Today's celebrities are accustomed to seeing their airbrushed images all over the media, but Lady Gaga was so taken aback by the amount of alleged retouching to her photo on the cover of Glamour’s December issue that she scolded the magazine during its 2013 Women of the Year Awards on Monday.
The pop star took the stage at New York City’s Carnegie Hall and said that, like fellow honoree 16-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, she was going to use her voice to air her feelings. “The picture, which I'm very grateful for and very happy to be on this cover –– I felt it was too beautiful," she told the crowd. "I felt my skin looked too perfect, and my hair looked too soft. This is not usually how I dress or how I carry myself."
Gaga, one of 12 women Glamour was honoring, added, "I believe my true mission is to inspire young people to fight back against forces that make them feel like they're not beautiful or important. I do not look like this when I wake up in the morning...It is fair to write about the change in your magazines. But what I want to see is the change on your covers ... When the covers change, that's when culture changes.”
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A representative from Glamour magazine emailed the following statement to Yahoo Shine: "We love the cover — which captures exactly the way Gaga looked at our shoot — but we think her bigger point, that women like Malala Yousafzai are also cover-worthy, is RIGHT ON, and we couldn't agree more. We're proud of the diversity of women we show on our pages, and the diversity of opinions they represent — frankly, Gaga's willingness to challenge how American institutions think is a major reason we honored her to begin with."
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This isn't the first time Lady Gaga has been at the center of an airbrushing controversy. In September, Vogue debuted its fall fashion issue featuring the pop star slimmed to cartoonish proportions. Despite fans' claims that the Vogue cover was too extreme, Gaga proudly tweeted, “I’m a COVER GIRL and it’s FAB.” However, her recent remarks at the Glamour event may signify a new era in which celebrities are vocalizing their discomfort with extreme airbrushing.
In October, Victoria’s Secret model Doutzen Kroes told the New York Post’s Page Six column, “Sometimes it makes me feel guilty now that I am in this profession that makes certain girls insecure,” and that “I wake up sometimes like, this is not what I see when I look at the magazine, who is this visitor in the bathroom?”
In July, when asked by Interview magazine why she famously doesn't wear makeup on red carpets doesn't wear makeup on red carpets, 21-year-old actress Shailene Woodley said it's an attempt to distance herself from her glammed-up image on magazine covers, which often includes flawless skin, enlarged breasts, and a flattened stomach. “It was not a proper representation of who I am. I realized that, growing up and looking at magazines, I was comparing myself to images like that — and most of it isn't real.”
And last year, Cameron Russell, a model who has posed for magazines including Vogue and walked the runway for Chanel, gave a presentation at the global series TED Talk in which she blasted the media for extreme airbrushing. "These pictures are not pictures of me –– they're constructions," said Russell, pointing to her own magazine spreads projected on the wall. "They're constructions by professionals — hairstylists, makeup artists, photographers, stylists, and all of their assistants, and preproduction and postproduction, and they build this. That's not me."
Could Gaga, who has been vocal about her past struggles with eating disorders, steer the media in a more body-positive direction? Possibly, says Robyn Silverman, a body image expert and author of Good Girls Don't Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls. "There’s nothing inherently wrong with looking sexy, but the pursuit of perfection is unhealthy for any woman, celebrity or not," says Silverman. "Lady Gaga is making a difference with the women who pick up these magazines and feel badly that they don't look like the models inside."
And while Gaga's speech is absolutely a step in right the direction, says Silverman, "The body-positive movement must keep momentum, otherwise these moments won't have a long-lasting impact."