Blogger and writer Marie Southard Ospina recently embarked on a project that has been done before: asking strangers in different countries to Photoshop an image of her and make her look “beautiful”. The difference with Marie’s project versus the ones before her is that Marie is a plus size woman. The end result of her project truly shows how beauty is perceived in the world.
Marie detailed her experience and its outcome via an article she wrote for Bustle, titled “I Asked 21 Photoshop Experts From Around the World to Make Me (A Plus-Size Woman) Beautiful — Here’s What They Did“. For many of us who has been told many times, “You have such a pretty face, if you would just lose some weight, you’d be perfect” (raises hand), this article is a must-read.
She admits that she does care how others perceive her and wears makeup, utilizes lighting and other ways to make herself look more beautiful but she is not ashamed of her size or natural beauty. It’s more about enhancing and less about completely changing her look:
“I would be lying if I said I didn’t actually care about how others perceive me. I select the photos I use on my blog or in my work carefully. I don’t try to conceal my fatness or pretend not to have a double chin or anything, because I actually do like being plus-size, and I enjoy the wobblier areas of my body and my high-boned yet chubby cheeks. But I do tweak lighting. I do angle my face in the way I know will make it look more glamorous or beautiful or interesting. I play with the things I consider my best attributes, just as most of us do. It’s rare that I post a photo or step out of the house without my powder, eyeliner and lipstick on. Not because I’m ashamed of my natural face — I’ve always been told I’m a “natural beauty” and though it’s taken me a few decades to see any derivative of that claim for myself, I think I’m getting there.”
Marie’s interest in the use of Photoshop to alter images is more of a fascination since as she states in her article, “it’s a tool often used in that same pursuit of perfection”. We hear all the time from readers how Photoshop should not be used and that debate has been one that has been going on for a very long time. The fashion industry seems to be almost reliant on utilizing this method of altering images, which has not worked well in some instances (missing limbs, inserting thigh gaps that look distorted, etc). It’s one thing to enhance an image but quite another when body parts are missing and bodies have been dramatically altered. However, there has been a shift recently in some retailers and brands making the choice to not use Photoshop in their images such as Modcloth and Debenhams.
This is what Marie asked 21 Photoshop experts from different countries to do:
“All I asked was for them to make me look beautiful, whilst keeping in mind the looks they see in the fashion/beauty mags of their countries. They were each compensated with $5-30, the amount always set by the editor him/herself. And so, here’s what ‘beauty’ means to all of them.”
Here’s her original image:
And here are some of the Photoshopped images:
As you can see, in some images, her size was dramatically altered (Ukraine, Latvia and Mexico) whereas in other images, the altering is subtle. The image from Canada has Marie completed looking like a different person, including the addition of a turtleneck sweater.
Countries such as Jamaica and Australia only appear to have enhanced the lighting but didn’t alter Marie’s face. It’s an interesting way to see how beauty is perceived in other countries and what alterations are needed (in their view) to make someone look “beautiful”.
It is interesting to note that Marie reached out to 3 photo editors in Iceland and was told that they are anti-Photoshop:
“Their reasoning was all around the lines of: ‘Photoshop just isn’t what I use, I work with talented models and makeup artists instead,’ or ‘I don’t believe in re-touching a person’s natural beauty. I edit lighting, but that is all.'”