Should Celeb Bikini Photos Carry a Warning Label?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Scantily clad celebs often grace the covers of fitness magazines, baring their washboard abs, toned thighs and sculpted arms. It's no secret that most of these photos are retouched to add definition, slim away bulk, smooth fine lines, remove cellulite and even out skin tone. Can images like this be good for us? Should readers be warned that what they see and read isn't realistic?

This writer thinks so. In an opinion piece, Martha Brockenbrough of MSN Entertainment suggests that celebrity bikini photos and articles should carry warning labels, much like cigarettes do:


Joking aside, I have to agree. Despite knowing that these images aren't 100% real, we still aspire to be like them and feel bad about ourselves when we see them. The cumulative effect of seeing these images from childhood to adulthood cannot be good for your self-esteem or body image. And what does it teach our sons, brothers, fathers and husbands about a woman's body: that you could look like that if you only tried harder? That having washboard abs after having three kids is doable, even expected? That a woman's body should be one of her highest priorities?

Read the article for yourself and then tell me: Do you think celebrity photos and fitness articles should carry warning labels? If not, do you think that they're realistic and truthful?

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YMWONG22 6/30/2020
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I have pictures of active athletic women for motivation and to remind me to MOVE IT TO LOSE IT-being fit and healthy takes hard work and activity. I stopped buying most magazines a few years ago because I was tired of looking at celebrities and their camera ready perfection. I felt like I needed a dose of reality. If there was a magazine with and for regular people I may consider buying. Report
I have pictures of active athletic women for motivation and to remind me to MOVE IT TO LOSE IT-being fit and healthy takes hard work and activity. I stopped buying most magazines a few years ago because I was tired of looking at celebrities and their camera ready perfection. I felt like I needed a dose of reality. If there was a magazine with and for regular people I may consider buying. Report
Unfortunately, this is what sells. This is the fantasy of having it all and believing that you are not good enough as you already are so that you must buy their products to increase your self-worth. The only way to stop this is to quit purchasing these magazines and products and to start purchasing products that have accurate representations of most people. We are all taught that we are less than perfect if we aren't exactly as others say we should be. Everyone buys into it and no one stands up against it by purchasing things that are against these stereotypes (I'm generalizing, some savvy people do). If you really want to influence magazines like Elle, Vogue, Shape and businesses that sell and perpetuate these myths, stop buying them or the products they advertise until they start using models that represent the general population and realistic proportions. Stop buying the products that promise quick fixes, because nothing that is worth it is easy or quick. Unfortunately we all buy into it and they use our human nature against us. It is up to us to be smarter and to influence with our purchases and thus influence their income. Unfortunately it is the only language that companies, politicians and advertisers understand. If you want this to stop you have to tell them with your money. Stop letting them dictate to us what is important and start dictating to them what is important with your money. You will get their attention soon enough when their revenues start to diminish and their actions will start to reflect real people everywhere. Until this happens you will never change these unrealistic images. People listen when money talks. Report
As amusing as a warning label would be and I would get a serious laugh out of it every time I read the warning, I think people are starting to realize that pics are photo shopped. With the media recently putting advertisers on blast for making size 2 women look like size 0's and recently celeb's have started telling companies to also print the non-photoshopped image as well as telling them to leave there images alone or don't use them we are getting wiser about image all together. Although there are still many hurdles to jump lately I have felt like we are winning the race where health and beauty are concerned. Everyone has flaws and should celebrate and embrace them. The computer can remove them but you still have to carry that image in real life. Time to accept it. Report
I don't think a warning would hold much water- People will always want to see perfection as that is what they aspire to.
What does amuse me is the reaction people give when they see celebrities at their worse. When they no longer workout/have their roots showing/ not perfect in some way. We almost pleasure in it!
Why do we raise them up only to knock them down?! LOL Report
There once was a time when everyone that watched T.V. thought they were seeing people doing real-life things. As more people learn about how these photos are retouched, we will all look back at this as the "Fake Wrestling" stage of photography.

