Impossibly Beautiful

Part Wev in an ongoing and going series

Kathy from Birmingham Blues emailed me about another Glamour cover this month (how many issues do those bitchez put out?!—I guess it takes a lot of work to keep American women constantly feeling shitty about themselves): "There’s a new issue out, with a cover story about 'looking great in your 20s, 30s, and 40s' featuring Claire Danes (20s), Queen Latifah (30s), and Mariska Hargitay (40s). Need I mention that they all look the same age? … I'm not sure the picture at the link is big enough to see the detail, but the actual magazine made me want to throw something."

Well, here's said picture, enlarged slightly—and it's big enough for one to discern that, yeah, the whole point seems to be implying that women in their 40s should still look like women in their 20s.

The thing is, Mariska Hargitay doesn't look like she's in her 20s anymore—but that doesn't mean she's not stunningly gorgeous. She is. So why airbrush away all the character in her face? Just to give the ridiculous impression that it's possible for the average woman to look like she's 20 years younger than she actually is. You don't sell $70-an-ounce eye cream by reassuring women that crows' feet are not only natural, but beautiful—the marks of a woman who has smiled and laughed and squinted into the sun on lovely days for many years.

Actual Mariska Hargitay

You'll notice that Mariska's face has also been slimmed for the cover shot. A wider smile, but slimmer face, with a pointy chin that isn't even hers. Those of us who have been watching the determined set of her jaw on Law & Order for many years can spot the computer-enhanced delicacy from a mile away. One of the most interestingly exquisite faces ever to grace the small screen has been robbed of the breadth of its charm in favor of a still, smooth, and emotionless gaze set in a reshaped face with a vague resemblance to Mariska Hargitay.

All of the women, in fact, have been slimmed. Once again, I am bitterly amused by the decision to include a plus-size woman, only to reduce her size. There are few women who I find sexier than Queen Latifah—though she hardly looks like herself here. The just-blossoming lines of a woman in her 30s (all too familiar to this author) have been eradicated, and the roundness of her face has been stolen from her completely.

Actual Queen Latifah

All of us who adore her know she has a double-chin, and it does not deter in the slightest her radiance or our capacity to see it. What I see when I look at her Glamour shot is not Queen Latifah, but some fucked up version of the Queen created by a magazine too ashamed to really honor the plus-size woman they put on their cover.

It's hardly a surprise, however, when the already-thin Claire Danes is made even thinner for her cover shot—except, naturally, for her bust, which was enhanced. A recent shot of her reveals a completely flat chest and a figure far slimmer than it used to be, but a face still with girlish roundness in its cheeks.

Actual Claire Danes

This is not the same face on the cover of Glamour, which is drawn and thinned and pointed, having also been given the digital equivalent of a rhinoplasty to thin out the bridge of the nose. (I'm not sure I would have even recognized the cover shot as Claire Danes.) Even her smile has been stretched thin into a grimacing death mask of a grin that looks nothing like the casual, elegant smile that lights her face in the candid shot.

These are beautiful women—naturally beautiful and aging splendidly. They don't need to be turned into plastic versions of themselves to be lovely. And you know what? They know it.

Queen Latifah in the cover article: "I don't listen to what the world tells me is beautiful."

Mariska in the cover article: "I'm aging like a fine wine and showing young women, look at what you can grow into."

She is. Unfortunately, Glamour isn't.

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