Photoshop can be used for good (to remove a weird shadow or cover a stain), and it can be used
for evil to alter your body to the point of being utterly unrecognizable. That’s what happened to Lena Dunham on her cover for Tentaciones, a Spanish-language magazine.
As she writes in a powerful personal essay in her newsletter Lenny Letter, the photo caused a knee-jerk reaction: “I felt a need so immediate it was like demanding that a driver pull over so I could go to the bathroom despite being in the middle of a five-lane highway. I wanted to tell people, loudly: ‘That’s not my body!'”
At this point, it’s not clear if Tentaciones is to blame for the Photoshop snafu or if the image came to the magazine that way—but that’s really beside the point. The whole situation was enough for Dunham to take a stand: She will no longer allow her photos to be retouched. We’ve included a snippet from her essay below, but it’s really worth checking out the full post:
Something snapped when I saw that Spanish cover. Maybe it was 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. Maybe it was realizing that was an image I had at some point seen, approved, and most likely loved. Maybe it was the fact that I no longer understand what my own thighs look like. But I knew that I was done.
Not done with getting my picture taken (once an insufferable ham, always an insufferable ham) but done with allowing images that retouch and reconfigure my face and body to be released into the world. The gap between what I believe and what I allow to be done to my image has to close now. If that means no more fashion-magazine covers, so be it. I respect the people who create those magazines and the job they have to do. I thank them for letting me make a few appearances and for making me feel gorgeous along the way. But I bid farewell to an era when my body was fair game.
I’m not the first female actor to express this, to demand a different approach. I’m looking at you, Kate Winslet, Jamie Lee Curtis, Zendaya. Thank you for letting me know that making such a choice or statement was possible. If any magazines want to guarantee they’ll let my stomach roll show and my reddened cheek make an appearance, I am your girl Friday. Anything that will let me be honest with you. But moreover, I want to be honest with me.
This body is the only one I have. I love it for what it’s given me. I hate it for what it’s denied me. And now, without further ado, I want to be able to pick my own thigh out of a lineup.