'Imagination will take you everywhere'
When the February issue of American Vogue hit the world’s newsstands last week, for once the cover was not what you would expect. Instead of a thin, bony and twig-like teenager staring blankly into the distance, the face of a real woman gazes out at the reader. Her wide, hazel doe eyes like molten pools of chocolate, her face lacking the gaunt, razor-sharp cheekbones that so often protrude through the glossy pages. But the real surprise comes when you flick to the middle. Because the editorial photographs display a woman with a full, wholesome body – thighs and all. A real woman. This woman is Lena Dunham, the up and coming creative talent who writes, directs and stars in the hit American T.V show, Girls. Dunham regularly champions the ‘real’ woman – recently when the size of her thighs were criticised, she retorted “Get used to it, because I am going to live to be 100, and I am going to show my thighs every day till I die”. Undeniably the words of a strong, proud and confident woman who will not be ruled by pressure to look a certain way. Even by not conforming to the super-skinny stereotype of actresses makes her a much-needed role-model for girls and women everywhere.
Ever since the birth of celebrity, women around the globe have been bombarded with a certain body-shape to desire; young models transformed by a mixture of diets, good genes and a heavy dose of retouching, pose on magazines, billboards and adverts. All of them evoking utter perfection. Impossible perfection. It’s amazing what you can achieve on Photoshop in this day and age.
Dunham dominating the Vogue cover makes a refreshing change. The photographs portray a woman who isn’t afraid to be curvy – she almost seems to say ” Yes I can eat what I want and still look hot in a Dolce & Gabbana dress.” Vogue undoubtedly saw the potential to rack up major trend credentials by having Dunham on the cover, as well as fighting off the constant criticism it receives about anorexic models. In my eyes this cover is like a revolution for women’s body image; showing the world that to be ‘in Vogue‘ you can be any size. Dunham is unquestionably the voice of a generation of young, liberated women.
However it is a sad and undeniable fact that many fashion glossies use Photoshop to physically enhance models – even Gisele Bundchen the goddess of Amazonian supermodels is retouched. But when we turn to Vogue do we expect to view reality? No, we expect to be transported into a couture clad, glamorously shimmering, high-fashion fantasy world. Yes Dunham’s photographs were slightly retouched, but only to make sure she looked her best. If I was on the cover of a top fashion magazine I would want at least a little Photoshopping – no woman is 100% confident in her appearance; we all want to change something. So when the feminist blog, Jezebel offered $10,000 for the un-retouched photographs of Dunham from the Annie Leibovitz shoot, it appeared to be a cruel (and very un-feminist) stunt to shame Dunham. The editor, Jessica Cohen, argued that on the contrary, they were trying to shame Vogue for trying to turn Dunham into something she’s not. Who wouldn’t want to be ‘improved’ just a little? Besides the thousands of viewers who watch Girls, get to see Dunham in all her un-retouched glory. Surely Jezebel and other critics should just stop obsessing over Dunham’s body and let her enjoy the power and pride of being a Vogue cover girl. Because no matter what, she is an inspiration to my generation for what she has achieved, not for what she looks like.