Retouched: The True Face of Hollywood (Before & After)

Madonna's skin smoothed and tightened
Madonna's skin smoothed and tightened
Katie Couric made slimmer
Katie Couric made slimmer

The True Meaning of "Picture Perfect"

We've heard it all before- that the images we see on tv, in magazines, and on billboards are altered, airbrushed, retouched -but without visual proof, this important message gets lost in the daily barrage of "picture-perfect" people we see in advertisements, movies, and music videos.

Cindy Crawford once stated that she wished she looked as good as her photos do, but now, such alteration is a given, not only in the fashion industry or advertising business, but in our everyday lives. I remember being excited over software that could remove red-eye in photographs. Today, "to photoshop" is a verb, meaning to retouch one's own photos.

Pushing Beauty Beyond the Bounds of Reality

I know more than a few women who would give years off their lives to look like the model on the site at right, never mind the final version of the photo that will be published, post-retouching. The image we are faced with in the media has been nipped and tucked and shaded and brightened and trimmed and filled out and flattened and rounded and smoothed, down to the last hair on her stomach and the veins in her hands. In the end, we see a reflection of someone not even the model can claim as her own.

The danger is clear: these are the role models we have set up to emulate. This is what we agree that beauty should look like. The problem is, that standard is unattainable, even for those held up as examples.

Retouching is everywhere. Not only models, but actors and actresses, musicians, dancers, and even news anchors like Katie Couric routinely have their photos extensively altered (see Before/After below). The allure of beauty is that it is potentially obtainable. But increasingly, we find, it is not.

Celebrities: Before and After Retouching

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"Evolution," A Video from the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty

Fighting Back

There is resistance... Teri Hatcher pulling out her hair extensions during the Glamour Magazine Women of the Year 2006 Awards... Tyra Banks' "So What?" campaign... the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty (see video "Evolution")... but still no national outcry.

It's up to us, to you and me as individuals, to think more critically when we look at that Victoria's Secret spread, and less critically when we look in the mirror. Gain awareness by reading books like Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth, and support body-positive companies like Dove. In the end, we'll be better people for it. And, in my opinion, that is what makes us truly beautiful.

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Comments 28 comments

gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 3 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

Maddie, This is an eye opening article. My mother told me this 55 years ago of how stars were photoshaped to look beautiful. However, I did not believe her, thinking that stars were naturally photogenic. I, too, had body image issues as a teenager and much younger woman but I know better now. The things the media does to make us "average" women buy into the prevailing beauty pathos evident in Hollywood and on Madison Avenue. Women must learn to accept their true beauty.


howtoguides2learn profile image

howtoguides2learn 3 years ago from Chennai, India

Thanks for this nice hub!


reagu profile image

reagu 4 years ago from Los Angeles

I've always thought that Photoshop is the best plastic surgery.


Cobi 4 years ago

Why are so many people surprised by this? For how many thousands of years have women been using some form of makeup to cover imperfections in cultures all over the world? So now its done with modern technology? The cosmetic industry is a 20 billion dollar per year industry..so...I mean, this nothing new.


thesingernurse profile image

thesingernurse 4 years ago from Rizal, Philippines

When I joined an image model competition, there was nothing much edited in my photos aside from the contrast of colors. That might be the reason why I never complained when my photos were not among the stronger ones during the contest. Hahaha! I also had the privilege to know and work with some photographers who celebrate the goodness of raw beauty in women.

Thank you for sharing this. Through this hub, you promote awareness. People should not live their lives with video tricks or photoshop. :D


Daphne 4 years ago

Sorry but whoever worked on these images do not know how to retouch BLACK WOMEN. Some of these examples have been transformed in an unnatural way whether it's skin color changes or lightening of hair. Not to mention just really fake. It's very hard to find someone that understands multiple races and that's just a shame. I can only think of just a few artists that are great in this area such as Bianca Carosio and possibly another French retoucher. For the women looking at these images and being SOLD....this is not REAL!!! Love yourself!


Support The Self-Esteem Act 4 years ago


Gwen 5 years ago

Wow......how sad, honestly :/ that we as a race can no longer appreciate the natural human form/body. It's funny, so many of the before pictures had me thinking, "Wow, she's beautiful"....then I see the after. There's nothing wrong with those women in the first place.


