Aug 4, 2007

You Can't Please Them All: Or the Real Story About Cellulite

The good news is that for ordinary women who battle their weight and find it hard to exercise, their glamorous celebrity counterparts are fighting the same battle. The difference is that while celebrities are stalked by the paparazzi and their harsh camera lenses, we, the hoi poloi, are allowed to move about our daily lives relatively unnoticed.

Prominent tabloids are becoming increasing cruel towards even the most fit and celebrated, exposing dimpled thighs and bellies to the harsh glare of daylight. The most prominent culprit is The National Inquirer.

What's illuminating are some of the comments ordinary people have about these photos, which reveal how much we've fallen for this visual clap trap: "Try not to gag," "My eyes, my eyes, I'm so framing this one," and "I now know I can curl up with the National Enquirer and rejoice..." As a culture, we have fallen for the myth about cellulite, believing that a magic pill or exercise can remove these bumps that proclaim our femininity.

Here's another myth: flawless skin. At the beginning of summer, another tabloid , The Star, showcased the best and worst bikini bodies. Celebrity women like Kate Hudson who had borne babies, lost out to single women who had never had a child, like Jessica Biehl and Cameron Diaz. How cruel was it to show Kate in such a revealing light? Her personal comings and goings are none of our business, I don't care how much she earns.

In the old days, starlets like Jill St. John could rely on the studio system to protect them from unflattering images. Had Jill, shown in an early 70's studio shot, been photographed as unmercifully as some of today's stars, you would have observed the same amount of bumps and lumps on her stomach and thighs as in the examples shown on this post.

A third myth, that some women are not affected by pregnancy at all, is also being perpetuated. Heidi Klum, a mother of three was photographed naked for a German magazine, Arena. Strategically placed hair, pillows, and sheets, and creative camera angles, not to mention a generous dose of airbrushing, made Heidi look next to perfect. Yes, she has great genes, but the subliminal message seems to be, if she can look this great after bearing three children, why can't you?

Any woman over 30 who has had a child knows the true situation: Your skin stretches during pregnancy and is never the same again. In the photo below, taken one month after Heidi bore her second child, she looks remarkable. However, one can still see the tell tale marks of pregnancy in her belly button in this soft, back lit photo. Had this picture been taken in the glare of bright sunshine on a Malibu Beach, we would have had an entirely different perspective.

Going back to the photo of Kate Hudson, here's what one website hawking diets and cellulite pills says: "How did Kate Hudson (who by the way put on as many as 60 lbs. during her pregnancy) manage to get her perfect body back after pregnancy?" These sites and magazines can't have it both ways, folks. Either Kate is perfect, which would make young mothers feel guilty for not being the same, or she's not, which would give those same young women a feeling of comfort or superiority.

Except for the very young, cellulite is a fact of life for 80 -90% of healthy women, even for those who exercise and diet. The National Enquirer photos of super fit sports women and celebrities like Maria Sharapova (below) and Nicolette Sheridan, or even long tall fashion models, seem to bear this out.

Even tall, thin, and lanky Karolina Kurkova, a Victoria's Secret model, shows a few bumps and lumps. Oh, and if you wonder why your clothes don't fit as well as a model's, take a close look at those safety pins holding the back of her top together for the photo shoot.

Celebrities can't win for trying. No matter what they do, they'll be accused of being too thin, too fat, too old, and too riddled with cellulite. Should they go back to wearing bathing suits that look like these to protect themselves from intruding lenses? Perish the thought.

Of course, some women just don't seem to be able to view themselves dispassionately. I'm sure grannie below was boffo in her day, but honestly, couldn't granpa have shoved her in the closet and locked her in before she walked out the door? Placing this photo in this post was a little unfair. (Ok, a lot.) But it illustrates how optimistic we are when we view ourselves in the mirror. I bet granny doffed this getup at home in soft candlelight and saw herself as she was a century ago.

In a less exaggerated way, we all do the same thing, seeing ourselves lighter, younger, and more fit when viewing ourselves in the mirror in the privacy of our homes. But the dispassionate camera lens is seldom forgiving, and that is the rub of these candid paparazzi photos: They are seldom flattering.

