Will the Real Kelly Clarkson Please Stand Up?

Laurie and Debbie say:
Cross Blogged on Body Impolitic

Self Magazine isn’t ashamed that they clipped pieces off of Kelly Clarkson’s body for their current cover. They’re proud of it. Lucy Danziger, editor-in-chief at Self, did a whole blog on the Self site about the decision to photoshop Clarkson’s figure.

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Here’s a picture of Clarkson as she’s been looking recently, without photo manipulation. Note how her clothing choices reflect comfort in her body.

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Danziger explains their decision:

Did we alter her appearance? Only to make her look her personal best. Did we publish an act of fiction? No. Not unless you think all photos are that. But in the sense that Kelly is the picture of confidence, and she truly is, then I think this photo is the truest we have ever put out there on the newsstand. I love her spirit and her music and her personality that comes through in our interview in SELF. She is happy in her own skin, and she is confident in her music, her writing, her singing, her performing. That is what we all relate to. Whether she is up or down in pounds is irrelevant (and to set the record straight, she works out and does boot-camp-style training, so she is as fit as anyone else we have featured in SELF). Kelly says she doesn’t care what people think of her weight. So we say: That is the role model for the rest of us.

This is absolutely classic. Clarkson is confident and doesn’t care what people think. We just wanted to make her look her best. So we trimmed off some pounds Clarkson is fine with showing. By doing that, we once again perpetuated a lie about how women really look. This adds to the burden that every woman who looks at this cover carries.

“No matter how much I diet, I never look like the women in the magazines.”
“My boyfriend says I’m too fat. We were in the supermarket the other day, and he was pointing out women on magazine covers whose hips and waist are slimmer than mine.”
“I give up; I’ll just stop eating and maybe then I’ll look like Kelly Clarkson.”

But Danziger isn’t done. She waxes elegant about some casual shots of Clarkson with her sister (but doesn’t reproduce them in her blog). She says:

Frankly, those are my favorite pictures, the ones that are snappy happy. My husband has given me an appreciation for the beauty of a snapshot. But that isn’t a cover. A cover’s job is to sell the magazine, and we do that, every month, thanks to our readers. So thank you.

Your job: Think about your photographs and what you want them to convey. And go ahead and be confident in every shot, in every moment. Because the truest beauty is the kind that comes from within.

By the way, she also tries to claim that photoshopping off that weight is no different than make-up, or hairstyling. Here’s what’s different: if you’re there on the shoot, you would see the make-up and hairstyle as they were finished, but you’d also see Clarkson’s actual body.

We agree with Margaret at Jezebel:

Danziger is is right: Kelly Clarkson is a “great role model for women of all sizes.” When the press goes after celebrities for gaining weight many apologize to the public, like Oprah Winfrey or Kirstie Alley, or frantically exercise and appear on the cover of Us flaunting their slimmed down selves like Jennifer Love Hewitt. So far Clarkson has only declared that she’s OK with her body and backed her statements up by performing in clothing that exposes her figure, rather than hiding under billowy outfits.

So here’s our advice to Susan Danziger and Self:

“A cover’s job is to sell the magazine, which can be done without lying to your readers.”

“Your job: Think about your photographs and what you want them to convey. And go ahead and believe Kelly Clarkson when she says she’s not tweaked about her weight. Because the truest beauty is the kind that you’re not ashamed to show on your magazine cover.”


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37 Responses to Will the Real Kelly Clarkson Please Stand Up?

  1. The magazine cover doesn’t even look remotely like Kelly Clarkson.

    Much more importantly, I NEED that concert outfit for bellydancing in, love the lace top!

  2. amandaw says:

    And this is what popular culture does to a woman who fits the very definition of “conventionally attractive” in every way, except for a slight bit more weight than is normally accepted (though she remains thin).

    What that tells the rest of us — who differ from that ideal, in whatever way, much more severely — is this: “If even she gets this treatment, certainly *I* never count as beautiful.”

    You may come to terms with your body, in time, and trust that you are beautiful, according to your own definition. But you still have that hanging over your head, everywhere you go: the rest of the world doesn’t think you count. The rest of the world will never believe you. You will still always be a failure in everyone else’s eyes. You will still never come close — even if the ideal is broadened slightly, to include women like Kelly — it takes such a radical effort to even get that done — how are we ever going to get there for the other 99.5%?

  3. sassy says:

    I love Kelly Clarkson. I think she is beautiful just the way she is. I admire her. I am glad she is on the cover. It would have been really cool if they would have put her on the cover without any alterations. Kelly would not have minded at all.

  4. wow. does this woman realize how contradictory her words are? gimme a break.

    i adore kelly clarkson–i love a woman who is unapologetically comfortable in her own body, and will flaunt it. she rocks!

  5. Icewyche says:

    I knew there was a reason I quit reading SELF. Good for Kelly Clarkson for being comfortable with her own body and not trying to be a size 2 like so many of the pop Barbie Brigade.

    Those concert pants are fugly, though. Urgh.

  6. Willow says:

    Wait, they Photoshopped her to make her look her “personal best”? How is it her personal best if someone else is making the decision?