I think the idea about labeling them as "art photos" is great. The truth is that you can't trust what you see in pictures. Even MY OWN pictures, I sometimes alter to take out a spot on my face. C'mon now.

Jocelyn Report
Do as we do, catch a glimpse of the magazine cover, laugh, and DON'T BUY THE MAGAZINE !!! That's the only thing these fools will understand! Report
i for one get tired of seeing these celebrities on the covers, talking about being in the "best shape of my life with the power of laughter, or drinking coconut milk or wahtever else they put in there"...there is actually a magazine, can't remember if it's shape, fitness or some other, but in the back of the magazine, they feature a "regular" person in a swimsuit and tell their story...why can't that person be on the cover, rather than a celebrity? i would much rather read about the regular person, rather than how leann rimes is in the best shape of her life after adding more weight, or eating peanut butter filled pretzels, or messing around with a married man( oh, that part was omitted in the story...much like the airbrushing).... Report
Jada Pinkett Smith was on the cover of Shape last year and, besides the cover photo, she did a regular photo unphotoshopped because she said she felt it was important for women to know that the cover image was not how she looked in real life.
I thought that was awesome. Report
Pictures have been made to look "better than life" long before the invention of cameras. It's good to keep that in mind, and to get rid of the illusion that cameras don't lie, just because artists aren't in danger of getting their heads chopped off. I think the Dove campaign is very valuable, even though they do it to sell soap. Report
I am not so sure that WARNING labels would really help. People live in a dream world, and will look and believe. I remember 50 years ago, doing that very thing that led me into dieting when I was not fat. From there I gained and gained.
Quite frankly, a warning label would not have even been noticed ! Report
I say hell yes! I would rather see real, fit, people on covers who actually worked to get the shape they have. Report
I absolutely think that any edited photo, particularly on a cover seen all over the place, should have a disclaimer stating that its been airbrushed and altered. I remember never thinking my body was good enough, and I know young girls are thinking that more than ever.

P.S. If you have tweens or teens in your life check out
there are great before and after photos and videos of how altered photos and films we see every day are. (It's aimed at girls, but I had my son and brother watch the alteration videos. I think its important that the young men in the world have realistic pictures of women in their heads too!) Report
YES...we should know!! Keeping our focus on being fit and healthy and not even buying those magazines may be the answer. Thank you Sparkpeople for providing so much reading material in a "real life" context :) Report
When my daughters get a little older I plan to teach them this lesson with TV dinners. The picture on the box only vaguely resembles the reality. Report
A year or so ago I saw an article that proposed that all photos in magazines should carry a disclaimer stating that photos had been retouched or photoshopped AND to what extent. For example, they showed photos of girls in popular magazines that had actually been photoshopped to incorporate body parts from three or four different women to make one "perfect" woman. And, at about the same time, Kate Winslet sued GQ magazine for photoshopping pictures of her so that she appeared both much taller and much thinner than she really is. And even though some magazines are trying to feature more full figured models and get away from the "skinny white girl" on every cover, I feel it would still be beneficial to both the readers who buy the magazines AND the people who put the magazines together to have to say "This photo has been retouched to make the model's neck look longer, her waist thinner, her legs longer, her eyes bigger, her jaw line more feminine, her hair fuller .... etc. etc. etc." Maybe if we knew to what extent the images we are looking at are fake we would be more confident in who we are - and maybe the magazine people would start using the photoshop a little less. Report
It isn't about "skinny hating". I believe there are many, many types of beautiful women, from very slim to athletic to curvy. But our media celebrates only ONE of these types of beauty. And yes, pretty much every photograph you see in every magazine has been at the least retouched to make the skin appear perfectly smooth if not "reproportioned" as they so delicately put what I call "photochopping".
The images we see in magazines are NOT real. We are aspiring to a level of perfection that does not exist. Report

You talked about the "anti-skinny culture here" on SP, and said "I'm wondering what gives people the OK to bash thin women. Many thin women have traits that we are trying to learn here (such as only eating when you're hungry), and it doesn't do any of us any good to continue to view them as "other" women who "aren't real.""

