I get it, BUT…when you love yourself and have a kind heart, you become more beautiful! And in the end, that’s all that really matters. I love you all.”
I found her statement to be very sweet, but I found myself also growing a bit frustrated. Why, I wondered, do so many women subject themselves to watching this spectacle, this fabulously over-the-top extravaganza of colors, sparkle, and wings if they not-so-secretly hate it at the same time?
Look, if it’s because the vast majority of us don’t look like the VS models, I just want to point out one fact: I grew up with virtually no figures in the media to look up to. With the exception of Lucy Liu (and it’s not like she was plastered on every magazine), there were pretty much no Asian actresses, supermodels, or anything to look up to as I was growing up. So I had to, very early, come to terms with the whole “not looking like anybody on TV/magazines/movies/ads” thing. It was either that or, you know, feel like a freak at all times (I may have gone through that phase from time to time, too).
That said, even now, I can count only one Victoria’s Secret model that is Asian (two, max!). In fact, the first Asian to ever walk the VS runway only came on the scene when I was already 21! It even took me a while to find an image to supplement this post!
Which means that my chances of feeling represented in that fashion show are pretty darn small. Instead of fixating on this, though, why not instead admire how creative the designers were or how fun the whole production is?
My point is, it is no one’s job to look like you other than you! Whether “you” is almond eyes, limited height, or some excess junk in the trunk, if it’s not you walking that runway with a pair of larger-than-life ostrich-feather wings, it truly isn’t about you anyway.
Two days later, I stumbled upon this Upworthy post with the title, “I Am Livid That a Magazine Did This to Jennifer Lawrence, and My Guess Is She Is, Too.” This is just about the 15th article I’ve seen lately trashing the media for retouching celebrities’ photos and blaming the industry for women’s insecurities.
Not only is the retouching done on “JLaw” nothing scandalous, but I highly doubt anyone is developing a complex from these particular results of a little Photoshop. “Livid” is an emotion that I felt was over-reactionary of the situation.
And little known to many, professional photography encompasses not only capturing stills on camera, but retouching them, too. This applies to removal of fire hydrants, EXIT signs, even retouching a jar of honey! It’s nothing personal; it’s simply what photography is about. It captures something and eliminates distractions. It’s not a criticism thing.
When we retouch a woman who comes into our studio for a photography session, this is not us secretly hinting to her that we think she is somehow inherently flawed. Instead, just as many of us wear makeup, we see retouching as a way to enhance and show off what we’ve already got. It’s still you, just with a touch of fantasy. We don’t want flyaway hairs or a little bulge here or there — like a run in a stocking or a sticker on the bottom of a shoe — distracting from the beauty of your face and body.
That’s all it is. So ladies, the next time you find yourself feeling inadequate in the face of runway models, stop yourself. Take a moment and admire what you’re looking at — a gorgeous outfit or pair of shoes, for example, or a great hairstyle — and remember that she is literally paid to look like that. Like that, not like you (or anybody else). Believe me, it’s a lot easier to feel great the way you already are when you’re not busy comparing yourself to other people in situations that aren’t your own. You owe yourself at least that peace of mind!