  7. Bob says:

    its a fucking magazine cover!

    get over it!

    if the media would stop over blowing this, it wouldn’t be a big deal.

  8. warren says:

    FYI, your picture of how Kelly Clarkson is “looking recently” is from 3 years ago. She’s actually significantly heavier now, but she still wears clothes that show off her figure because, Hollywood and the fashion industry be damned, she still thinks she’s sexy. And she is.

    Celebrity women who gain weight always say they’re comfortable with their curves and all that, but she’s the first one I’ve seen who really seems to mean it. You have to admire a woman who just absolutely does not give a **** what people think of her as long as she’s happy with herself.

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  10. Still_learning says:

    This whole thing is disturbing, but what I actually find most disturbing of all is this part:

    <blockquote cite=
    "…There are pictures where I think I was captured looking my best, and those when I look pretty awkward (midsentence or whatever). I only keep the pix where I look my best.

    The same is true of vacation. I keep the pix that show us all happy and glowing and laughing and playing, not the ones where we are scowling or hungry or tired."

    I’m sure most of us have photos we’re not too happy with, but to throw away all photos you don’t like of yourself – or photos where people are tired or hungry – seems to suggest denial of the fact that life isn’t 100% perfect at all times. That we’re living people who get tired and hungry and don’t look glamorous at every given second, and that’s okay. I’d rather remember vacations however I remember them, including the not-so-great parts, not throw away all reminders that life isn’t a Disney movie.

  11. Lale says:

    @Bob
    If we get over it, it will go on forever and millions of women will continue to feel ugly because they aren’t skinny. We need to talk more about it…

  12. SunlessNick says:

    Wait, they Photoshopped her to make her look her “personal best”? How is it her personal best if someone else is making the decision? – Willow

    And how is it respecting her confidence and comfort in her own skin to do so? And how is it “true?”

  13. SunlessNick says:

    If we get over it, it will go on forever and millions of women will continue to feel ugly because they aren’t skinny. – Lale

    Why do guys like Bob never seem to tell the mainstream how they need to “get over” their obsession with making women look thinner thinner THINNER!

  14. ACG says:

    Wait, they Photoshopped her to make her look her “personal best”? How is it her personal best if someone else is making the decision? – Willow

    That’s what got to me. Danziger talked about making Clarkson look “her personal best.” Well, the emphasis there is on personal, and since Clarkson personally feels that she looks great, her personal best, as shown on the cover, would actually look like her.

    Also, saying that “the cover’s job is to sell magazines” – People apparently won’t buy a magazine with a fatty-fat-fatty on the cover. Happy, confident Clarkson, repulsive lardass that she is, would actually repel potential readers. Got it. Message received.

  15. alohaoe says:

    Seems like they could’ve just published her face. If her body isn’t a sellable image, why feature it? And what a joker the editor is. Is it fiction? Yes. Otherwise I should be able to lie my ass off and call it the truth too. Maybe someone should come up with some damning “truths” about Self editors and see how far they get with passing them off as non-lies.

    I remember watching a documentary about Vogue or Elle or one of those idiotic fashion rags, and the editor said she made a decision to put an undoctored image of Mother Teresa on the cover of the magazine in the month after Mother Teresa passed. That was their lowest selling issue of all time. People just don’t want to buy stuff that doesn’t feature women photoshopped to anorexia perfectionism.

  16. Bitter Scribe says:

    Self is supposed to be a fitness/lifestyles magazine, right? So why are the women on its cover either impossibly slender models, or else Photoshopped specimens like Clarkson? Doesn’t sound like a very positive message.

  17. I agree with the main points in this article. However:

    “No matter how much I diet, I never look like the women in the magazines.”
    “My boyfriend says I’m too fat. We were in the supermarket the other day, and he was pointing out women on magazine covers whose hips and waist are slimmer than mine.”
    “I give up; I’ll just stop eating and maybe then I’ll look like Kelly Clarkson.”

    If thoughts like these are going through your head (male or female), it’s basically left the realm of being the fault of anybody but your own. The goal of the world of advertising and commercialism is to convince you that you are not good enough, and need to spend money (on things like SELF magazine) to improve yourself. This is not going to change or go away in the forseable future — it’s up to mature adults to ignore it; or at least, to determine what level of importance you are allowing that message to influence you.

    And please, don’t tell me that adult women in general (or adult men, for that matter) are so weak and helpless that they’re just overwhelmed by mass media. None of us are puppets of big business unless we allow ourselves to be. Articles like this are good for educating people as to the reality vs. image, but falling into a victim mentality is counterproductive.

  18. Thunderbird says:

    Incredible. Ditto the “contradictory” remark. I wonder if we could distill her comment to “Kelly is satisfied with her body, which is great for her, but the rest of us need to sell magazines to people who think that ‘fat’ people are an eyesore.” Yikes.

  19. jussayin says:

    #17 — To your point – advertising would not work if people were not so “weak and helpless”.

  20. Kate AuH2O says:

    I would love to know what Kelly Clarkson thinks about all this- please update us if she releases a statement on it!

