Open Thread: Reality Check

A few words on what exactly we're doing here.
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Publish date:
May 16, 2014
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open thread, reality

One of the hardest things for me to get used to when I took this job was having to use photos of myself in our stories. It's been three months and I still want to have a panic attack every time I write about something that needs to be swatched or shown on my person. It's getting easier? But man, it's still not easy, by any means.

As most of you know, I came from the print magazine world, where we used models to illustrate whatever beauty message we were trying to get across. The models were made up and styled by the best hair and makeup people in the industry. And whatever magic those experts couldn't work, highly skilled (and paid) digital photo retouchers could fix on the back end.

For instance, if it was a story on bronzy makeup, insert image of white, blonde, long-limbed, tan model in some sort of high-concept swimsuit, arms filled with gold bangles, shot on a beach, staring off into the horizon.

If the story was about getting good skin, the model would be, again, white, probably brunette (for some reason clear-skin stories often feature a brunette), with a creamy complexion, zero pores (smoothed out in post-production because even models with amazing skin have visible pores, because human beings have pores), maybe splashing water on her face, looking serene, because hey, no zits!

Curly hair stories? Until recently, it was mainly straight-haired models who'd been given a big, bouncy blowout so the piece kind of read "curls." How to get volume? Any Gisele lookalike will do. Because Brazilian models seem to have the market cornered on hair-volume stories.

Some magazines are getting better at including more women of color in their beauty editorial, which is a good thing. But again, they're still, you know, models.

What we do here on this site is the closest thing to reality that the beauty world has to offer. I have so much respect for our writers because they're putting their faces up here every day for the world to see--and comment on--without hiding behind Photoshop, the aid of hair and makeup professionals, or a universe of products to work with.

They're generous and confident enough to share this realness with you through breakouts, health issues, crap hair days, and the general stress of life. They deliver, no matter what. Some contributors are experts, some are beginners--all belong here.

So, I would ask you to think about that before you leave a judge-y comment on one of their stories; before you reach for your keyboard to call someone out for having "bad technique," "bad skin," "bad hair," or to say that their look is "just terrible" or "boring."

And let me be clear: what I'm talking about isn't criticism. Valid criticism ADDS something to the conversation. Stuff like this does not. It's real easy to barf out some mean-girl vitriol from behind the safety of your computer; it's 3,000 times harder to do what our writers are doing. I promise you.

Now, if you'd rather look at slick, highly produced beauty editorial, I don't blame you. Escaping into that glossy fantasy is great; it can even be inspirational. But don't you wonder why, even after all this time, pretty much every beauty story you read still looks the same? And why women who aren't models (i.e., you, the ones who are buying the products) are still not part of the broader beauty message?

Well, that's why we exist.

When you feel fatigued by all that glossy nonsense, when you don't see yourself in the beauty images you're being bombarded with all the time, when you just want to understand beauty better, know that you can come here to get a dose of reality, in the best way. And if you feel left out or unrepresented, let me know so we can try to fix it. Because you belong here, too. All of you.

Go on. Open thread.