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Retouched: The True Face of Hollywood (Before & After)

Madonna's skin smoothed and tightened

Madonna's skin smoothed and tightened

Katie Couric made slimmer

Katie Couric made slimmer

The True Meaning of "Picture Perfect"

We've heard it all before- that the images we see on tv, in magazines, and on billboards are altered, airbrushed, retouched -but without visual proof, this important message gets lost in the daily barrage of "picture-perfect" people we see in advertisements, movies, and music videos.

Cindy Crawford once stated that she wished she looked as good as her photos do, but now, such alteration is a given, not only in the fashion industry or advertising business, but in our everyday lives. I remember being excited over software that could remove red-eye in photographs. Today, "to photoshop" is a verb, meaning to retouch one's own photos.

Pushing Beauty Beyond the Bounds of Reality

I know more than a few women who would give years off their lives to look like the model on the site at right, never mind the final version of the photo that will be published, post-retouching. The image we are faced with in the media has been nipped and tucked and shaded and brightened and trimmed and filled out and flattened and rounded and smoothed, down to the last hair on her stomach and the veins in her hands. In the end, we see a reflection of someone not even the model can claim as her own.

The danger is clear: these are the role models we have set up to emulate. This is what we agree that beauty should look like. The problem is, that standard is unattainable, even for those held up as examples.

Retouching is everywhere. Not only models, but actors and actresses, musicians, dancers, and even news anchors like Katie Couric routinely have their photos extensively altered (see Before/After below). The allure of beauty is that it is potentially obtainable. But increasingly, we find, it is not.

"Evolution," A Video from the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty

Fighting Back

There is resistance... Teri Hatcher pulling out her hair extensions during the Glamour Magazine Women of the Year 2006 Awards... Tyra Banks' "So What?" campaign... the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty (see video "Evolution")... but still no national outcry.

It's up to us, to you and me as individuals, to think more critically when we look at that Victoria's Secret spread, and less critically when we look in the mirror. Gain awareness by reading books like Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth, and support body-positive companies like Dove. In the end, we'll be better people for it. And, in my opinion, that is what makes us truly beautiful.

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Grace Marguerite Williams from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on January 04, 2013:

Maddie, This is an eye opening article. My mother told me this 55 years ago of how stars were photoshaped to look beautiful. However, I did not believe her, thinking that stars were naturally photogenic. I, too, had body image issues as a teenager and much younger woman but I know better now. The things the media does to make us "average" women buy into the prevailing beauty pathos evident in Hollywood and on Madison Avenue. Women must learn to accept their true beauty.

Vidhya L from Chennai, India on October 28, 2012:

Thanks for this nice hub!

reagu from Los Angeles on May 28, 2012:

I've always thought that Photoshop is the best plastic surgery.

Cobi on April 20, 2012:

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Why are so many people surprised by this? For how many thousands of years have women been using some form of makeup to cover imperfections in cultures all over the world? So now its done with modern technology? The cosmetic industry is a 20 billion dollar per year mean, this nothing new.

Tina Siuagan from Rizal, Philippines on January 23, 2012:

When I joined an image model competition, there was nothing much edited in my photos aside from the contrast of colors. That might be the reason why I never complained when my photos were not among the stronger ones during the contest. Hahaha! I also had the privilege to know and work with some photographers who celebrate the goodness of raw beauty in women.

Thank you for sharing this. Through this hub, you promote awareness. People should not live their lives with video tricks or photoshop. :D

Daphne on January 21, 2012:

Sorry but whoever worked on these images do not know how to retouch BLACK WOMEN. Some of these examples have been transformed in an unnatural way whether it's skin color changes or lightening of hair. Not to mention just really fake. It's very hard to find someone that understands multiple races and that's just a shame. I can only think of just a few artists that are great in this area such as Bianca Carosio and possibly another French retoucher. For the women looking at these images and being SOLD....this is not REAL!!! Love yourself!

Support The Self-Esteem Act on December 15, 2011:

Gwen on September 26, 2011: sad, honestly :/ that we as a race can no longer appreciate the natural human form/body. It's funny, so many of the before pictures had me thinking, "Wow, she's beautiful"....then I see the after. There's nothing wrong with those women in the first place.

