When Demi Lovato showed up on the October cover of Vanity Fair absolutely naked, with no makeup, no clothes and absolutely no retouching, it got me thinking. But more importantly, it got me undressing. When I read the article in which the singer explains why she wanted to be shot naked, I subconsciously started by taking off a sock, then a sweater, and before the close of the piece, I too was naked. Only instead of on the cover of Vanity Fair, I was alone in my dorm. And instead of feeling shocked at my nudity, as many people were when Lovato’s shoot was published, I felt natural and comfortable. The most shocking aspect of Lovato’s spread is not that she is naked, but that we, her audience, are so shocked. Her natural expression of femininity, confidence and security has now become unnatural, taboo and provocative. Lovato’s naked shoot embodies body consciousness in a nation warped by body dissociation.
So often in our society women work to cover themselves up, whether it is with makeup, surgery, clothing or editing and reediting. Women are perpetually trying to get the “natural” look, when the real natural look is what we fear the most. We hide from our natural form because we have somehow deemed it unnatural. And the worst part about our culture is that beauty is no longer what stands out about a woman, but what blends in. By becoming hyper-aware of what we look like, we find ourselves constantly looking to be someone else. Consider: how many times do you take and retake and retouch photos before sending them out into the digital universe? How many apps do you have to edit your photos? How many of your Instagram posts are #nomakeup and #nofilter? For a lot of women, I would say very few. Amy Schumer, Saturday in her opening monologue for Saturday Night Live, commented that today women look up to those who take the face they are born with as “a light suggestion,” something to alter, something that is not enough as it is. With that said, when Demi stripped for Vanity Fair, she did more than refuse makeup, clothes and retouching — she stood up for an ensemble that has recently gone out of fashion: her birthday suit.
Luckily this counter-culture of anti-Photoshop ads, although still not the norm, is on the rise. Even on Boston University campus, right before entering Kenmore Square, there is a huge advertisement for Aerie Underwear with Emma Roberts as the model. On the ad, the caption says something along the lines of “Emma doesn’t need Photoshop and neither do you.” But, again, this ad’s shock value comes from the model not being retouched. I don’t think that we should eliminate Photoshop all together, because, like makeup, it is fun and does not have to have negative ramifications on women’s body esteem. And while I admire Demi for her nude shoot, I do not condone wearing makeup or making body modifications for the sake of hiding flaws. Makeup is not just for the insecure and down-trodden; it is enjoyable and empowering. I wave my mascara wand like a sword in the face of patriarchy, seeing that judging a woman for the makeup she wears is as anti-feminist as judging a woman for makeup she doesn’t wear. And the same goes for body modifications. I wish that a model appearing unedited was less of a shock. I wish that an unedited photo of a woman in her underwear was enough, without the need to adorn it with phrases like “Emma’s beautiful without editing, and so are you.” I mean, shouldn’t we, as women, know that already?
With that said, I feel there’s an area of self-awareness that this culture has lost. We try to change our bodies and faces so much that we never give ourselves the opportunity to be grateful for the look we already have. And I’m not saying that women can’t have physical insecurities. I’m saying that we never get the chance to determine what we like, and what we do not like because we are raised to think that everything about our faces and our bodies, as they are, are not enough. We are hurtled into changing our skin because we are discouraged from ever looking at it, as it is, as Demi showed it: naked. And so, I take my top of to you Ms. Lovato, and I take my top off for me.