In a new interview with Elle, 19-year-old Chloë Grace Moretz came across as wise beyond her years, explaining how she balances her career as an actress and model with her deeply held feminist beliefs.
“I want to break it down for young women so they understand that you’re not just ‘born’ like this,” the Kick-Ass star explains. “Yes, I have had hair extensions. Yes, the reason I have this body is because I work out seven times a week. Yes, I eat really clean — even though I don’t always want to, and I definitely cheat. But you’re not just born with this. Sometimes you have to fight for and work for things, and be happy with who you are at the same time. And that’s a really hard balance, but I want to show it to young women.”
Her remarks are particularly refreshing since they fly in the face of the cultural double standard in which a woman isn’t just supposed to be beautiful, she’s supposed to be effortlessly beautiful. The ideal woman, as our society paints her, has a perfect face that doesn’t need any makeup, and a perfect body, despite never thinking about what she eats.
This impossible standard may explain why many of the most beautiful women in the world have been so reluctant to pull back the curtain on the hard work required to look the way they do. “Oh, I just eat French fries and walk my dog,” they breezily tell magazine reporters wanting to know how they achieve their seemingly unattainable bodies.
You don’t need a dog-eared copy of The Beauty Myth to understand how this affects women.
“It makes it look like these people are living a charmed life,” says psychotherapist F. Diane Barth, who has written on body image issues for Psychology Today and has worked extensively with women with eating disorders. “It’s normal to make the assumption that they must be very special because they look so beautiful and act like it’s so easy. And that makes people feel bad about themselves. We think, ‘I must not be such a special or attractive person myself because if I were, I’d be just like that celeb.’”
Sure, a lot of celebs are starting with amazing genetics, and there will always be women who are naturally thin, but the truth is that looking like a celebrity is a full-time job, involving personal trainers, makeup artists, extreme diets, plastic surgery, dental surgery, hair extensions, expensive dermatologists, and other treatments, etc. And after all of that, they’re still Photoshopped to an even higher standard of perfection.
But more and more young celebrities, coming to fame in the age of #nomakeup selfies and the transparency of social media, are pushing back at a culture that perpetuates unrealistic beauty standards.
Nineteen-year-old singer-songwriter Lorde tweeted the unretouched version of a performance photo to show that she doesn’t have perfect skin with the commentary: “Remember, flaws are ok.”
i find this curious – two photos from today, one edited so my skin is perfect and one real. remember flaws are ok 🙂 pic.twitter.com/PuRhxt2u2O
— Lorde (@lorde) March 31, 2014
Actress Shailene Woodley told Interview magazine of seeing herself retouched: “The reality is that I do not have those lips and my skin is not flawless and I do have a little bit of a stomach. I realized that, growing up and looking at magazines, I was comparing myself to images like that — and most of it isn’t real.”
But as great as it is to embrace your flaws, it doesn’t change the fact that many women in the public eye feel they must resort to extreme measures to continue to look the part.
Like Jessica Alba, who described her 1,200-calorie-a-day post-baby diet to (now defunct) Lucky magazine, adding, “I also work out, so basically I’m starving. It sucks.” Or Mariah Carey, who described her diet to the Sunday Times as “bleak,” adding, “I overuse the word because there is a lot of bleakness going on. My bleak diet is horrendous.” Or rapper Azealia Banks, who has been open about her plans to get a Brazilian butt lift.
In a perfect world, nobody would have to adhere to a beauty standard that requires them to starve or go under the knife just to keep up. (Just read the hundreds of comments from Banks’s fans exhorting her to “love herself” and begging her not to change anything.) But for us regular folks, there can be a sort of immediate fist-pump of internal glee when a famously beautiful person dares to be honest about the fact that she doesn’t just naturally look like a magazine cover.
But according to Barth, honesty is just the beginning.
“I think it’s certainly healthier to have this information,” she says. “And I think it’s great that these celebrities are sharing that info. But it’s still part of the glitter and glamour of celebrity life, which is mostly about image. I would much rather have someone talk about the reality of who she is as a whole person, her confusion, her self-doubts, and her genuine strengths than about how she manages to get her body to look a certain way.”