Celebrities: That Doesn’t Look Like Me

With social media, more specifically editing tools like photoshop, at the tips of everyone’s fingers, being a teenager today is hard. There is a constant feed of images that have been altered to fit society’s misconstrued beauty norms: airbrushed skin, whitened teeth, any ounce of fat pinched in or smoothed out. These images, mainly of or posted by celebrities, generate unrealistic expectations that collide with the very foundation of what it means to be human: having blemishes, curves, and for goodness sakes – everyone has fat on their bodies – it is normal. This “standard of beauty” often goes uncontested, but known body positivity advocate and celebrity, Zendaya, had no problem taking a stance against the editing done to one of her own modeling photos for Modeliste Magazine.

In the screenshot above, you are able to see not only the two images she has juxtaposed, but you can see her caption, likes, comments, and even how many followers she has. I think it’s safe to say that at 108 million followers, she has quite an audience and at 839,310 likes, that her post was well-received. The right image in the post is the beautiful, unedited image of Zendaya. She is wearing a black leather jacket with high-cut bottoms that flatter her curves and she is working a subtle, soft smile with her curled hair framing her face nicely. This gorgeous image makes it puzzling that someone would even think that there are aspects of it that need to be “perfected.” Yet, thanks to what society has falsely deemed as “beautiful,” the image was edited (left). By placing these two images side by side, it makes it glaringly obvious that multiple things have been “touched up.” Starting with the most noticeable, her skin has not only been airbrushed, but a filter has been placed over the initial image, altering both Zendaya’s skin tone and hair color. Next, editors have made her hair “smaller,” by pinching it in closer to her face and flattening it out. Another evident edit is that her waist and hips have been made smaller. 

The irony in the photoshopping of this photo is that Modeliste Magazine prides itself as being an authentic source for emerging fashion and beauty trends. However, their heavily retouched photos of Zendaya scream many things – none of those things being authentic or along the lines of what “beauty trends” should be. In addition to the way Zendaya juxtapositioned these two images, her caption speaks volumes regarding her important message. At 19 years old, she describes her shock, having images posted of herself with the realization that they did not look like her at all. She quickly noticed that her hips and torso had been altered (as she describes in her caption) and points out that “these are the things that make women self conscious, that create the unrealistic ideals of beauty that we have.” She then goes on to explain how important it is for her to represent “honest and pure self love.”

While Modeliste later took down the edited images and worked with Zendaya on publishing the complete unedited images, I think that there are multiple take-aways from Modeliste’s initial publication and Zendaya’s response. The magazine’s initial publication speaks volumes not only of society’s need to take away the uniqueness within beauty through photoshopping, but also the beauty norms that are implied as a result of this photoshopping. It implies that there is a standard for beauty and that the standard is thin, airbrushed, and lacking a single imperfection. As a result, people often don’t feel good enough and if we cannot feel at home in our own skins, where else are we supposed to go (Wann)? The amazing thing about beauty is that there is no standard. Zendaya makes it clear through both her post and caption, that beauty is more about self love and being real. Beauty is fat and thin and happy and natural with blemishes and so many other things. Beauty is all encompassing and inclusive. Photoshopping within these large platforms try to make beauty small and singular, whereas it is something that is limitless due to the diversity within the world we live in. Additionally, Zendaya’s response was empowering – not only for her, but for everyone who looks at social media and is overwhelmed by unattainable and unrealistic beauty norms. She makes it clear to her audience that the real her is beautiful and does not need to be edited. Her post radiates body positivity and breaks down the walls that confine beauty to be a singular thing. 

Works Cited

“Fashion Trends, Celebrity NEWS, Influencer STYLE, Beauty Tips, Luxury Travel.” Modeliste Magazine, 8 Sept. 2021, https://modelistemagazine.com/. 

Wann, Msrilyn. “Fat Studies: An Invitation to Revolution.” Fat Studies, pp. Forward XV. Zendaya. “Instagram.” Login • Instagram, 2015, https://www.instagram.com/zendaya/?hl=en.

Zendaya. “Instagram.” Login • Instagram, 2015, https://www.instagram.com/zendaya/?hl=en.

One thought on “Celebrities: That Doesn’t Look Like Me

  1. Such a relevant post! Social media is obviously such a defining aspect of this generation, and it is so dangerous for children not only to be seeing these kinds of “touch-ups” to photos, but actually being the person who is touched up, especially at such a young age like Zendaya was here. It is important to have celebrities like her unveiling the realities of the situation and letting everyone, but especially young people know that what you see online isn’t always, in fact, rarely, is the truth. I loved the connection to Wann and fat studies and how altered photos like these are so harmful to peoples’ view of themselves and their self-esteem.

Comments are closed.