The Skinny Website supposedly takes a lighthearted look at celebrity fitness and weight. I hate to tell the blog owner, but it's not. In fact, this site is perpetuating the misconception that the perfect female body is a cellulite free body. Those lumps and bumps that many of those commentators find unsightly are normal for most women, and let me place the emphasis on NORMAL.

So here's the moral to this little story: Remember, dahlings, backlighting is always your friend, as is the golden light just before dusk. And stay away from the paparazzi.

Click below for my other rants on similar topics about beauty and self image.

Lollipop Heads: Or Thoughts from An Amateur Observer

The Skinny on Things

Beauty is as Beauty Does


Doralong said...

Ah, but if the culture makes us feel inadequate someone somewhere sells more useless products, yes? The one and only bad thing about having a daughter is having to re-visit the hell of learning to accept your body.

We’ve been rather lucky, to say she has a strong sense of self would be a gross understatement. But even my quirky girl has her self loathing moments, thankfully brief. Being a brainy brunette with normal curves can be a real trial when surrounded by anorexic blond cheerleaders.. She gets her fair share of crap from the lollipop heads.. sad to say. But her usual comeback is “There are a lot of women that would pay big bucks for these boobs” True enough.

I generally try and ignore most of these unflattering comparisons of celebrities and the subliminal messages that the media tries to shove down our throats. But much like you, the one that really pisses me off is the myth they perpetuate in respect to what we’re supposed to look like post-partum. Well let’s see Heidi Klum’s JOB is to look good. Anyone that thinks she magically returned to her pre-pregnancy body is insane. Yes she’s beautiful and blessed with good genes. But an army of trainers and stylists and nannies sure helps! Not to mention good lighting and a talented photo editor.

Much like the Faith Hill controversy- what exactly is wrong with any of these women they air brush so carefully? Nothing that I can see. But the media indeed wants it both ways- they need to show the impossibly perfect and then turn around and magnify the flaws out of proportion. Both extremes simply serve the same purpose in the long run.

I fully admit I can be a vain bitch. But the point of my particular vanity is to look my best- not what some media outlet thinks I ought to look like.

Sorry about the rant, the subject does tend to get me going.

Ms. Place said...

And I thank you for your rant. We women should be outraged. The self-esteem of our daughters and sisters and girls/young women in general are at stake. If we can just keep stemming the tide and telling them that their natural young bodies are healthy and beautiful, and ask them to stop comparing themselves to a false ideal, then our rants will have been worth the trouble.

frogboots said...

thank you.

you're awesome.

Ms. Place said...

Frogboots, you made me blush.

becca said...

When I weighed 112 lbs and played tennis daily I had some cellulite. Those tabloids are crazy.

BigAssBelle said...

ms place, this is a marvelous post. and you've touched on something that has been a continual source of amazement to me until the last year or so, when i became aware of the fact that all of those celebrity/magazine photos are touched up: pregnancy.

my very thin, very tiny little sister had two whopping baby boys and she has a little pooch of stretchy skin right around her belly button. she hates it, hates it, is so self conscious about it, which i hate, because she is such a lovely woman.

so i look at these tiny, very thin celebs and think "how wht hell do you all miss out on that?" and the truth is that they do not, they are retouched, courtesy of photoshop (or whatever).

my sister and, actually, my stepdaughter (same situation) look at those photos and think they are less than, not good enough, shameful, when the fact is that they're mothers and this is what happens when real women bear children.

it infuriates me, really. it's insanity and most folks haven't a clue about what's done to those images to make them so perfect, only that the image in the mirror is not nearly so.

Susan said...

You should be a self-esteem therapist. Thank you!!!

Dana said...

Hey I'm doing a post about cellulite myths and I stumbled across your article. It's great and I totally agree with you, cellulite is not a disease, it's a perfectly normal condition in women and I bet all the fuss about getting rid of those repulsive dimples is about actually selling anti-cellulite potions and trips to the beauty institute; imagine the target of this obsession : 95% of the women persuaded that there is something wrong with them, with each and every one of them. Good job! And I like your motto too.