Maine Teenager Fights Airbrushing In Teen Fashion Magazines

It sounds like a cliché, but when you get older you find out it’s usually true: that when we’re teenagers, our bodies are as beautiful as they’ll ever be. But even many adolescent bodies aren’t flawless enough for fashion magazines. They’re often airbrushed and digitally edited — and that really frustrates Julia Bluhm, a 14-year-old from Waterville, Maine.

So she got involved in an online campaign to try to do something about that. When Julia spoke recently with WBUR’s All Things Considered host Sacha Pfeiffer, she explained how she came to realize that the photos she looks at aren’t always the real thing.

Look at those girls that you see in the magazines and look at your friends and all the people that you see around you. A lot of times in those pictures, they don’t have any cuts or bruises or tan lines or moles or freckles anywhere on their bodies. And they look sort of like Barbie dolls, like flawless perfect skin, and they’re really skinny. Just think about how few people really look like that in real life. It kind of helps you understand that magazines are kind of tricking girls.

Julia Bluhm, 14, of Waterville, Maine (AP)

Sometimes it’s hard to tell. Like sometimes there are pictures that are really heavily Photoshopped and you’re thinking, “OK, well that can’t really be real.” But sometimes you’re looking at a picture and you think that this girl is just naturally flawless. That she’s was just born really pretty. And their skin is always really shiny and even, and a lot of times you can’t even see the pores in their face, and it just looks smooth, kind of like plastic. And that’s what can make you lower your self-esteem, because you think that these girls are so much better than you are because you don’t look like them.

We decided to start a petition, and I wrote the petition, and they put it up on Change.org. It basically said that we want to ask Seventeen Magazine to feature one unaltered photo spread a month to show girls that Photoshop is used and how differently a model who’s Photoshopped can look in real life.

We picked Seventeen because it’s a really popular magazine among girls, and I love it and my friends love it. And they are already doing a lot of really good things to make girls feel good about their bodies. Like, they have these contests that recognize girls’ skills, not just their appearance, and they have body campaigns to help girls feel good about their bodies, and all this really great stuff. So we thought since they’re already taking action to help girls feel amazing and have good lives, why wouldn’t they want to take it a step further?

I am pretty disappointed that they haven’t committed to anything yet, but I don’t think that means that the campaign was a failure. No, definitely it doesn’t mean that, because we’ve accomplished so much with this campaign. It’s not only protesting Seventeen. It’s about teaching girls all over the United States and all over the world — all the people who signed our petition. It’s about teaching them that Photoshop is used in magazines like Seventeen and teaching them to pick it out when they see it so they don’t have to worry about looking like those girls, because now they know that those girls are Photoshopped.

We should focus on people’s personalities, not just how they look. If you’re looking for a girlfriend who looks like the models that you see in magazines, you’re never going to find a girlfriend, because those people are edited with computers. Nobody looks exactly like that. Nobody’s that perfect in real life.

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  • Louis

    Julia you have taken a very well balance and intelligent approach to this issue , well done.

  • Em Hooper

    Julia, when you get this campaign won, how about starting a campaign to get the photoshopping stopped on the photos of older women? We won the right to use control the size of our families and fought for women air force pilots etc, and we are tired, especially as we see our wins overturned. It’s you and your cohort who will need to keep up the fight for justice and the fight against the establishment that uses all of us for their own profit. We still don’t have wage equality, though there has been some change. 
    The photoshopping and using women to sell ‘stuff’ doesn’t stop when we turn 21.I have high hopes for your future. You go, girl, and keep up the good work.

  • Karenjhatch

    You go girl…. keep at this. This has to stop. No ones body is perfect like the pictures try to depict. 

  • corina

    Bravo and thank you, Ms.  Bluhm, what you’ve done is so important for all women.  The advertising world is so destructive and immoral. 
    No matter what happens, it is extremely impressive that someone so young has taken this
    on – you (and your parents!) have a lot to be proud of.  This  issue has barely been
    tackled even though it’s become worse over the past few decades.
    Keep up the great work – your life will, no doubt in my mind, be one of meaningful contributions
    to our society.

  • ruth m

    Great job Miss Bluhm!  I love the  request you came up with!

  • allison l.

    Julia, I think you might enjoy Rookie Mag.  It’s not a fashion magazine, but it’s a magazine for young women that addresses a lot of these issues, and it was started by high school fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson. I’m 30 and I love reading it–I wish it had been around when I was younger.

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