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In The End, Cindy Crawford Is Still A Supermodel

Caitlin Plummer |
February 19, 2015 | 12:45 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

British TV News Anchor Charlene White tweeted an un-retouched photo of Cindy Crawford without the model's permission on Friday. (Charlene White/Twitter)
British TV News Anchor Charlene White tweeted an un-retouched photo of Cindy Crawford without the model's permission on Friday. (Charlene White/Twitter)
On Friday, a British TV News Anchor tweeted an unretouched photo of 48-year-old model Cindy Crawford in lingerie, sparking yet another media frenzy over the use of Photoshop in the media. The image was an unreleased photo taken during a cover shoot for Marie Claire’s December 2013 issue in Mexico and Latin America. But this time, the public reaction was not disgust, comedy, or anger at the media for retouching yet another celebrity. Instead, fans applauded Crawford’s bravery for sharing the body of a “real” woman.

Yet it turns out that not only was the photo shared without Crawford’s permission, it was leaked without the magazine’s knowledge, which makes this photo no different from various Photoshop leaks in the past. The only difference separating this unretouched photo from others that inspired a different reaction is that the picture is of Cindy Crawford.

Though the positive response to Crawford’s aging body is uplifting, the fact remains that it is only receiving this reaction because it depicts a woman who has been respected as a pinnacle of beauty for decades. But in this photo, she looks more like other 48-year-old women than we thought.

In January, unretouched photos of Justin Bieber’s Calvin Klein ads surfaced, creating more comedy than controversy. Though headlines like “Calvin Klein Gave Justin Bieber a Penis Enlargement” are funny in essence, there is irony to be found in how the media is treating Bieber’s Photoshopped images.

While the star denies the leaked photos are real, it appears that Bieber was edited to have larger muscles (among other things). This is merely a male reflection of what society condemns in female modeling: altering bodies to make them more attractive by societal standards. For women, it’s usually removing wrinkles, cellulite, and extra fat. For men, it may be adding larger muscles. Yet the use of Photoshop is comical when it comes to altering a man who doesn’t have society’s idea of a perfect body.

In contrast, the public responded angrily when Jezebel released unretouched photos of Lena Dunham’s Vogue photo shoot. Dunham has been questioned for showing her body in all sorts of light on the HBO show Girls, which she created and stars in. This fact makes the retouched photos both surprising and unsurprising, as Dunham’s body has been regarded as a statement in challenging Hollywood's standards of beauty.

Moreover, Jezebel admitted to offering $10,000 for proof that Vogue retouched Dunham’s photo spread, only to find that the photos were barely altered. Some public reactions mirrored the publication's anger at the use of Photoshop, but no one sprung to Vogue’s defense except Dunham herself.

READ MORE: Stop Freaking Out Over Jezebel’s Request For Unretouched Lena Dunham Photos

“A fashion magazine is like a beautiful fantasy. Vogue isn’t the place that we go to look at realistic women, Vogue is the place that we go to look at beautiful clothes and fancy places and escapism and so I feel like if the story reflects me and I happen to be wearing a beautiful Prada dress and surrounded by beautiful men and dogs, what’s the problem? If they want to see what I really look like, go watch the show that I make every single week,” Dunham told Slate France.

Dunham is a woman who shows what a “real” woman looks like in live-action almost weekly. Yet when her body is only minutely altered in a high-fashion magazine, the public response is outrage, ignoring the fact that the photos could and likely would have been altered much more.

What makes this photo of Cindy Crawford so groundbreaking is that as a model, she's subject to retouching all the time. While the positive reaction to her photo may have initially stemmed from the idea that Crawford had called for or approved of its release, it has been nearly a week since the picture was confirmed a leak. And the response? It hasn’t changed. 

More likely, this is because Cindy Crawford is still championed as beautiful, and merely a little less perfect than everyone thought. As a Huffington Post blogger, Jenny Trout, noticed over a year ago, it’s okay for women to be unapologetic about their appearances if they’re beautiful and skinny anyway. Trout compares Jennifer Lawrence’s attitude toward food to how Melissa McCarthy talks about her diet. Where Lawrence refuses to diet, McCarthy has to apologize for her weight and confirm that she has healthy eating habits. Lawrence is revered for her rejection of Hollywood’s body expectations, but it's only because she is still thin. If McCarthy walked around condemning diets, the public reaction would be different.

The same effect can be seen in the response to Crawford’s unretouched photo. Had a similar photo of Dunham been leaked, public reaction would likely only mirror the questions about her nudity on Girls, and she would not be supported, much less celebrated.

Cindy Crawford is gorgeous and, yes, she is a real woman. But let's face it: we only celebrate her imperfections because at the end of the day -- she’s still a supermodel.

Reach Staff Reporter Caitlin Plummer here. Follow her on Twitter here.



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