Will The Real Kelly Clarkson Please Stand Up?

Laurie and Debbie say:
(cross blogged on Feministe)

Self Magazine isn’t ashamed that they clipped pieces off of Kelly Clarkson’s body for their current cover. They’re proud of it. Lucy Danziger, editor-in-chief at Self, did a whole blog on the Self site about the decision to photoshop Clarkson’s figure.


Here’s a picture of Clarkson as she’s been looking recently, without photo manipulation. Note how her clothing choices reflect comfort in her body.


Danziger explains their decision:

Did we alter her appearance? Only to make her look her personal best. Did we publish an act of fiction? No. Not unless you think all photos are that. But in the sense that Kelly is the picture of confidence, and she truly is, then I think this photo is the truest we have ever put out there on the newsstand. I love her spirit and her music and her personality that comes through in our interview in SELF. She is happy in her own skin, and she is confident in her music, her writing, her singing, her performing. That is what we all relate to. Whether she is up or down in pounds is irrelevant (and to set the record straight, she works out and does boot-camp-style training, so she is as fit as anyone else we have featured in SELF). Kelly says she doesn’t care what people think of her weight. So we say: That is the role model for the rest of us.

This is absolutely classic. Clarkson is confident and doesn’t care what people think. We just wanted to make her look her best. So we trimmed off some pounds Clarkson is fine with showing. By doing that, we once again perpetuated a lie about how women really look. This adds to the burden that every woman who looks at this cover carries.

“No matter how much I diet, I never look like the women in the magazines.”
“My boyfriend says I’m too fat. We were in the supermarket the other day, and he was pointing out women on magazine covers whose hips and waist are slimmer than mine.”
“I give up; I’ll just stop eating and maybe then I’ll look like Kelly Clarkson.”

But Danziger isn’t done. She waxes elegant about some casual shots of Clarkson with her sister (but doesn’t reproduce them in her blog). She says:

Frankly, those are my favorite pictures, the ones that are snappy happy. My husband has given me an appreciation for the beauty of a snapshot. But that isn’t a cover. A cover’s job is to sell the magazine, and we do that, every month, thanks to our readers. So thank you.

Your job: Think about your photographs and what you want them to convey. And go ahead and be confident in every shot, in every moment. Because the truest beauty is the kind that comes from within.

By the way, she also tries to claim that photoshopping off that weight is no different than make-up, or hairstyling. Here’s what’s different: if you’re there on the shoot, you would see the make-up and hairstyle as they were finished, but you’d also see Clarkson’s actual body.

We agree with Margaret at Jezebel:

Danziger is is right: Kelly Clarkson is a “great role model for women of all sizes.” When the press goes after celebrities for gaining weight many apologize to the public, like Oprah Winfrey or Kirstie Alley, or frantically exercise and appear on the cover of Us flaunting their slimmed down selves like Jennifer Love Hewitt. So far Clarkson has only declared that she’s OK with her body and backed her statements up by performing in clothing that exposes her figure, rather than hiding under billowy outfits.

So here’s our advice to Susan Danziger and Self:

“A cover’s job is to sell the magazine, which can be done without lying to your readers.”

“Your job: Think about your photographs and what you want them to convey. And go ahead and believe Kelly Clarkson when she says she’s not tweaked about her weight. Because the truest beauty is the kind that you’re not ashamed to show on your magazine cover.”

7 thoughts on “Will The Real Kelly Clarkson Please Stand Up?

  1. The conclusion would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. Danziger concludes: “And go ahead and be confident in every shot, in every moment. Because the truest beauty is the kind that comes from within.” If true beauty comes from within, why the need for Photoshopping the outside?

  2. I’ve been reading a lot about this lately, and I’m kind of surprised there’s no word from Kelly re: The Photoshopping. Maybe this seems bigger in the fatosphere than out there in the rest of the world, but I’m under the impression that it’s bugging a lot of people. I half-expect Kelly to at least address it– something along the lines of “I understand the magazine did what it thought it had to do to sell copies, but I wish it didn’t,” maybe? If I were in her shoes, I would certainly be irritated by someone undermining that by photoshopping me to look several dress sizes smaller. At the same time, I understand her need to maintain a level of professional courtesy and mutual respect with the magazine (although some kind of Kelly-Self feud would probably ultimately end up selling more copies…).

    Also, I LOATHE this comment: “Did we alter her appearance? Only to make her look her personal best.” Because CLEARLY best = thinnest, NOT how she looks now (nor how she has ever looked, because by photoshopping her they completely changed the shape of her face. Also, I am 99% sure that Kelly, as the owner of her body, gets to choose what she thinks “her personal best” looks like.

    I really adore the un-altered photo you picked, though. Her top is transfixing. And I hope it’s not too objectifying of me to say that she is ridiculously gorgeous.

  3. I was just think the same thing. She looks stunning. Man! That’s not a million miles away from what I look like when I’m in shape. When I was growing up, all I ever heard from my mom was how much she hated her hips and butt (which I inherited x100), but I’ve really grown to love how women with big, solid, curvy lower bodies look.

  4. This link is from a few years back, but I immediately thought of Jamie Lee Curtis’s exposure of the amount of effort involved simply in preparing a professional actress for a a magazine photo shoot, even before photo retouching. But she mentions the process here and nails the delusion that’s being spread.


    Quoting from the article linked above”


    Yep. Insane. These magazines should come with a disclaimer: WARNING – consuming these images may lead to poor self-esteem and body-damaging, health-impairing actions in pursuit of impossible results.

  5. Ooops, the quote didn’t show up because I did a dumb HTML thing. trying to put quotes around the quoted section. Toward the end of the article linked above Jamie Lee Curtis talks about a magazine cover photo where Kate Winslet complains that her thighs were photo retouched to make them look smaller, while the article raved about how healthy she was. Curtis points out the mental pretzel work involved in saying “Healthier only means slimmer. That’s insane.” Hence my agreement that it is indeed insane. Whew!

  6. It’s as though Danziger cannot comprehend a woman being confident, happy, and anything other than model-thin, so to her, manipulating this photo of Clarkson to make her appear thinner was the only logical option. Danziger has body dysmorphia but about somebody else’s body.

  7. Aargh. Also pfui. I think Kelly Clarkson looks great in the concert photo: strong, proud, sexy. The shopped photo looks not only thinner but younger, less womanly, more girly. Less strong. I think this is deliberate. Big proud strong women are very scary: for one thing, they might not want to buy what you’re selling…

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