Monthly Archives: October 2011

[Never Say Diet] Magazines Are Going to Photoshop, So At Least They Suck At It

iVillage Never Say Diet Photoshop Fails Virginia Sole-Smith

That’s the kind of generous find-the-silver-lining mood I’m in this week as I contemplate poor armless Kristen Stewart and Barbie-legged Beyonce up there. I mean, the more you know, right?

When images look this fake, you can’t interpret them as a reflection on yourself. Well you can. (Little kids do it with Disney princesses all the time.) But you’re a grown up (I presume), so you’re old enough to know better. Now the trick is how to remember this when you’re looking at the not-so-obviously-altered-but-still-totally-fake images that wallpaper the rest of our media-saturated world…Any ideas?

Warning labels or disclaimers seriously aren’t the worst idea I’ve heard.

Check out the full story over here on Never Say Diet.



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My Morning Beauty Routine… Exposed!

No More Dirty Looks Morning Beauty Routine Exposed Virginia Sole-Smith

Ahem. I’m getting back to the business of beauty today — yes, straight up, old-fashioned, beauty as in beauty products! By visiting over on No More Dirty Looks, where they’ve been doing this fun series grilling people about their beauty routines and posting all of the details. It’s weirdly addictive and fascinating to read how other people cleanse themselves (dry brushing? this is apparently a thing we’re doing now?), so naturally, I assume you’ll be equally fascinated to read such details about moi.

Especially if you’ve been Beauty Schooling for awhile now, and recall when I first took stock of my beauty labor before and during beauty school. (Need a refresher? You can find those posts here, here, here and here.) Consider this the one year post-beauty school look… in some ways I’ve become a ginormous slacker again (makeup!) but some changes (money spent on skincare products!) definitely stuck.

Oh and why yes, that is Audrey Hepburn pictured above because Siobhan asked me who my beauty icon was, and well, that’d be her.

Except of course then I had to get all weird and explain to Siobhan that when I say beauty icon, I don’t mean “person I want to look like,” because hello, restrictive beauty standards and broadening the definition and all that jazz… I more mean, “person I really enjoy looking at and thus, am very happy existed so we can enjoy her beauty.” And poor Siobhan was like, “Right, I just wanted to run a fun old movie star picture, so…”


Note to self: Sometimes, the soap can just stay in the box. Except — ha! — I don’t even use soap, as you’ll learn when you go read about my whole morning routine here.

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Is Childless By Choice On the Rise?

iVillage Virginia Sole-Smith Childless By ChoiceNope, today’s post isn’t about beauty or body image. We’re mixing it up a bit over iVillage, so be prepared to roll with it — and today I’m talking about new data that shows 43 percent of Gen X women (that’s those of you aged 33 to 46 — so technically, not me. I’m an X-3 years, or a Y+ or something) aren’t having kids.

Which is higher than ever before, so at first you’re all, hooray! More lifestyle options for everyone! Being single or married without kids doesn’t make you sad — it often makes you the most interesting (and well-read, well-traveled, well-dressed and well-rested) person at anyone’s dinner party.

Except I’ve been listening to (and participating in) a lot of conversations with childless or new-child-having or child-debating women in this general age bracket and I’m worried that these stats don’t just represent social progress. They also represent how we’re still faced with the same old choice — career vs. kids. Only now, careers are winning because workplaces haven’t adapted to give employees the kind of true flexibility we need to really “have it all.”

So that’s what I’m mulling over on iVillage today, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

PS. For a longer look at what the American workplace would really have to do to make work + family go together like PB&J, read More Magazine’s Attack of the Woman-Dominated Workplace, by my friend Jennifer Braunschweiger, who lays it all out brilliantly.


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[Never Say Diet] Kelly Osbourne Needs A Fat Talk Intervention

iVIllage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith Kelly Osbourne Christina Aguilera

Last year, during Fat Talk Free Week, I had to give a stern talking-to to diet guru and “mental toughness expert” Steve Siebold for the hate-filled press release he sent around saying we protest Fat Talk Free Week and instead, constantly find more ways to tell fat people how fat and lazy they are. Nice guy, that Steve.

This year, it’s Deputy Kelly Osbourne (she of E! Fashion Cops) who seems to have missed the memo and is instead Fat Talking It Up, body snarking on Christina Aguilera. I’m not too worried, because you know Christina. Words can’t keep her down.

But seriously, people? One. Week.

It should be all year, but one week is all we’re shooting for right now. It shouldn’t be this hard.

PS. Happy Love Your Body Day! My goodness, you’re pretty.


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[Never Say Diet] America The Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments

iVillage Never Say Diet America The Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments Virginia Sole-Smith

Quick disclaimer: It’s iVillage (not VA) style to turn headlines into rhetorical questions. Of course you all know that my answer to that question is “a thousand times, yes, good Lord, stop asking me that!”

So the critical tone of my review of America The Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments isn’t about finding fault with its premise. Director Darryl Roberts and I are five by five on all of that. So much so that I was a little hesitant to be critical out here in blogland — I want to unabashedly support such a big, bold step for body positivity in general and not get caught up in semantic debates. I hate when activists waste time arguing with each other that could be better spent working for the common good.

So, common good: Go see this movie! Let’s show the diet industry that we aren’t going to be bought and sold anymore! Define beauty and health on your own terms and don’t let anyone reduce either of those ideas to a number on the scale.

But also: I have some concerns about Roberts’ execution. Namely, the way he treats women with eating disorders as if they are fragile, endangered birds who have been caged and tortured by a ruthless media/beauty/diet industry.

