Verily, ladies, we say unto you: no matter how much money you spend and how many cosmetics you buy, you’ll never look as good as the model in the makeup ad. Even the model in the makeup ad doesn’t actually look as good as the model in the makeup ad because, pre-publication, her picture was Photoshopped, airbrushed and otherwise altered to the point where her own mother would be hard-pressed to recognize her.
The problem with “beauty” advertising aimed at women (well, one problem with “beauty” advertising aimed at women), is that, thanks to the use of such alterations, the beauty industry often promotes standards that aren’t merely implausible, but biologically impossible. This has become so pervasive, there’s an entire subcategory of Internet meme known as the “Photoshop Fail,” with countless blogs dedicated to it.
In 2006, Dove tried turning this trope on its head with a well-regarded TV commercial/“short film” called “The Evolution of Beauty,” showing how an ordinary, attractive young model was transformed into an impossible billboard goddess: not just through the use of artful makeup and hairstyling techniques, but also by manipulating her final photo to lengthen her neck, move her cheekbones, make her eyes twice as large as reality, and other tricks that would be impossible even for a plastic surgeon to accomplish.
Eye of the needle
But the rest of the beauty and fashion industry paid no attention. One of the more notorious examples of Photoshop failure came in 2009, when Ralph Lauren released an infamous catalog photo of a fashion model altered to look so skinny, the model ended up with a waistline narrower than her head.
Now, though, a new women’s magazine is hoping to reverse this unrealistic trend by promising to use only genuine, un-manipulated photos. Last week, on Oct. 10, the Huffington Post’s Style section first took notice of Verily, a new women's magazine which promises its readers: "Whereas other magazines artificially alter images in Photoshop to achieve the so-called ideal body type or leave a maximum of three wrinkles, Verily never alters the body or face structure of the Verily models."
Should you doubt that such a policy (or magazine) is really necessary, it’s worth noting that on Oct. 11, barely 24 hours after HuffPo first made notice of Verily’s existence, the Photoshop Disasters blog displayed an actual fashion-catalog photo showing a model whose legs had been stretched to at least twice their actual length.
Perhaps the advertiser actually intended to portray the message “Hey, ladies, buy our dress if you want to look like a woman who’s had her ankles surgically replaced with subcutaneous circus stilts,” but we have yet to meet the fashionista willing to adopt this trend herself.