After rumors began last fall that Girls‘ Lena Dunham was getting a Vogue cover, many fans of the actress/writer — who is often praised for putting her “real body” on display in the HBO show — voiced concerns that Vogue would do what Vogue does best: Photoshop the heck out of the photos.
To the relief of many, when the images were unveiled this week, Lena looked very normal (albeit ultra glamorous). As Huffington Post said Wednesday, the photo set is a “refreshing departure from the skinny magazine standard.”
But, as editors for Jezebel suspected, the images didn’t entirely evade Vogue‘s digital airbrushes. On Thursday, Jezebel announced it was offering $10,000 for “pre-Photoshop images from Lena’s Vogue shoot.” Two hours later, the site had what it was looking for…
(If the before and after GIF versions aren’t loading, click on the photo and it should open properly in a separate page.)
As anticipated, the before and after versions of Lena’s Vogue photos do have some significant differences. The most striking contrast seems to be in the image of Lena sitting on the edge of a bathtub. In this shot, her jawline is refined, her neck is thinned, her waist is cinched and her dress is pulled up.
In a handful of the other photos, the alterations are less cosmetic and more technical. For example, the pigeon atop her head was actually layered on with a stock photo.
All in all, Vogue‘s treatment of Lena’s photos seems to be par for the course. After all, the magazine is practically as famous for it’s heavy-handed airbrushing as it is for high-fashion. (Lena’s lucky she didn’t fare as poorly as Vogue amputation victims Doutzen Kroes and Claire Danes.)
Although the photos are creating controversy for Vogue, Jezebel is also earning criticism for its crusade. As one New York Magazine writer said of Vogue, “Their images are creative nonfiction, not journalism… And Jezebel‘s $10,000 challenge doesn’t make the issue Vogue‘s aesthetic; it makes the issue Dunham’s body.”
So far, there’s no direct comment from Lena on the matter… Although she seemed to subtweet about it after the original challenge was issued: “Some s**t is just too ridiculous to engage. Let’s use our energy wisely, 2014.”