If it seems as if there is an anti-thin attitude going on here, it may be in direct response to society's fat-bashing stance for the last 30+ years. Does that make it right? No, but it's understandable.

IMHO, this issue is whether skinny women are that way because they buy into the media hype. Additionally, the point of this website, if I'm not mistaken, is to encourage and support a *healthy* body, which doesn't fit into any particular size/shape category. I have very thin friends who are unhealthy, and overweight friends who are healthy. The problem is, the media doesn't promote heavier people or hold them up as the ideal body type regardless of how healthy they are; it does that with thin people though, whether they are fit or not.

Additionally, I think you will agree when I say that our culture is much more inclined to "bash" overweight people than thin people. In fact, thin people are celebrated in our culture--there are very few fashion magazines devoted to overweight women and men, and there are very few designers that make anything larger than a size 10. In fact, during London Fashion week last week, there was quite a stir created when designer Mark Fast decided to use models who weren't the usual size "0", and incorporated three models who were sizes 12-14. Interestingly, two of the people that worked for Fast QUIT over his decision (talk about fat-bias!). I think that is a perfect example of how the majority of the fashion world and society at large feels about people who aren't thin.

There is an old adage that makes my skin crawl: You can never be too rich or too thin. This is the type of mentality that I am talking about when I broach this subject. I don't fault any woman (or man) who is naturally thin. One of my best friends used to eat tons of junk food and drink copious amounts of weight-gain shakes to put pounds on, but nothing worked. He remains thin to this day. He also has an immense amount of self-loathing and body image issues.

I, on the other hand, am the opposite: I was born with a curvy body, which became a chubby body (after my 1st child), and then an obese body (for a variety of reasons--most of which I have no control over). I also ended up with very poor self-esteem and even went so far as to make fun of my body. I thought, "I'd rather make fun of myself before anyone else does."

The bottom line is that if you are here, you are probably working on getting healthier, which is what's really important. I'm guessing we are all here to get fit and healthy and I don't fault anyone for wanting to accomplish that, no matter what their body shape or size. The problem is that the media is perpetuating unrealistic expectations of what women *should* look like, and there are way too many of us that have spent years unsuccessfully trying to conform to those expectations.

Bravo to you for doing what's in your best interest. May we all live long, healthy and happy lives, no matter what we look like. Report
Aside from a few extreme circumstances, how much retouching do you really think they do? Kelly Ripa (the celeb portrayed in the photo here) is a very small, toned woman. Even if they did airbrush out some cellulite and bulk, i'm sure that's pretty much what her body looks like in real life. I'm also sure that she works exteremly hard to stay that way.
One thing that bothers me after reading the comments on this page, and on the entry about Olympic athletes and "fit v. thin" is the anti-skinny culture here on SP. I'm wondering what gives people the OK to bash thin women. Many thin women have traits that we are trying to learn here (such as only eating when you're hungry), and it doesn't do any of us any good to continue to view them as "other" women who "aren't real." Report
Yes, I would like to see, on the page before the page listing the staff, a "warning". I want it to say that the representations of models may be altered. It may even be helpful to require a "before" shot, so that we don't actually think the models look like they're airbrushed to look.

I don't know how the images of "perfect" models affect mens' ideas of what we women should look like. I know my husband admires the thinner women on magazine covers (I'm an 8 and they're probably all a 00), and even though I've been assured that I'm beautiful, I've always felt "fat" and like an ugly duckling compared to the swans on magazine covers.

Clearly, even though I know that they're not real, the illusion still affects me. I hope that some day I'll be confident enough that it won't anymore. Report
It's been common knowledge for years that photos in magazines (fashion and health) are retouched. While I think it's a great idea that these images come with a 'disclaimer', I doubt that many people will care. Beauty has become much more important than substance, and the hope that we too can look like the women whom are featured in the hundreds of magazines on the market today will far outweigh the reality that most of us NEVER WILL.