  21. Bitter Scribe says:

    Clarson’s career hasn’t been going so well, from what I understand. My guess is that she’s probably inclined to keep her mouth shut, even if she does object, on the grounds that phonyed-up publicity is better than none.

    If that’s the case, I’d be the last to judge, given how brutally competitive showbiz is.

  22. Be Real says:

    The one good thing to come out of this, is all the outrage it has garnered over photoshopping pics. But then again, these “scandals” seem to happen on an altogether too regular basis.

    I just love Kelly Clarkson, her attitude is so healthy and real. Gotta admire her for not caving in to the intense pressure of fitting into the Hollywood & Pop culture ideals.

    #21 – Kelly’s latest album has sold over 1M albums worldwide, and she just announced a 40-city tour in the US for the fall of this year. Kelly’s career seems to be doing fine despite all the media fabricated controversy around her weight.

  23. radsabat says:

    How about all the time wasted applying make-up and trying to do anything natural in high heels and mini skirts? We’re putting ourselves in bondage every day and for what?

  24. Tori says:

    And please, don’t tell me that adult women in general (or adult men, for that matter) are so weak and helpless that they’re just overwhelmed by mass media.

    I’m neither weak nor helpless, but damn. Overwhelmed by mass media? After 28 years of constant (dozens of stories, sounds, and images daily) exposure to it — yes. I am fucking there.

  25. laprofe63 says:

    The key question for me is, is fat really such an eye sore, or unsightly?

    As far as I know, beauty is a culturally relative concept. There are plenty of men around the world who would find the real Kelly much more tempting and enticing than then “personal best” Kelly.

    But yeah, it’s time to stop being a pawn in someone else’s game. So no, there’s no “getting over it,” Joe, or was it Bob? Women’s bodies and sexualities are used to make (white rich) men richer. And all the while messing with people’s self image to keep them in a constant state of “lack” so they will feel compelled to shop. T

  26. Bitter Scribe says:

    Be Real–Really? I guess I hadn’t been paying attention. The last thing I remember about her is that she canceled a tour because she couldn’t begin to fill the arenas she tried to book. But come to think of it, that was a couple of years ago. Glad to know she’s done well since. I pay next to no attention to American Idol, but I always found her likeable.

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  28. Alex says:

    ‘Total body confidence’ right…….This clip I found sheds light on this issue.

  29. alec says:

    Note how her clothing choices reflect comfort in her body.

    The words… they mean nothing.

  30. Amanda says:

    Let us not forget what the point is of a publication, which would be to relay information to the reader. In order for journalism to be valuable, it must be objective or otherwise be labeled as an opinion. Putting a false image to a story is misinformation. Neither is it an opinion. What should disturb us is that a publication touting beauty and health is lying to it’s readership and doesn’t have the faintest hesitation about it. In fact, they’re proud of it.

  31. Jayme says:

    Since when is her career not doing well? LOL, I guess those recent hit songs fooled me! She’s amazing and I adore her. I have adored her since I helped vote her the very first American Idol. She’s beautiful no matter her dress size. She’s naturally a thick and luscious country girl with curves for days. Whats wrong with that? So am I. I LOVE her because she and I have the same body type and she’s finally someone I can aspire to!

  32. raven says:

    Well look at all the stories advertised on that cover. Obviously the idiots reading that tripe don’t want to see a fatty as a role model.

    Screw it. It’s made me angry enough that I don’t care if I lose the last few pounds. I think I look fine, I’m fit enough to run 5km every day, so f*** everybody else.

  33. kat says:

    So much FAIL in that statement by Danziger that my head is about to explode.

  34. Paradoxcake says:

    Interestingly enough I recently read an article addressing the same point: exposing realistic bodies in popular magazines. The magazine was Glamour and though it wasn’t a cover shot- it was just a 3inchx3inch picture it brought in HUGE amounts of positive feedback from readers pretty much instantly. (here is a link- http://www.pdnpulse.com/2009/08/photo-of-averagesized-woman-astonishes-glamour-readers-.html) I wonder—- if magazines FINALLY learn that women desire a realistic image of themselves and will happily buy magazines that reflect that—– will they be willing to change the images that are found within their pages? I’m going to start writing to all the magazines I subscribe to and ask them to display women more naturally. I’d encourage everyone to do so and ask 5 friends/loved ones to do it too. If we all get together to tell the various magazines we are paying for our actual feelings we could inspire real change.

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  36. La BellaDonna says:

    Did we alter her appearance? Only to make her look her personal best.

    By that logic, which bears no resemblance to our Earth logic, it would be possible to alter her hair LENGTH in the picture, too – as long as the person doing it felt it made Clarkson “look her personal best” – regardless of what Clarkson thought. And they could alter her hair COLOUR, too! And – hey – why not pick a more fashionable colour for her EYES while they’re at it? And make her boobs bigger. And her legs longer. And her waist smaller. And her arms more muscular. And she’s looking a little pale, so why not pick a more vivid skin colour, too?

    Since having a picture of Kelly Clarkson actually looking like Kelly Clarkson wasn’t acceptable, why not just use a picture of Halle Berry, or Lucy Liu, or Sarah Michelle Gellar, call it “a picture of Kelly Clarkson looking her personal best” and have done with it?

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