Captainausume profile image

Captainausume 5 years ago from New Jersey

Photo retouching is what is turning the average photoshop geek rich. It the very thing that takes a human being and turns them into a product, or a tool.


Amanda 5 years ago

It's really sad that are there sensitive young girls with self esteem issues that are magnified signifigantly by the fake perfection that is shoved down our throats via airbrushed ads, magazines, catalogs, tv shows, movies, billboards, ect. Some girls have even gone as far as to risk plastic surgery at an age that is too young & some have either considered or contemplated suicide over depression brought on by the pressure to be the unattainable standard of beauty. Have you seen the before & after plastic surgery photos of Megzan Fox? She is no stranger to having a needle pump fillers in her face & lips periodially & she's in her freakin' 20's!


kitkat 6 years ago

wow its amazing that you dont realiz these things until you see them


mainerfreebird 6 years ago

Can you beleive that I can get down to 115 lbs before the bmi chart says I am underweight, I am 5'6", rediculous what is considered healthy. A very slim guy I know began signs of an eating disorder after we did our bmi at work, he actually made himself sick and had to start eating more. Thanks for posting these pics, I have four daughters and this will be educational for them, I didn't even know they alter that much. Sickening...


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 6 years ago from Hither and Yonder

These changes always amaze me. It is no wonder so many have a warped view of what the female body 'ought' to look like.


Yvonne 7 years ago

Wow !!! After seeing these before and after photos I will stop being so hard on myself. Thank you!!!


spryte profile image

spryte 8 years ago from Arizona, USA

Very enlightening!  It's one thing to live up to a certain standard...and quite another to try to live up to somebody else's fantasy.  I have to say though...I am curious about how I would look photo-shopped.  Wouldn't that be fun just for a giggle...like having your cartoon drawn at the fair or something like that?  Perhaps this SHOULD be done at fairs...and sold as t-shirts.  Before on the front, after on the back...


desert blondie profile image

desert blondie 8 years ago from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen

I've actually used Dove bar soap for more than a decade!!! And have been proud of their 'real women' ads. I remember one time Jenny McCarthy went on Jay Leno with a poster of herself that was out for sale, and she showed everyone how she'd been re-done...thinner thighs, cheek bone hollows, etc. She was angry that the poster company had had the rights to do whatever they wanted to 'sell' her image and she wanted girls -- and boys -- to understand how phony these images are. That was a good moment for women.


Kada:) 8 years ago

Wow so there not as amazing as we thought! This just goes to show what a computer can do to a photo. It really is disgusting how they think a women should look, this stuff needs to be stopped!!!


Mary 8 years ago

i will definitely be showing these to my teenage son and daughter. how can the media give young people an image that they know they are going to inspire to that isn't even remotely real.


dumpstermouse profile image

dumpstermouse 8 years ago from Texas

wow! this is really great and educational. thanks so much for writing this post, and all your others like it! you're an inspiration.


chicgurl profile image

chicgurl 8 years ago

This is AMAZING! Where did you find all of the befores?


mathan1234 profile image

mathan1234 8 years ago from Oklahoma City, OK

I think pictures like these should be seen by everyone.


curtismchale profile image

curtismchale 8 years ago from Chilliwack

there is another neat youtube video showing the progression in making a very heavy lady into a very skiny cover girl. It is an extreme make over.


markion 8 years ago from London

some of the befores actually look better to me!


warren 9 years ago

This is great stuff. I'm keeping a bookmark on this to show people.Warren


Amelie 9 years ago

People are actually idolising something that doesn't exist. Botox, fake tan, color contact lenses, hair extensions, boob jobs, the list goes on. This is ridiculous someone should put an end to this.


Nikita profile image

Nikita 9 years ago from Florida

I have been fighting and crying for having my before married body back. I just find out that I have the body of a teenager just without the touch up.

A Million Thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaank you Maddie


Lor 9 years ago

Oh, Maddie, I'm so glad I got to see those before and afters, coz! Thankyou. kisses


livelonger profile image

livelonger 9 years ago from San Francisco

Eye-opening

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