In 2002, Jamie Leigh Curtis posed for a picture in a magazine that was completely un-retouched (see this link for the picture:
--and read this article about her decision:

Since then, she has decided to stop dyeing her hair, stop wearing high heels, and rid herself of her large collection of jewelry.

She and I are on the same beam. I am so happy that I don't feel the need to compete with younger women by hiding my well-earned grey hair. I refuse to make my feet suffer by stuffing them into a pair of pumps that research shows completely disrupts the natural stance of the human body and creates a variety of foot, knee and hip problems later, in the name of fashion. I don't need to impress anyone with how many jewels and baubles I have collected.

I have nothing to prove to anyone, and I don't swallow the media idea of the perfect female consumer. I have the good fortune of gaining a sense of self and security as I age. And, one can't underestimate the power of good old common sense...

Thanks to Jamie Lee for being a role model to those of us who are willing to let go of the unrealistic demands forced on us by society and drop the veil. Report
I think there should be labels saying whether or not the image has been touched up or not. As for myself, I was overweight and had a flabby stomach, big thighs. Now that I have lost weight, and become more healthy, I have good looking abs, and thinner thighs. I am now a size 8 and I don't want to be smaller. The point is, if you become actively healthy you will look better than you did before you started. Everyone is unique!

Take a look at this site! It shows before and after pictures of photoshop.
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I'd rather just look like me, frankly.

Of course, I feel like celebrity air brushing is so widespread and accepted that the warning wouldn't help... how long has it been out in the open that these women are not real? If a reader doesn't realize that by now, I doubt they'd realize it even if the magazine screamed it in their face. Report
I read an eye-opening article about this same topic just yesterday. Google photoshopped magazine photos. I guarantee you'll be shocked, even if you were already a skeptic, like me. There is one particular photo from a Redbook shoot with Faith Hill that blew my mind. She's a gorgeous, thin woman who has aged very well...yet they still felt they needed to make 11 changes to her photo. Pathetic and sad. Report
YES - if they have been altered by photoshop in ANY way, regardless of how minor it may seem, there should be something to that effect. It gives people a very unreal expectation - especially the young women who see them looking like that and don't even know enough about themselves yet to understand that being a size 0 does not = beautiful. Report
My girlfriend weights 96 pounds and had 3 kids, I have no children and I need to loose 100 pounds.. .There is a lot of factors, genes, metabolism, eating disorders, etc.. and now we have to worry about photoshop, and magazine covers.. geez..
I think Healthy is the answer. ...Weight only do not determine if you are healthy.
If you have good blood pressure, good cholesterol numbers, good blood sugar and are un general good health; what more can you ask for..

I don't know that warning labels are necessary, but I do think that women who don't wear a size 0 should have representation in the media as well. When it comes to kids though, I do think that disclaimers or warning labels should be used in various types of media because children need to know the truth so they don't grow up with unrealistic expectations of themselves or others. Report
I once wrote a really angry letter to Glamour for putting a blurb about a beautiful, "plus sized" model on their cover but not actually putting her picture on the cover. Some random cover model with the curvy girl getting shoved in the middle of the mag. I went on and on about how they write articles trying to make women feel better about themselves, yet they keep putting unrealistic images on the cover and throughout the rest of the magazine.

They thanked me and told me they'd pass my letter on to the editor :o/ Report
I wonder why we women continue to give mplied consent to publishers/editors by continuing to buy products that harm women...... Report
In days gone by, women did not want to look like Hollywood stars.

Talk to older ladies and they'll tell you that while they used to day dream about being a star, celebrities were always considered WELL above them. Something to look up to, but never to become.

These days, we all think we can look like celebrities. It's madness!

