Fake Beauty: Airbrushing’s Affect on the Fashion World and Our Psyche

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The perfect woman is: ______________. We’ll let you fill in the blank.

How ever she might look to you, UC Davis Gender Studies Professor Susan Kaiser says it doesn’t matter.


Plus-sized model Tara Lynn retouched for a print advertisement in V Magazine.

And that’s because Kaiser believes “everyone is erased” and made to look the same today. The images of so-called “beautiful” women can be seen everywhere.

But are they really as perfect as they appear, or are they made to look perfect?

With the click of a mouse and the touch of a button, a person can be airbrushed, retouched and made to look thinner, darker, lighter, younger and even “prettier.”

“The process is like removing the surface of the skin,” Kaiser told FOX40. That process, used all over the world and throughout the fashion industry, can be called Photoshopping.

“The goal is to always portray the best image possible,” said Tim Engle.

Engle, a professional fashion photographer, gave FOX40 access to a private shoot with jewelry designer Aiman Naswari of Aquamarine Jewelry.

On the day of the shoot, Naswari brought hundreds of thousands of dollars in jewelry to be photographed by Engle on model Christine Alward.

He told FOX40 that Alward is a beautiful woman, yet, he still wants the final image (to be used in an advertisement in Sacramento Magazine) to be airbrushed.

“It looks cleaner that way. Plus,you hardly ever see advertisements where the model is not looking perfect.” Naswari said. “It’s what people want to see 100 percent.”

Engle, who prides himself on taking the best photo possible so he doesn’t have to use programs like Photoshop, tells FOX40 that the level of airbrushing usually isn’t up to him or the model.

“The client typically asks for it in most cases. I am limited to what the client needs and wants. I always try and do what they ask,” Engle told FOX40.

And Alward, a size 0, says she’s okay with it all.

“I have a job. They are the artist and I am their canvas. I am a piece of art, or however you want to look at it.” she said. “Him fixing a blemish doesn’t mean it’s wrong, he’s making me how I could look.”

Yet, even the slightest change on a woman as beautiful as Alward still irks Kaiser.

“It affects everyone in society. Even if we know the photo is airbrushed, we still get the picture implanted in our brains,” Kaiser said.

And that’s where the problem starts, she says.

“We don’t like the idea of it, but we can’t stop looking,” she said.

Still, when we asked Kaiser if she would like us to airbrush her for our interview, she said yes, just as long as the viewer could recognize who she is.

“It affects self esteem. It affects how we feel about ourselves, how we can never quite measure up to an ideal that’s really unachievable,” Kaiser said.

The final image of Christine, to go in Sacramento Magazine, was only slightly retouched.

“It looks perfect,” Naswari told Engle.

After all, if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then perfection, is in the eye (and in the mouse) of the beholder.

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