We live in a time when I think most of us assume almost everything is airbrushed. Those six-pack abs, that perfect skin, hands, the no-trace-of-cellulite thighs? Airbrushed, airbrushed, completely airbrushed. In fact, I am hoping someone can airbrush me as I'm walking into my high school reunion this summer.
What we're used to seeing-and being skeptical of-are the smaller, skinnier, more muscular, and less wrinkled versions of people who've come under the digital magic wand. What's new is a report that airbrushing has made a body in the spotlight look bigger.
This might just be the case with the cover model for the April issue of Healthy magazine, a U.K.-based publication.
Reports say that the image of Kamilla Wladyka, a 5-foot 10-inch tall Polish model with a modeling card that lists her as being a size six and having a 24-inch waist, was altered to make her appear to be bigger than she actually is.
The editor of Healthy mag, Jane Druker, told the Daily Mail that the cover shot was modified to make her look healthier. Druker went on to say that approximately a half-stone--that's seven pounds to us-as added to the model's body to align with the magazine's mission to promote health and well-being.
Druker said wardrobe was considered when it became apparent that Wladyka showed up to set looking thinner than she appeared when she was cast for the cover.
"There were plenty of clothes that we couldn't put on her because her bones stuck out too much," Druker commented. "She looked beautiful in the face, but really thin and unwell. That's not a reflection of what we do in our magazine, which is about good health."
There are a few important issues to raise with this story. First, it ran in the Daily Mail, not necessarily regarded as one of the most reliable sources. And even if it were, the paper's headline that reads "Skinny model is airbrushed to make her look FATTER on front cover of magazine" (their emphasis, not mine) is not only insulting, it is inaccurate. The before shot shows a model who is, yes, incredibly and possibly unhealthily thin. The cover shot also shows a model who is incredibly and possibly unhealthily thin. There is nothing at all that could in anyway be regarded as fat or even FATTER about the pictures in question.
To confirm the story and the situation, I tried multiple times to get in touch with Healthy magazine. The publishers forwarded me to a PR agency, where I was told that the contact for the magazine was on holiday until May 25. In a follow-up call, the agency did say that they would call me back as soon as they found someone on staff who could speak to the issue. We'll update this post if we hear from the agency.
Although I quite appreciate the polite recording thanking me for "kindly holding in queue" on the overseas call, I'd love to hear what the real people who answer the phone have to say about Wladyka's cover of Healthy magazine. Honestly, I might even thank them for adding a few pounds and acknowledging that healthier may not necessarily equal bony and clearly far smaller than a size six.
This leads me to the other issue-the information on Wladyka's modeling card. You only have to watch one episode of "Kell on Earth" or survive a five-minute screeching interview with Janice Dickinson to know that models are marketing themselves on their model cards, not necessarily transcribing their true measurements. In a time (now) and country (England) where size zero models are being criticized and potentially banned from catwalks and covers for furthering unhealthy and potentially fatal images of beauty, a model saying she is a size six seems like it's just one more assurance of job security.
No matter what size Wladyka says she is or what size she appears to be on Healthy, another quote in the Daily Mail piece needs to be highlighted. This one is from Gerard Chevalier, who, according to the Daily Mail, is a psychotherapist and former fashion photographer. He countered Druker's comments that approximately seven pounds was added to the image of the model. In a debate organized by a model management company during which Druker explained the retouched cover, Chevalier says the editor told him that two to three stone were really added. That would mean that the model's body was enhanced by 28 to 42 pounds, and that is just not believable. Although I am sure that this model would look gorgeous wearing 30 or more pounds on her 6-foot frame, I think it would be a pretty noticeable change in comparison to her bikini pics.
Whether Druker confided in Chevalier, whether the weight was really added, whether the model is a size zero or six, we may never know. I think we can safely say that the sensationalized headline is out of line and that the move for women to look truly healthier and a bit heavier on magazine covers is a positive for all of us reading, looking, and applying those images to our own bodies, scales, and mirrors.
I'd love to know what really went on with that cover. But for now, until my phone rings or I get my next copy of Vanity Fair in the mail, I think making models look more real and fed is worth it's weight in stones.