She walked into hair & makeup, one hour before the show started. All the other models had men and women working on their eyebrows, their lips, and their hair. But unlike everyone else, her makeup artists began working on her legs. The levels of stress caused by her modeling career, had led her to develop severe psoriasis all over her legs, and as her make up artist put on gloves to cover the scabs, she hated herself, her body, and the way she looked.
A couple of months ago, the “most beautiful” model in the eyes of millions of teenage girls around the world, Cara Delevingne, announced she is quitting from modelling. Her psoriasis was the result of a stressful lifestyle, where influential people in the fashion industry forced her to do “not great stuff”, obliged her to “work” on her body after seeing candids of her on tabloids, and were constantly forcing her to live a “hollow life”, only for the sake of “creating pretty images”. This revelation shocked me, because what I saw as the epitome of perfection turned out to be as insecure and scared as any other teenage girl around the world.
The problem with all of this is that we fail to realize that the Cara Delevingne we see, is not the real Cara. The images shown to us are mere constructions of hours of makeup sessions, and even more hours of mouse clicks on Photoshop. Our idea of what “pretty” looks like is now based on what the models in the magazine look like, of what the girl on the billboard looks like. But, who are the girls sitting on the makeup chairs? Who are the girls on the magazines before being changed by Photoshop?
When half of your body is cropped or airbrushed, you become half of who you really are. The dehumanization of models nowadays, has ultimately led to the dehumanization of girls overall. Beauty standards advocate the unreal and the unreachable; and girls in their houses, on their phones, and out in the streets, are hopelessly trying to become unreal too. Constantly coming across stores with unreal models staring back at you has become a common event for me every day; it is now so easy to see unreal models, that any “normal” looking human is immediately the exception and not the rule.
The other day, I decided to go buy some clothes with my mother, and I carefully picked out four dresses I wanted to try on. I patiently waited for a dressing room to be empty, got my ticket with a big four on it, and anxiously walked into the room and hung my dresses on the wall. As I began to undress, I realized there was a medium-sized advertisement featuring a girl who was also wearing her underwear and a bra. The slimness of her waist, the flatness of her stomach, and the softness of her skin made me look flawed, and made me feel disgusted at the reflection on the mirror. It took less than 10 seconds for me to go from feeling excited about buying dresses, to feeling worthless, ugly, and undeserving of pretty dresses. Reading about Cara Delevingne’s decision got me thinking. What if I was constantly shown versions of me with a slim waist, a flat stomach, and perfect skin, only to be reminded of what I would never see once I looked at my reflection on the mirror? How could I live a life where people idolized my “slim” version, but criticized my real one?
Although it is clear that “normal” humans feel victimized by models on billboards, it is even sadder to hear that the models themselves feel trapped and unsatisfied with their bodies. We have reached a point where even the models are believing their bodies will only be worthy if they look like the Photoshop versions of themselves. And the saddest part of this all, is that no one asked for this. I never demanded that the picture of a Photoshopped girl be shown on my dressing room, and girls like Cara never demanded to be turned into new people in order to go out into a catwalk. The media, the fashion industry, and the world, fails to see that all we want is “real” girls on billboards, on magazines, and on TV. I want the media to show me that the girl that sits on the makeup chair before the photo shoot is also pretty without make up and Photoshop. And ultimately, I want the media to show me that the girl that sits on the makeup chair is no different from the reflection I see when I am standing in front of a mirror.