French Elle puts French stars on cover, sans makeup, sans Photoshop

// 14 April 2009

fecover.gifThe French version of Elle magazine is putting various stars on the cover without makeup or Photoshop for its April issue.

The one I’ve posted here is of the director, actor and novelist Sophie Marceau.

But you can go check out Jezebel for another two!

Although this might be considered a bit of a gimmick, it’s also presumably at least a little bit of a response to criticisms of magazines for promoting literally impossible images of women. So, sure, congratulations Elle on making a tiny move in the right direction (let’s talk again when you do this as a matter of course, though).

But, well, how significant is this really?

The story appeared just after Jezebel posted this about Susan Boyle, a Scottish woman who appeared on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. Watch the video and consider the shocked expressions of the audience and judges when confronted with the fact that it’s actually possible for a woman to have a fantastic voice, and yet not be young, slim and conventionally attractive. I mean, who’d have thought it?!

Comments From You

Samara // Posted 14 April 2009 at 7:01 pm

Yep, I too was completely disgusted by that Britain’s Got Talent video. SUCH a good example not only of this sort of attitude in action, but the fact that people are completely unashamed of expressing it on national TV. I mean, if you’d been surprised by her having a good voice, you’d think the obvious reaction would be to keep your nasty prejudices to yourself, and not make such judgements about people again. Instead, the judges give free and unashamed rein to their views.

And good on Susan for going out and facing that horrid audience with a smile and a great performance. I doubt that many “young, slim and conventionally attractive” people would have the balls to do it.

Jessica Burton // Posted 14 April 2009 at 7:14 pm


These lovely ladies probably didn’t get famous on pure talent alone and as a photographer I know there’s a lot you can do with lighting/diffused flash and getting your model to lie on their back and snuggle into a carpet to make them look better without the need for airbrushing.

When there’s an issue that is unairbrushed from cover to cover, maybe I’ll prick up my ears.

Karen // Posted 14 April 2009 at 11:16 pm

I watched BGT on Saturday and knew before the poor woman went out that they would judge her image first before hearing her sing. How I laughed when the shallow masses jaws collectively dropped as her voice nearly literally blew them away. Don’t normally watch stuff like this because most telly these days is style over substance but I’m really glad I caught this. Susan was fantastic.

Back to Elle meanwhile, I can’t see this being a regular feature in England, too many model’s egos would be damaged (never mind the psychological damage caused to the rest of us by so-called perfection!) but it’s a good gesture by Elle: keep it up!

SnowdropExplodes // Posted 15 April 2009 at 4:58 am

I think far more telling were the openly sceptical looks on the faces of the judges before she began to sing. The judges have to be used to a lot of people thinking they’re a lot better than they really are, so finding someone who can actually sing is always a bit of a shock with those programmes. But by their expressions before the performance began you could tell that they had already formed even lower expectations based on the appearance and age.

My own shock was not that she could sing, but that she sang an operatic aria with such power and precision.

JenniferRuth // Posted 15 April 2009 at 9:51 am

Even without make-up or photoshop significant changes can be made using stylists and lighting. Also, no photoshop does not guarantee that the image has not gone through post-development changes. So, I’d say gimmick – plus they will be straight back to photoshopping the hell out of their models once this is promotion is over.

Sorry if I sound cynical!

I don’t think photoshop is ever going to go away tbh. Personally, I feel that every image in a magazine should have to credit the photoshop artist who worked on it, the same way the make-up artists and the clothes designers are credited. Right there on the page. I think awareness of the unachieveability of these images is what women and girls need to see.

maggie // Posted 15 April 2009 at 1:21 pm

Re Susan ‘I’m in a fighting mood’ Boyle. Well I can only quote again from her as to how I feel.

‘Bloody fantastic!’

Emme Erics // Posted 15 April 2009 at 1:28 pm

I haven’t seen the actual clip from BGT. However, I’d like to point out that horrific as the judges/audience expectations is (that an “ugly” person cannot have a nice voice), they’re not realy based on gender, since it was the same thing with Paul Potts acouple of years ago.

And, part of the shock over him, was that when someone comes out who is so obviously insecure about themself, you don’t expect their voice to have such charisma and power – a confident voice.

