This is a picture of Marie Southard Ospina.
I would be lying if I said I didn't actually care about how others perceive me. I select the photos I use on my blog or in my work carefully. I don't try to conceal my fatness or pretend not to have a double chin or anything, because I actually do like being plus-size, and I enjoy the wobblier areas of my body and my high-boned yet chubby cheeks. But I do tweak lighting. I do angle my face in the way I know will make it look more glamorous or beautiful or interesting.
Ospina is also interested in the ethics of Photoshop.
She was inspired by two experiments – the first by journalist Esther Honig, who had her face photoshopped in over 25 countries to investigate beauty standards. Shortly after that, a biracial woman, Priscilla Yuki Wilson, carried out a similar experiment.
Ospina wondered: What would this result mean for a plus-size woman? As she wrote: "There are certain repeated phrases thrown around at women of size quite consistently: 'You have such a pretty face; if only you lost some weight.' 'You're pretty for a big girl.'" She added that "in countries like the U.S. or the U.K. being fat is (although quite common) perceived as an inherently negative thing."
So what would happen if a plus-size woman repeated Honig's experiment? Would they all, for example, try to slim her down? She paid 30 "experts" (their abilities varied) around the world an amount they set themselves (up to $30) to go to work on her picture.
And this is what happened...
Ospina told BuzzFeed News:
My experiences with Italy definitely matched up to the edit. There's so much passion in Italy – people are just full of life. You're constantly surrounded my laughter. And I think the photo was definitely intense in a similar way, which I loved. I also felt, when I was there, that a curvaceous woman is definitely perceived as being quite beautiful, so I wasn't surprised that this editor didn't slim me down.
Ospina told BuzzFeed News that the fact that only three countries slimmed her down was "definitely the most fascinating thing":
I think the reality is that most of us grow up with one very specific beauty ideology thrown at us. The "aspirational" image that usually involves being quite slender. It can be easy to forget that beauty is an individual thing; that it means different things to different people.
I was definitely expecting the majority of editors to thin me down, and the fact that they didn't was such a reminder of the very basic principal that what is beautiful to one person is not necessarily beautiful to another. But that's just as it should be!
We asked for her opinions on South America, and she replied:
I'm actually half Colombian, and I think Latinos have this kind of "Curves are great, but fat is not" mentality (this is a generalization, obviously — but it's just based on my experiences). It's hard to achieve that "perfect" balance — to have the big derriere and the thick thighs and the boobs and a small waist, BUT NOT THE FAT. My body never allowed for that. If I was going to have a big butt, I was always going to have a big belly, too. That being said, most of my time in South America has been spent in Colombia, so I cannot speak for other countries, nor would I really want to try!
And for fun: her boyfriend (UK).
We asked her about the UK, and she said:
After having spent almost two years in the UK, I definitely think notions of beauty overlap with the States. Striving to be thin is still the norm. Diet talk still prevails in many a conversation, and in the media. I was lucky in finding groups of people in England who felt passionately about body positivity and size acceptance, though. But I also encountered the same, often mindless fat shaming that most people do without realizing. All the "You have such a pretty face, if only you lost the weight," comments. All the "What could be worse than being fat?" remarks. People very often say these things without realizing that they are making an entire group of people feel badly about themselves. But it's definitely something problematic, that I hope to see change across the globe as time passes.
She told BuzzFeed News:
I definitely just want to say that when I set out to do this, I wasn't intending to debunk or belittle the entire photography industry, or photo editors as a whole. There are Photoshop practices that I find unethical, yes. But I've also had the pleasure of working with amazing photographers and editors who believe in capturing a subject's natural beauty.
I mostly wanted to show that beauty is such an individual thing. And that no matter how often you hear that "thin is the only beautiful" ideology, it's just not the only one out there. I think striving to achieve a sense of self love and self worth are far better aspirational goals than trying to achieve a certain weight. But that's just me.
Alan White is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Alan White at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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