Leave Lena’s body alone! Photo: @lenadunham/Instagram
Lena Dunham has never been shy about her body. The actress and creator of HBO’s Girls regularly goes nude in the series, with no explanations, no apologies, and, most important, no body doubles.
But outside of her own show, Dunham’s figure hasn’t always been given the same honest treatment. In early 2014, Jezebel infamously paid someone $10,000 to send in unretouched photos of Dunham’s Annie Leibovitz-shot Vogue cover shoot — which the site then published as GIFs juxtaposed with the edited versions. (Dunham later called Jezebel’s move a “monumental error in their approach to feminism. … It felt gross.”)
Then just last week, Dunham was again embroiled in a Photoshopping scandal — this time with Spanish magazine Tentaciones, which the 29-year-old herself called out for allegedly doctoring her bod on its cover. “I also found it charming and appealing,” Dunham wrote, of the cover image. “But in the same way I find Emily Blunt charming and appealing: she’s not me.”
But despite the denial by Tentaciones of altering her figure (and Dunham’s subsequent apology), the outspoken actress is now taking action to ensure that this type of controversy doesn’t occur again. On Tuesday, she published an essay in her Lenny newsletter in which she addresses how her views on being Photoshopped have evolved as her career has blossomed — and announces that she’ll no longer allow her image to be retouched in postproduction.
In “Retouched by an Angel” (so many pun points, BTW), Dunham writes that, in the beginning, Photoshop was her very best friend. “I was 24, and whatever [photo editors] did to make women appear important, desirable, and worthy of praise was what I wanted,” she says. “When my skin seemed almost painted on, when my nose was thin and pointed, I felt grateful for the future Google Image search a potential paramour would enjoy, replacing a few candids of me with angry red zits at an indie-film-festival party.” Later, she adds, “It feels nice to look at a photo of yourself where everything that’s ever felt like too much is suddenly under perfect, glossy control.”
Dunham accompanied her piece with these (presumably!) unedited photos. Courtesy: Lena Dunham
Not anymore. “Seeing the photo [on the cover of Tentaciones] got me thinking about the real issue, which is that I don’t recognize my own f**king body anymore. And that’s a problem,” writes Dunham. “Something snapped when I saw that Spanish cover. Maybe it was the feeling of barely recognizing myself and then being told it was 100 percent me but knowing it probably wasn’t and studying the picture closely for clues. Maybe it was realizing that was an image I had at some point seen, approved, and most likely loved. Maybe it was the fact that I no longer understand what my own thighs look like.”
As a result, she says she is “done with allowing images that retouch and reconfigure my face and body to be released into the world.”
And if the magazines and publications she has posed for in the past aren’t OK with that? Well, that’s just fine with her. “If that means no more fashion-magazine covers, so be it. … This body is the only one I have,” says Dunham. “I love it for what it’s given me. I hate it for what it’s denied me. And now, without further ado, I want to be able to pick my own thigh out of a line-up.”
“I respect the people who create those magazines and the job they have to do, she continues. “I thank them for letting me make a few appearances and for making me feel gorgeous along the way. But I bid farewell to an era when my body was fair game.”
While we’ve seen celebs in the past who have complained about individual retouching jobs — like Zendaya, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Kate Winslet — there haven’t been many who have barred their images from being altered altogether. Could Dunham be starting a new no-Photoshop trend, and will major magazines — we’re looking at you, Vogue — actually abide? We’ll just have to wait and see. Whatever the outcome, we kind of love where this is going.