Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In the new French Elle, women as they really are

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

We've been writing a lot about French magazines recently (I posted a couple of weeks ago about French Vogue's unorthodox mommy-model photo shoot), but that's because they're just willing to push the envelope! And where French Vogue was witty if confusing, the April issue of Elle is just brave - it will include photos of eight European actresses (including Sophie Marceau, Charlotte Rampling, and Monica Bellucci) without any makeup and, perhaps more amazingly, without any photoshop or retouching of any kind. This has always been something that Europeans have embraced more readily than Americans, but what's incredible is the idea that we could be presented with these celebrities as they really are, without embellishment or alteration. These women are all intensely beautiful with or without makeup, as we can see from the photos that have been leaked, and the photographer has worked to show off just how lovely they are. This is not how we do it in America - when we see photos of our celebrities without makeup, it's taken by the paparazzi and leaked all over the internet in an ecstasy of schadenfreude, as gossip blogs point out wrinkles and pores and cellulite with glee.

Granted, these are still women who are extraordinarily beautiful, but I think it's really something to see actresses "sans fards," the French name of the issue, which translates literally as "without makeup" but also implies a kind of openness, a lack of inhibition. This is how fashion magazines should treat women - celebrating natural beauty, without making a photoshopped glamazon our ideal. Even the actresses who are celebrated as "curvy" are digitally slimmed. We remove freckles, wrinkles - anything that seems "imperfect" - without considering that the finished product is actually more ugly and unnatural than the flaws themselves. To be honest, it's really refreshing to see photos of an actress which make her look like a person, instead of an airbrushed alien. This is akin to last month's Italian Vogue, which protested the lack of diversity in the fashion industry by publishing an all-black issue - basically, the Europeans are putting us to shame. America, come on - if I can't appeal to your sense of decency, where's your sense of competition?

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