Captainausume from New Jersey on July 07, 2011:

Photo retouching is what is turning the average photoshop geek rich. It the very thing that takes a human being and turns them into a product, or a tool.

Amanda on March 04, 2011:

It's really sad that are there sensitive young girls with self esteem issues that are magnified signifigantly by the fake perfection that is shoved down our throats via airbrushed ads, magazines, catalogs, tv shows, movies, billboards, ect. Some girls have even gone as far as to risk plastic surgery at an age that is too young & some have either considered or contemplated suicide over depression brought on by the pressure to be the unattainable standard of beauty. Have you seen the before & after plastic surgery photos of Megzan Fox? She is no stranger to having a needle pump fillers in her face & lips periodially & she's in her freakin' 20's!

kitkat on August 12, 2010:

wow its amazing that you dont realiz these things until you see them

mainerfreebird on April 26, 2010:

Can you beleive that I can get down to 115 lbs before the bmi chart says I am underweight, I am 5'6", rediculous what is considered healthy. A very slim guy I know began signs of an eating disorder after we did our bmi at work, he actually made himself sick and had to start eating more. Thanks for posting these pics, I have four daughters and this will be educational for them, I didn't even know they alter that much. Sickening...

Ivorwen from Hither and Yonder on November 13, 2009:

These changes always amaze me. It is no wonder so many have a warped view of what the female body 'ought' to look like.

Yvonne on March 24, 2009:

Wow !!! After seeing these before and after photos I will stop being so hard on myself. Thank you!!!

spryte from Arizona, USA on September 26, 2008:

Very enlightening!  It's one thing to live up to a certain standard...and quite another to try to live up to somebody else's fantasy.  I have to say though...I am curious about how I would look photo-shopped.  Wouldn't that be fun just for a having your cartoon drawn at the fair or something like that?  Perhaps this SHOULD be done at fairs...and sold as t-shirts.  Before on the front, after on the back...

desert blondie from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen on September 26, 2008:

I've actually used Dove bar soap for more than a decade!!! And have been proud of their 'real women' ads. I remember one time Jenny McCarthy went on Jay Leno with a poster of herself that was out for sale, and she showed everyone how she'd been re-done...thinner thighs, cheek bone hollows, etc. She was angry that the poster company had had the rights to do whatever they wanted to 'sell' her image and she wanted girls -- and boys -- to understand how phony these images are. That was a good moment for women.

Kada:) on September 22, 2008:

Wow so there not as amazing as we thought! This just goes to show what a computer can do to a photo. It really is disgusting how they think a women should look, this stuff needs to be stopped!!!

Mary on July 29, 2008:

i will definitely be showing these to my teenage son and daughter. how can the media give young people an image that they know they are going to inspire to that isn't even remotely real.

dumpstermouse from Texas on May 16, 2008:

wow! this is really great and educational. thanks so much for writing this post, and all your others like it! you're an inspiration.

chicgurl on April 21, 2008:

This is AMAZING! Where did you find all of the befores?

mathan1234 from Oklahoma City, OK on January 11, 2008:

I think pictures like these should be seen by everyone.

curtismchale from Chilliwack on January 10, 2008:

there is another neat youtube video showing the progression in making a very heavy lady into a very skiny cover girl. It is an extreme make over.

warren on September 23, 2007:

This is great stuff. I'm keeping a bookmark on this to show people.Warren

Amelie on August 11, 2007:

People are actually idolising something that doesn't exist. Botox, fake tan, color contact lenses, hair extensions, boob jobs, the list goes on. This is ridiculous someone should put an end to this.

Nikita from Florida on June 13, 2007:

I have been fighting and crying for having my before married body back. I just find out that I have the body of a teenager just without the touch up.

A Million Thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaank you Maddie

Lor on May 30, 2007:

Oh, Maddie, I'm so glad I got to see those before and afters, coz! Thankyou. kisses

Jason Menayan from San Francisco on May 30, 2007:


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