Jess McCabe // Posted 15 April 2009 at 6:02 pm

@Emme Erics – I’ve not seen Britain’s Got Talent, well, at all apart from the clip that was on YouTube. So I don’t know if the reaction to Paul Potts was the same or not.

We have a sort of looksism which impacts on both women and men.

But the penalty on women in the public eye, and especially in careers such as music and acting, who do not approximate standards of beauty, youth and size is much higher than on men, broadly speaking: I mean, take a look at the panel of judges on that show, to take one random example.

maggie // Posted 15 April 2009 at 10:47 pm

Susan Doyle is a few years older than Piers Morgan. He’s not married and looks like a horse’s ass. However Susan is reported as being a ‘spinster, matronly and never been kissed’. Now it’s my turn to roll my eyes.

Karen // Posted 16 April 2009 at 1:26 am

I agreee with Maggie about the “matronly” and, worse still, “spinster” comments. Due to the difference in portrayal between the sexes over single status, I hear bachelor and tend to think smart gent with a moustache, in a dressing gown and slippers, with a book in one hand and a whisky in the other, whereas spinster (I hate that word!) makes me think of some gossipy old bag spreading evil rumours around a small village! I know this is wrong! I have a partner but could still technically be classed as a spinster but I aint the traditional male view of an “old bag”. I would like the word spinster (sounds a bit like sinister or gangster, doesn’t it) confined to the past and certainly not used as a description of a talented woman like Susan just because she’s (horror of horrors!) not married.

Jehenna // Posted 16 April 2009 at 5:48 am

I had heard about the Susan Boyle ‘incident’ from my boyfriend and expressed deep cynicism. I’ve read ‘Chart Throb’ (Ben Elton) and I find it hard to believe that the reaction of the judges was genuine. I don’t believe that a person would get to that stage of the process (live studio audience) without the producers and people running the show knowing exactly what they were putting on the stage. The audience’s reaction, I can believe was genuine. But I don’t believe that she was the total surprise they claimed her to be.

But despite that.

It does show the prejudices that we have about talent and beauty. I hope that no matter what else happens, that woman is treated with nothing but the utmost respect for her talent, and that people will overlook the fact that she is not what we consider ‘marketable’

Kez // Posted 16 April 2009 at 11:27 am

I have never seen the programme, but watched the YouTube clip. I agree with Jehenna about the judges’ reactions to Susan Boyle, I thought Simon Cowell looked particularly unconvincing in his “amazed” reaction. The audience’s reaction seemed genuine though, and I hope that young woman in particular, whose amused incredulity when Susan appeared on stage has now been seen by millions, will think twice in future before pre-judging on looks to that extent…. Not that she was the only one, and I can almost feel sorry for her being singled out among an audience many of whom were reacting in much the same way.

Anyway well done to Susan for an incredible performance, all the more so given the attitude of the audience and judges. I wonder if the next time we see her she will have been “made over” into a glamourpuss – I hope not.

Brandi // Posted 21 April 2009 at 4:34 pm

I understand the point that the people of French Elle are trying to make. But it’s kind of unclear when the models on the cover, who are exposed and flawed, aren’t actually flawed at all. They are beautiful and glamorous when normal, average, everyday women won’t be. I need to see some flaws and imperfections for the full affect to be there.

Mary // Posted 25 April 2009 at 2:34 pm

I must disagree with Emme Erics’ comment. I think that Susan Boyle’s case is very different to Paul Potts. Did you see the looks of disgust when she wiggled her hips. The men on the judging panel (who are of a similar age to SB) looked horrified – at the idea of a woman of that age and appearance having a sexuality. I am too angry about all of this to write constructively, so I refer you to Tanya Gold’s great Guardian piece:

And – fyi Snowdropexplodes – Les Mis in a musical, not an opera, and “I dreamed a dream” is a song and not an aria. An aria is a technically demanding melodic song, with orchestral accompaniment in an opera or oratoria. Musical Theatre should never be equated to opera. Sorry to nag, but I’m a musician and it REALLY bugs me when people mistake musical theatre/easy listening with actual classical music.

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