As Autumn over at The Beheld can explain so much better than I, hating your body may be a symptom of an eating disorder but it does not inevitably lead to an eating disorder, and neither do skinny models in magazines or fad diets or any other manifestations of our thin-obsessed culture, which is just one part of a pretty complicated story. Plus, when you portray eating disorder patients as victims — as Roberts does with plenty of slow pans on what they are or aren’t eating and how much their ribs stick out — you take away their power to overcome. And from what I could tell, the women interviewed for this film were fighting damn hard, even if they weren’t on the path to health that Roberts’ would have chosen for them.

But the main reason I objected to the movie’s focus on ED is that it makes the whole thing revolve around extreme weight loss and extreme weight gain as if those are the only stories to tell about our culture’s Thin Commandments. In fact, most of the 75 percent of women with disordered eating habits* fall somewhere along the spectrum between those extremes. And if we think the worst case scenarios are all we have to worry about, we might not pay attention to the more subtle and nuanced ways the Thin Commandments mess with our lives every day. I’d love to see a documentary that delves into that.

For more, check out my full review on Never Say Diet.
PS. You know who totally rocks — in an empowered, not-even-close-to-a-victim way — in ATB2? Our girl Ragen Chastein of Dances With Fat! Seriously, go see it for her dancing and smartness, if for no other reason. Then go read her fantastic post on why obesity is not the problem — stigma is the problem. 


*Okay, this stat is from a survey by Self Magazine, so take it with a grain of salt — but I have to say, from where I’m sitting, it doesn’t sound too high. (And they did partner with researchers at UNC Chapel Hill.)

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[Glossed Over] Pretty is Actually Plenty, Thank You

“Pretty is not enough,” explains this new Bare Escentuals ad campaign. “Pretty is nice. It’s fine. […] But beauty? Beauty can change the whole world.

That’s because pretty — as in just a pretty face — “is what you are,” but beauty is “what you do with it.” Bare Escentuals wants us all to “be a force for beauty” because “when you put pretty into action, there’s NO LIMIT TO WHAT YOU CAN DO.”

Confused? But sorta inspired? Maybe suddenly thinking about buying a new eye shadow?

Then this ad campaign hit its mark. And I am thoroughly annoyed.

This isn’t the first time a cosmetics company has borrowed positive body image rhetoric to sell lip gloss and foundation. Last year, COVERGIRL’s “Stand Up For Beauty!” campaign featured Drew Barrymore, Ellen Degeneres and other celebrities defending beauty as some kind of inalienable right of women, then gave away $50,000 to the winner of their YouTube video contest who talked about how she was beautiful even though she had to wax her mustache.

These ad campaigns sound brave and empowering. They include all the right words and phrases. (Bare Escentuals: “Be bold! Show your beauty!” COVERGIRL: “Stand up for beauty that makes you LAUGH. That makes you THINK.”) But they aren’t actually saying anything — it’s as if the brands’ ad writers Googled “inspiring phrases that women like” or maybe, “words Oprah uses a lot,” and slapped them down on paper.

And these ad campaigns are doing even less. On both company’s websites, the commercial pages, filled with moving stories from “real women” examples of beauty, are swiftly followed by links to find your perfect foundation. There’s no call to action to get you to actually change your personal definition of beauty. Nobody is going into schools to help young girls understand that their self-esteem stems from more than just their appearance. They aren’t pushing for more diverse representations of women in media. They aren’t doing anything — except selling you makeup. To make you more beautiful according to our culture’s relatively narrow definition of that idea.

Even more troubling: If “inner beauty” is now the province of cosmetic companies, it means we can commodify that just like we’ve put a price on physical beauty, says my girl Autumn Whitefield-Madrano over on Sociological Images. She writes: “The customer takeaway is supposed to be that Bare Escentuals, more than other companies, recognizes that beauty comes from within. But the net effect is that we are shown how ‘being oneself’ is now subject to standards of beauty.” Instead of broadening our definition of beauty, we might be narrowing our definition of individuality — by saying that everybody has to be pretty all the time, inside and out. 

When the COVERGIRL campaign launched, plenty of you guys told me I was overthinking it, and we should just be happy that a major cosmetics brand was taking messages of body positivity and inner beauty to heart. It’s better than the alternative, right? But now that Bare Escentuals is pulling the same party trick, I’m more convinced than ever that it’s not. Ad campaigns like these want you to believe we’re making real progress — but most of all, they want you to buy more makeup, and the same old restrictive beauty standards to go with it.



Filed under Glossed Over.

[Never Say Diet] Talking Back to Fat Talk

iVillage Never Say Diet Fat Talk Virginia Sole-Smith

As I explained yesterday, I’m giving a lot of thought to difficult body image conversations this week. And when I saw some new research that found the biggest deciding factor in our body image at any given moment is the opinion of others, it was a bit of a “oh, duh!” moment.

Fat may not be contagious, but fatphobia definitely is.

In this same week, I read Thin is the New Happy, a pretty wonderful body image memoir by my friend Val Frankel, who got down into the lion’s pit with her body demons and lived to tell the tale. Part of her “Non Diet” strategy (which you know I love) involved turning off all the negative Fat Talk once and for all so she really could not diet and not feel guilty about it. So I decided to ask her how she did that when everyone around her was still Fat Talking away, and, as the science shows, those opinions mess with our heads whether we like it or not.

And the result is today’s Never Say Diet post.

PS. I should tell you that Val also has a new memoir out, about trading passive-aggressive in for straight-up aggressive, called It’s Hard Not Hate You, which also rocks. Go read!


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