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Jessica Simpson spoke about "finally loving her body" for the Sept. 2010 issue of Lucky, according to the cover that the singer and former reality TV star appeared on. However, her image next to those words didn't depict Simpson in her true form at all.
It's a revelation that the magazine's former editor-in-chief Kim France made in a blog post on Aug. 15 when reflecting on the prevalence of photoshopping on covers (after suspecting that there had been retouching on the latest issue of Vogue).
France then retold a story about an instance of editing that she was involved in and in hindsight, "not especially proud of." Although it was "exciting" to get Simpson for the big 2010 cover, the process didn't pan out as she might have hoped.
"When the cover film came in, we could see that [Simpson] was about a size 14 — which is considered normal by many rational standards, but not by glossy magazine standards, not in 2010, and not by a long shot," France wrote for Cup of Jo. "I’d like to be able to tell you that I fearlessly insisted we put her on the cover anyway, looking the way she actually looked. I did not. ... We made her skinnier — much skinnier than she actually was."
France tells Yahoo Life that "it was an estimation" to label Simpson a size 14 at the time. Nevertheless, she says, "You simply didn't see larger or even average-shaped women on covers back then, unless they were Oprah."
How Lucky magazine feigned body positivity
Despite the heavily edited photo — and the criticism that the magazine faced for it at the time — Simpson's issue of Lucky attempted to seem body positive in nature.
"Jessica Simpson has undergone a noteworthy personal style evolution, inspired, she says, by coming to terms with some serious body issues over the course of the last year," reads an excerpt from the magazine. "She stopped fighting her hourglass silhouette, for instance, after realizing that 'we all obsess over looking like the perfect Barbie type, and that’s not always what’s beautiful. It’s about making peace with yourself.'"
It was a minimal and contradictory effort when paired with the admission of retouching.
"That cover line is probably the most embarrassing aspect of the whole cover, and I obviously really regret it," France says. "I think the idea of body positivity at the time was more a question of lip service, as opposed to now, when it seems to come from a more sincere place."
Alex Light, a body confidence influencer, tells Yahoo Life, "It was a supposedly inspirational headline flanked by an image that many didn’t know was edited to make her body look completely different and fit in with the beauty standards (read: thinness) of that time."
Body standards of the early 2000s and 2010s
Light acknowledges that those standards might seem "shocking" today. However, "it was indicative of the way women’s bodies were viewed at the time: not worthy unless they were thin," she says.
This is evidenced by other Sept. 2010 magazine covers, as well. "Get a great butt," Seventeen magazine's back-to-school issue read next to a photo of Katy Perry, while Mary-Kate Olsen covered Marie Claire as the issue touted a section dedicated to "Diet Secrets: What Women Really Eat." Even Elle UK's cover read, "How much does skinny hurt?" alongside a smoldering Emily Blunt.
Raffela Mancuso, a body image and mental health advocate, tells Yahoo Life, "I typically stayed away from magazines in general because they were always about 'how to lose 10 pounds fast,' or I felt so jealous of the beautiful and thin women on the cover, which added to the shame I was already carrying."
She continues, "Whether directly or indirectly, we are constantly being told what bodies are good and which ones are very bad."
"Anyone who grew up consuming the messaging of that era will likely now be conditioned to believe that we need to be thin to be worthy, desirable, successful and happy," Light says. "Thinness was glorified and fatness was vilified, heavily."
To this day, France maintains that she had no choice but to alter Simpson's appearance. "Once we had shot a size-14 woman for the cover, that cover wouldn’t have made it out the door and past the bosses unless she was slimmed down," she wrote. "And so I did that, to an insulting degree."
She went on to write, "Jessica Simpson herself was said to have hated the cover, and who could possibly have blamed her?"
What France didn't do and should have, according to Mancuso, was acknowledge the harm that the image ultimately contributed to when it came to the lasting implications of the thin ideal.
"She didn’t reflect on how her actions contributed to the ideal beauty standards that give so many young girls eating disorders," Mancuso says. "It’s great that she knows that the cover was bad, but I don’t think that we’re going to move forward in society until we actually confront the root of the issues, which is fatphobia."
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder please visit the National Eating Disorders (NEDA) website at nationaleatingdisorders.org for more information.