Self Editors Explain Covers Aren't Supposed To Look Realistic

Two Self editors have announced their magazine was right to give Kelly Clarkson a slimmer body on their September issue, explaining that covers shouldn't reflect reality, but "inspire women to want to be their best". Unbelievable.

Self's Editor-in-Chief Lucy Danziger, who admitted last week that this month's Kelly Clarkson cover was altered - "of course we do post-production correction on our images" - put up a post on her Self.com blog yesterday titled "Pictures That Please Us." She wrote that though the program the magazine uses is "technically not Photoshop," they "correct color and other aspects of the digital pictures we take and then publish the best version we can." Yes, every magazine cover is altered in some way, but the Kelly Clarkson isn't controversial just because it was color corrected or even because a few more locks of hair were added to her head: it's because the editors of Self constructed a new body that bears no resemblance to what Clarkson currently looks like. Below is the behind the scenes video Danziger posted, which makes it even more obvious that the cover shot was drastically altered.

Click to view

Danziger explains that she's so pro-Photoshop that she's even had her own image altered:

When I ran the marathon five years ago, I was so proud of myself for completing it in under five hours and not walking a single step. But my hips looked big in some of the photos (I was heavier then), so when I wanted to put one of them on the editor's letter in SELF, I asked the art department to shave off a little. I am confident in my body, proud of what it can accomplish, but it just didn't look the way I wanted in every picture...

The same is true of vacation. I keep the pix that show us all happy and glowing and laughing and playing, not the ones where we are scowling or hungry or tired. The ones that make the Christmas card are the best of the best.

Everyone has left an unflattering picture out of a photo album, but that would be analogous to not running a photo of Kelly Clarkson with her eyes closed, not completely reshaping her body. Danziger may have altered her body in her marathon picture, but that just means that she was actually so insecure about her body that she drew herself a new one.

Oh, but Danziger goes on to claim that cover portraits are supposed to be idealized artists renderings of what the model could look like, especially since when she walks in to a photo shoot she may look as hideous as a real live person:

Portraits like the one we take each month for the cover of SELF are not supposed to be unedited or a true-to-life snapshot (more on that in a moment). When the cover girl arrives at the shoot, she is usually unmade up and casually dressed, and could be mistaken for a member of the crew or the editorial team in many cases. Once we do her makeup and hair, and dress her in beautifully styled outfits and then light her, we then set the best portrait photographer we can on a road to finding a pose and capturing a moment that shows her at her best.

Except they're not actually "capturing a moment" since the moment never existed! She continues:

Then we allow the postproduction process to happen, where we mark up the photograph to correct any awkward wrinkles in the blouse, flyaway hair and other things that might detract from the beauty of the shot. This is art, creativity and collaboration. It's not, as in a news photograph, journalism. It is, however, meant to inspire women to want to be their best. That is the point...

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.

So even though Kelly Clarkson has said she's confident at any size and Danziger points out that Clarkson works out and is "as fit as anyone else we have featured in Self," the magazine's staffers decided having her instantly shed a few pounds would make her look even more confident and healthy.

Oh-kay, then.

In another blog post, Ashley Mateo, the editorial assistant for Self's entertainment team, writes:

The truth is, we have absolutely no reason to get worked up over PhotoShop. Magazines don't hide the fact that they're always trying to sell issues—and to sell copies, you need to appeal to readers with the best writing and the best images possible. We all know celebrities are human (at least, we all should know), so why do we get bent out of shape when a magazine alters an image to portray a celebrity in their best light? No one wants to see a giant picture of some star's cellulite on the cover of a monthly mag—that's what we have tabloids for!

Right, because if magazines actually ran unaltered photos of celebrities, women may stop hating their arms because they look fat compared to Kelly Clarkson's. If we saw a few dimples on a healthy woman's thigh in a magazine, then tabloids might stop running photos with giant arrows pointing to the tell tale signs that celebrities are nothing more than normal human women. Danziger was right: the point is that magazine covers "inspire women to want to be their best." And the best way to keep women reading Self's workout recommendations and buying the useless beauty products advertised on its pages is to inspire them to keep chasing after a version of themselves that Doesn't. Really. Exist.

Lucy's Blog: Pictures That Please Us [Self.com]
SELFy Stars: The Wonders Of PhotoShop [Self.com]

Earlier: Kelly Clarkson Slimmed Down On Self Via Photoshop