Ok Oprah, what’s the deal with this O Magazine cover photo? I realize this happens every month -- you’re on the cover, looking glamorous, and fashionable and confident and powerful… ya-da ya-da ya-da and … blatantly thinner and more “perfect” than you actually are. I mostly just ignore your covers for this reason, but when I saw the one on this month’s issue, maybe it was the headline “32 Simple, Smart Makeovers” plastered across your obviously retouched photo, I didn’t know whether to laugh, or cry. Because clearly, #1 on the simple, smart makeovers list must be having a talented Photoshop guy.
You aren’t that thin. We all know this.
Now Oprah. I'm totally a fan. Totally admire what you’ve done with your brand and platform. I love how you encourage people to “live their best life”…even though I’m not completely sure what that means, but whatever... I feel like your heart is in the right place. I love how you seem to want to empower women, and how you give so much money to charities. All good.
I also admire how, as a woman who has weight and body issues, you haven’t let any of that hold you back. How you’ve even talked about your weight gains and losses openly. I know it’s had to be hard –it’s gotta suck having your ups and downs on the scale be under such close scrutiny, something people comment on, joke about. It’s crazy how our society is so obsessed with celebrities and with weight, and god forbid you’re a celebrity who packs on the pounds now and then, good Lord, the claws come out. People become…what’s the proper term for it? Oh yeah, smug assholes. So I feel for you. I know you have more money than God, but I know you’re human too, and you hurt, you bleed, just like the rest of us, you just do it from a much nicer house. In much more expensive sweat pants.
But I took one look at the cover photo this month and I thought, really? We're gonna do that?
I don’t want to say “I’m so disappointed in you” because that sounds so judge-y and parental, but honestly, I’m kinda disappointed in you. I think you’re better than this.
Now I’ll admit, the reason it bothered me so much this time is probably because I’m not having such a stellar week with my own weight and body image issues.
My fat jeans are snug and things have gotten a little out of control on the food front and I don’t like how I’ve been eating and what I’ve been eating and how my body has been looking and feeling. And I tell myself I need to do something about it. Before I balloon up 100 lbs. in the next few days. Perhaps a juice fast, or a water fast or go seriously Paleo, give up the damn diet Pepsi… again...something. Or finally break down and get that OA food sponsor, even though the thought of ever telling anyone what I eat on a daily basis pretty much makes me feel like my head will explode from the shame. Because what I’m eating won’t be right. Either too much or too little or too unhealthy or too “trying so hard to be healthy it’s no fun.” I had bariatric surgery 8 years ago, because my doctor felt like if I didn’t I might, basically…well, “die,” is the word she used… and I have kept most of the weight off. But, I still have an eating disorder. I still have a screwed up relationship with food and don’t do such a good job loving my body on a consistent basis.
I still have a disease which has no cure. It’s a physical, emotional and spiritual disease. I know you understand this, Oprah.
Well, part of that disease for me, is wanting a body I don’t have. You know…wanting a “beautiful” one, as defined by what our society considers “beautiful.” Which is always thinner and younger and more carefree than most of us actually are.
This catalog also landed on my doorstop this week. And yes, this is secretly what I have always wanted to look like and never have. Ever. And never will.
But I am not alone in this. I’m sure you’ve heard these
-50% of 9-year-old girls and 80% of 10-year-old girls have dieted.
-75% of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance.
-The 'ideal' woman portrayed by models and screen actresses is 5'10" tall, and weighs 110 lbs. The average American woman is 5'4" and weighs 140 lbs.
-Young girls are more afraid of becoming fat than they are of nuclear war, cancer, or losing their parents.
And believe me, I know that feeling fat and ugly is insanity. This is a way to cut myself off at the knees, a way to kill myself, a way to keep myself from enjoying what I have and who I am. So I’m working on it. And some days are better than others. But some days I think, wow, wouldn’t it be nice to get pictures of women who looked more like me in the mail slot, women who weren’t Photoshopped into improbability, and honestly, Oprah, I think you are a woman who is strong enough to do that.
But, I get it. The need for Photoshop. I work in advertising and I understand how you are selling a brand, selling a dream, and your magazine covers have probably been focus grouped to death and you’ve been told the majority of people want to see you looking like this. And your advertisers want you to keep looking like this because it helps sell makeup and hair products and clothes and also shoes (because even if you can’t fit into the jeans you love, you can still fit in hot shoes).
And Oprah, of course, you have every right to look as beautiful as you want to on your covers. And as thin. Honestly, if I was in your position, I would probably be right there with you. Doing the same thing.
But could we at least be a little more honest about it?
Here’s a suggestion, keep doing the “beauty” covers. But, how about, on the inside cover of each issue, just giving us a breakdown of what it takes to do them? You almost did that on the September issue, anyway. Inside the front cover you included the candid photos, the before-ish, shots.
So maybe you could just add the cost and time breakdown. For makeup and hair. For the brilliant photographer. For the outfit. For the retouching. For the personal trainer and nutritionist and cook I assume help you every day, as well. That way, the rest of us would understand just how incredible this all is. How it’s a fantasy. And at the same time, a sledgehammer to beat ourselves up with.
At the very least, it might help me get it through my head how maybe loving my body might mean treating it with kindness and respect and honesty. And not believing in a standard of beauty that is narrower than a pair of XS Spanx?
And then could you donate that same amount to a charity that builds self-esteem for girls? And re-educates young women and men on what beauty really is...? So possibly fewer of us would grow up always feeling like we need to lose 10 lbs.
Or perhaps instead, if you don’t want to do the whole breakdown thing, you could just start the Oprah brand of cosmetics. Kind of like Toms shoes. For every item of makeup someone buys, an equal amount would go to Oprah’s True Beauty and Self-Esteem Fund... I just made that up, but you could do that. I believe in you.
And that way, we could maybe nurture a generation that loves themselves, a little more than ours has.
What do you think, Oprah? You willing to take this on?
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