Maine Teenager Fights Airbrushing In Teen Fashion Magazines

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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)
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 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.

This program aired on June 15, 2012.


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