Remember that really creepy Lancome foundation ad where Julia Roberts’ face had been airbrushed until she looked ghostly and unlike herself? The UK has banned it (along with a similar ad featuring Christy Turlington wearing a Maybelline foundation). The government over there has this interesting idea that airbrushing the hell out of a photograph intended to show how well a foundation works constitutes a fraud – and that girls and women are suffering enough from the pressure to look a way that no human being ever could with just makeup.
It’s too bad the US doesn’t give a crap about either problem, but you’ve gotta admit that’s the brilliance of capitalism. For proof, we’ve got the strongest economy and a healthy middle class and… oh, right. Never mind.
A clause in Roberts’ contract prevents anyone from seeing the untouched photos for the Lancome ad (some sources presume this is about vanity, but I think there could be business reasons for it and prefer not to judge). Here’s Roberts today side by side with the Lancome image:
Uh-huh. The untouched image strikes me as more attractive because it looks less bizarre. But it also actually makes me wonder what foundation she’s using, because her skin looks great. The second image erases a lot of what makes her Julia Roberts, and while it looks flawless in the same way that anime characters look flawless… well, that states the problem right there.
Lancome insists the airbrushed photo accurately represents what the foundation will do for you, but that’s patently absurd: she’s been made up by a professional, skillfully lit by another professional, and carefully photographed by another professional, but they need to airbrush all that to show us how good it’s really going to look on us? I don’t think so. We’ll be applying the damn stuff ourselves and then appearing in whatever grotesque wrinkle-seeking, melasma-illuminating, redness-enhancing, oil-spotlighting, ashy-looking, sun-damage-emphasizing lighting the world throws at us. (Note: it’s not just this photo – read the comment thread derail on this post as a review of a Lancome product turns into a discussion of the eerie promo picture).
The company behind both Lancome and Maybelline is L’Oreal, but they’re hardly the only company responsible for this sort of thing. In fact, I’ve spend the past couple of decades grappling with two very contradictory messages: that Julia Roberts is gorgeous and I should want to look like her, and that she is aesthetically inadequate for Hollywood. It started with Pretty Woman.
That is Julia Roberts’ head on the body of model Shelley Michelle. Now, it’s been said that the only reason this happened was that the poster was put together well after the film had wrapped and neither actor was available for posing (apparently the male body isn’t Richard Gere, either). Fair enough. Let’s accept that. But that was not the explanation of the day for this next poster, which featured the legs of Donna Scoggins, Roberts’ body double in the film, who is famous for her legs and cast as a leg model in commercials:
Now, here’s a shot of Julia Roberts’ legs now, from last fall when she was promoting her 2010 movie Eat Pray Love:
For real, Media Goons? She was about 42 when this shot was taken, so it’s hard to imagine her legs look better now than they did twenty-one years ago. If those legs aren’t good enough (and for whom? the hetero boys we’re assured will “sleep with anything”?), then fuck dieting, fuck exercise, fuck cosmetics and fuck cosmetic surgery. I hereby call on all women to give up on all this shit and tell our critics: “Why should I? I still wouldn’t be good enough for you anyway.” With this regime in place – let’s call it the “Hathor Prescription” and I’ll go make some videos and launch a line of leisure wear for it – you should become considerably more relaxed about your appearance in approximately thirty days, and completely stop giving a fuck at around ninety days.
L’Oreal spent a lot of years telling me I was “worth it.” I never was sure what that meant. It felt like some kind of lip service to my self-esteem, but when they confront me with a spookily airbrushed photo of one of the most successful actresses of all time, I wonder if there has ever been a woman born that L’Oreal considers “worth it.”
I recently sampled the Lancome foundation myself so I could give you a better idea of what it can really do for you. Here’s a slighty retouched photo – honestly, I hardly did anything to it, just corrected some red eye and stuff – which I may use in the promo for the “Hathor Prescription”:
Yes, those are my real eyelashes.