Vogue just released its February issue starring none other than Lena Dunham. The images are, all in all, quite nice. She's well-styled and looks fantastic. As if Vogue would have it any other way.
Lena Dunham is a woman who trumpets body positivity, who's unabashedly feminist, who has said that her naked body is "a realistic expression of what it's like to be alive" and "if you are not into me, that's your problem." Her body is real. She is real. And for as lovely as the Vogue pictures are, they're probably not terribly real. So Jezebel is offering $10,000 for pre-Photoshop images from Lena's Vogue shoot.
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Annie Leibowitz, who shot Dunham for the mag, isn't one to shy away from digitally fucking with images, and Vogue has a rich and storied history of distorting women's bodies:
- May 2008: Gwyneth Paltrow's head is disembodied and her clavicle disappears
- March 2009: Adele loses some weight on the cover
- August 2011: Kate Moss's daughter loses some fingers
- February 2012: Cheryl Strayed no longer looks like Cheryl Strayed
- June 2012: Doutzen Kroes loses a leg
- August 2012: Lady Gaga gets a big slimdown
- July 2013: Claire Danes undergoes a leg amputation
- October 2013: Kate Winslet is disturbingly expressionless
And this is just a sampling. This is what Vogue does — and yes, we already know in general what all of these magazines do — but now, on its cover, Vogue has a woman who rightfully declares that her appearance, with all of its perceived imperfections, shouldn't be hidden and doesn't need any fixing. Lena Dunham has spoken out, frequently, about society's insane and unattainable beauty standards. Dunham embraces her appearance as that of a real woman; she's as body positive as they come. But that's not really Vogue's thing, is it? Vogue is about perfection as defined by Vogue, and rest assured that they don't hesitate to alter images to meet those standards. It doesn't matter if any woman, including Lena, thinks she's fine the way she is. Vogue will find something to fix.
To be very clear: Our desire to see these images pre-Photoshop is not about seeing what Dunham herself "really" looks like; we can see that every Sunday night or with a cursory Google search. She's everywhere. We already know what her body looks like. There's nothing to shame here. Nor is this rooted in criticism of Dunham for working with Vogue. Entertainment is a business, after all, and Vogue brings a level of exposure that exceeds that of HBO.
This is about Vogue, and what Vogue decides to do with a specific woman who has very publicly stated that she's fine just the way she is, and the world needs to get on board with that. Just how resistant is Vogue to that idea? Unaltered images will tell.
Until we see pre-production images from the shoot, we can't say for sure how much work Vogue put into the job. But we sure would like to know, and given the conspicuous absence of Lena's arm in one shot (above), we're going to venture that her images got more than the basic adjustments for lighting and shadows and errant flyaway hairs.
The final images are gorgeous; there's a 99% chance that the originals are, too. So let's see them. $10,000. Anonymity guaranteed. Email me.
(Lena, we'll also extend this offer to you, if you want to submit them yourself.)