Photo courtesy of People
New mom Christina Aguilera showed off her new baby, daughter Summer Rain, on the latest cover of People this week. The singer looks flawless as usual — and, curiously, so does her baby. The 6-month-old’s pearly pink lips, wax-like skin, and turquoise-blue eyes appear suspiciously airbrushed.
People did not respond to Yahoo Parenting’s request for comment. However, according Stephanie Jones, art director at Yahoo Style, the image has likely been re-touched. For starters, the baby’s eye color, a piercing blue, looks highly saturated and may have been sharpened using a high-pass filter. “That color doesn’t exist in nature,” Jones tells Yahoo Parenting. What’s more, any creases under the baby’s eyes may have been erased and her skin overly smoothed, resulting in doll-like features.
Whether or not Summer Rain got any post-production treatment, doctoring celebrity baby photos is not a novel concept. Back in April, 9-month-old Prince George, son of Kate Middleton and Prince William, was featured on the cover of Us Weekly with seemingly lighter skin, eyes, and hair. The magazine (sort of) denied the allegations, sending a statement to Time magazine: “The original image used for the Prince George cover was dark and bluish in tone and needed to be given an overall color shift for printing purposes. By no means did we go in and alter the color of his eyes or cheeks in this process.” And in December 2013, a photo emerged of Kim Kardashian’s baby North West — with perfectly groomed eyebrows. The reality star was accused of doctoring the photo and, worse, waxing her daughter’s brows, a suggestion Kardashian called “sick.”
Still, the People cover seems extreme and it’s sparked controversy on social media. Jezebel asked, “Does Christina Aguilera know she has a fake baby?” And Cosmo U.K. joked, “Rather than disturb Summer Rain, who was having a nap at the time, Christina posed with a series of Cabbage Patch dolls instead.” On Twitter, commenters compared the image to “American Sniper’s fake baby,” calling it “fake” and “scary.”
STORY: Should Pregnancy Be Sexy?
For the record: We are not critiquing a baby but rather an image-obsessed industry that believes a tiny, beautiful infant needs help looking adorable. Generally speaking, airbrushing does serve a purpose — lighting isn’t always ideal and hair does gets frizzy — but when taken to extremes (and yes, a human who can’t yet speak or eat qualifies), we need perspective. From the “thigh gap” obsession to Instagram-inspired plastic surgery and smartphone digital enhancement apps, what’s next — airbrushed sonogram photos? More importantly is the concern that an older Summer Rain may see the cover and wonder why she wasn’t cute enough as is.
Fortunately, any emotional fall-out will be minimal, according to Beverly Hills psychotherapist Fran Walfish. “It’s true that around age 3, children begin searching for self-identity by comparing themselves to their peers,” Walfish tells Yahoo Parenting. “However, unless a child continually focuses on his or her image, it’s unlikely that a one-time photo will cause much damage.”
In other words: not cool — but ultimately harmless.