If people were to ask me who my spirit animal is, I would say that it’s Amy Schumer in a heartbeat. But long before Trainwreck stumbled boozily into theaters, I found a kindred spirit in writer-actress-director Lena Dunham. In her early twenties she was thrust into the hot seat when she debuted Girls on HBO, and in my opinion, she’s handled the negativity and white-hot criticism aimed at her like a champ. Best of all, none of it has made her a hardened cynic—in fact, it’s only made her more emboldened to be herself and to make her voice louder.
She’s had a few missteps in the past, sure (how she dealt with feedback that Girls was “racist” comes to mind), but she’s always the first person to admit when she’s wrong about something.
That happened recently when she called out Spanish magazine Tentaciones for doing “more than the average photoshop (sic)” on a licensed image of herself.
Oh hello El Pais! I am genuinely honored to be on your cover and so happy you licensed a pic by @ruvenafanador, who always makes me feel gorgeous. BUT this is NOT what my body has ever looked like or will ever look like- the magazine has done more than the average photoshop. So if you’re into what I do, why not be honest with your readers? Much love, Lena. credit to @peguerillo_ for this 📸 of a 📸
The title quickly responded to her post by sending her a copy of the original image, which was not doctored, but merely cropped. Lena rectified her stance right away by posting a public apology to the magazine, saying, “Hey Tentaciones– thank you for sending the uncropped image (note to the confused: not unretouched, uncropped!) and for being so good natured about my request for accuracy.”
Hey Tentaciones- thank you for sending the uncropped image (note to the confused: not unretouched, uncropped!) and for being so good natured about my request for accuracy. I understand that a whole bunch of people approved this photo before it got to you- and why wouldn’t they? I look great. But it’s a weird feeling to see a photo and not know if it’s your own body anymore (and I’m pretty sure that will never be my thigh width but I honestly can’t tell what’s been slimmed and what hasn’t.) I’m not blaming anyone (y’know, except society at large.) I have a long and complicated history with retouching. I wanna live in this wild world and play the game and get my work seen, and I also want to be honest about who I am and what I stand for. Maybe it’s turning 30. Maybe it’s seeing my candidate of choice get bashed as much for having a normal woman’s body as she is for her policies. Maybe it’s getting sick and realizing ALL that matters is that this body work, not that it be milky white and slim. But I want something different now. Thanks for helping me figure that out and sorry to make you the problem, you cool Spanish magazine you. Time to get to the bottom of this in a bigger way. Time to walk the talk. With endless love, Lena PS I’d love the Tentaciones subscription I was offered!
A photo posted by Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) on Mar 1, 2016 at 8:40am PST
She ended her long-winded accompanying caption on a note suggesting that this issue was far from over for her: “Thanks for helping me figure that out and sorry to make you the problem, you cool Spanish magazine you. Time to get to the bottom of this in a bigger way. Time to walk the talk.”
True enough, a few days later she penned a piece for her weekly newsletter Lenny entitled “Retouched by an Angel.” In it, she traced her long and complicated history with Photoshop starting from when she came on in the third grade with a photo of her head “slapped” over Claudia Schiffer’s body—a treasured gift from the layout department after a tour of the Allure offices. With the exception of her recent run-in with Tentaciones, her last major Photoshop issue was when feminist website Jezebel offered a $10,000 bounty for the unretouched photos of her Vogue cover story.
“I was no less than heartbroken,” Lena writes. “All these other actresses and models get to enjoy their subtly perfected fashion spreads without comment. Was I being punished for being different, for having an inherently political body? Was I being called out on the chasm between the goals of my television show and the reality of posing in Vogue in a fancy dress and a support garment?”
And she poses a particularly poignant question: “Would I ever get the chance to just be beautiful, no questions asked?”
Maybe it’s age—Lena will no longer be a “girl” with 30 just around the corner—but it seems over time, she’s only gotten more and more comfortable in her skin. While at 24, she was “grateful” to Photoshop for “the future Google image search a potential paramour would enjoy” today she’s bothered by the “feeling of barely recognizing myself and then being told it was 100 percent me but knowing it probably wasn’t and studying the picture closely for clues.”
Lena is hardly the first woman to reject Photoshop and call out magazines for using it. In her piece, she name-checks and thanks the likes of Kate Winslet, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Zendaya. And while Lena isn’t yet the kind of A-list star who can break Twitter records or star in blockbuster movies (nor do we think that’s what she should aim to be), it’s heartening to know that a generation of young women growing up today have other women like her to look up to and think that she’s completely right.
That at the end of the day, what matters is that you are yourself, without apology or reservations. It may not be a fashion magazine’s idea of pretty, but let’s face it: they’re probably just slow to change, but they’re getting there.
We’re confident that there will come a time when women can just let it all hang—wobbly bits, as Bridget Jones called them, and all—and not be crucified for it. If Leonardo DiCaprio can sport a dadbod in public and still be cast as a leading man, why can’t women do the same?
One day, we’ll all wake up and realize that women’s biggest crime shouldn’t be that she allowed an unflattering photo of herself to be published or that she put on a dress that may have looked better on a taller and thinner Kate Moss.
And when that happens, we can collectively all join Lena in bidding “farewell to an era when” our bodies were “fair game.”[Lenny]
Photo courtesy of Lenny