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In 2002, Jamie Lee Curtis posed for More magazine with no makeup and no retouching. Photo: Andrew Eccles/August
There’s been a lot of debate recently about airbrushing in photos. Does it set up unrealistic beauty standards for people to only see perfection? Do we really want to see flaws? Two recent photos stirred the debate—Beyonce’s leaked un-Photoshopped pictures from a 2013 L’Oreal campaign, and a possibly unretouched—or possibly altered—image of Cindy Crawford from a Marie Claire Mexico shoot. However, these images weren’t released by the stars. But there is one celebrity who actually wanted her unretouched self exposed—Jamie Lee Curtis.
In 2002, Jamie made the bold decision to pull back the curtain on airbrushing in a More magazine spread. Then 43, she agreed only to be photographed, if the photographer Andrew Eccles would also shoot her with no makeup, no manicure, no hair styling, wearing only an exercise bra and underwear. Why? She wanted to stop spreading the myth of perfection. “There’s a reality to the way I look without my clothes on,” she told the magazine. “I don’t have great thighs. I have very big breasts and a soft, fatty little tummy. And I’ve got back fat. People assume that I’m walking around in little spaghetti-strap dresses. It’s insidious—Glam Jamie, the Perfect Jamie, the great figure, blah, blah, blah. And I don’t want the unsuspecting forty-year-old women of the world to think that I’ve got it going on. It’s such a fraud. And I’m the one perpetuating it.”
Four years later, Jamie talked to More again about the impact that photo had. ”The piece was a way of making amends, of saying, “I’m sorry I made you feel less than. Because I am just like you.” That was my goal. I knew that on some level, women who had struggled with that would appreciate it. I did not anticipate for a second the bigger reaction to it and the continuing reaction to it. It turns out it will probably be the single biggest contribution I may ever make as a public figure.”
Today, 13 years after Jamie took that now iconic photograph, there’s been a steady march towards real, and less manipulated images. There’s also a broader view of what is considered beautiful. Now, it’s about being authentic—not perfect. Pregnant models just walked down the runway at Dolce & Gabbana’s fashion show. Rocker Annie Lennox asked that photographers not eliminate her wrinkles on the cover of her new album. Even actress Jennifer Aniston told me she’s refusing to do any injectibles or plastic surgery, explaining, “What I have been witness to, is seeing women trying to stay ageless with what they are doing to themselves. I am grateful to learn from their mistakes, because I am not injecting s**t into my face.” It’s a whole new world from even a decade ago.
Last week, when I was talking about International Women’s Day and women who have changed the conversation, I thought of Jamie. With the More photo shoot, Jamie was one of first women to start the trend towards authenticity. Something I tell women every day when I do makeup is that there is no such thing as a flaw. It’s all about perception. Accepting the real, unretouched you is a big step towards feeling confident and empowered. As Jamie said to More, “I’m trying really hard to take the veil off the fraud, to be real, to start with me.”