This is not going to change until we as a society stop the stupidity of wanting to be a celebrity and just focus on being the best we can be, whatever our chosen career may be... Report
Even in history you can look back and see that NORMAL looking women were considered attractive. Check out Roman and Greek statues, they look just like me, and you, and every woman. It actually boosts my self-esteem and image when I see one of those statues because I can look at my body and say "Wow, that's me!" Report
I often think it's sad that we are led to believe that normal women shouldn't look like normal women. When, in history, did it become a bad thing for a woman who has had several children to look like she has borne children? Why is it considered unsexy? It seems a contradiction to me. Report
When is a photo alleged to represent reality, and when is it a portrait, painted by an artist?

When it's alleged to be reality, it should not be re-touched. When re-touched, labels on advertising photos should say they're art with photos, not photographic records. The exact wording requires consideration, but this is a serious problem. As long as women's bodies are treated as commodities by businesses, women will continue to be treated as commodities by societies. It's one of those -- and I make this reference advisedly -- chicken and egg questions. Women suffer more now, but men, too, can be hurt by this. Report
Shape Magazine will maintain they do NOT photshop their photos to change body shapes. They "clean up stretch marks and marks only". There was a big controversey over Jenny ? in last month's magazine. Report
Yes, a warning would be a good idea. However, I do need to play devil's advocate a little bit here. My mom (of three by-the-by) has an awesome stomach. She was raised on a farm and has done physical labor most of her life. I think that if one has strong abs before, during, and after giving birth the odds might be in their favor. Of course genetics played a part as well, I am sure. Report
I work on a routine basis with Photoshop and other photo altering software so I am usually able to spot a photo which has been doctored. Most of them have. Also, be wary of 'before' and 'after' shots even if they're not celebrities. Take a second look, and look closely. Some aren't even the same people; in others, it's purely a matter of stance and attitude. The 'before' photo shows the person slumped, not smiling, and generally in a poor posture and poor attitude. The 'after' shows the person smiling, standing straight, and wearing clothing that fits properly.

I just don't let them influence what I think about my body. In fact, I don't even follow celebrities who are the focus of the physical. I prefer ones who do great things like James Arness and his support of the Cerebral Palsy Foundation. Report
I would love to see a warning label, but that will never happen. It does bother me that looking like a skeleton is the thing that young girls and women aspire to. I personally think that most of these women are sick looking and i would never aspire to look like that. However that is my dream and the reality is that entertainment places more importance on being a size 0 or less than it does on a healthy looking body. Dont get me wrong there are some actors/actress that do have a body that i would aspire to have as they appear healthy and have curves ( realy women have these, we are not planks), I just wish more emphasis would be placed on that body type that what is out there now. Report
You have to consider those people have the money to spend on personal trainners and gym memberships personal chefts and ever thing else. The one thing they have is the body shape. I will never look like any of them. I have a large frame and I'm ment to carry more weight then them. My sister takes after my father's side of the family, thin and short. I on the other hand take after my mother's side of the family, heavier and tall. It needs to be disscused, not everyone is blessed with the "thin" gene. Shows like America's Top model who say a plus size model is a size 10 does not help either. Report
While i have to admit some times i see those photos and think now why cant i look like that but then i think about it like you said. they have chefs, trainers, liposuction and of course photoshop, and i dont so as normal people we have to accept that. as for the warning concept as a photographer and designer that would be annoying. no, the photos are not "untouched" but neither is most landscape portraits you see or any photo really. everything is touched up to meet societies standards of beauty. its a shame as a society we have such a high priority on looks and can except anything natural but thats where we need to change how we think. Report
I think it would be great to see the true person without touchups. The images that do appear now are a bit damaging to a girls' self esteem if they are self conscious about their bodies. As a 26 year old I use the pictures to motivate me but then again, I am aspiring to look like something that doesn't truly exist??!! Report
I think it would be great if there would be magazines that would refuse to do retouching and just so the celebrities as they truly are. Also, I am more motivated by the success stories by "real" people inside the magazines that have lost weight than I am with celebrities on the top cover. Report
It would be great if photos that have been retouched carried the banner, "photo has been retouched". Or better still, publish morepictures of models, actresses and celebs that not doctored. The sooner the female population realizes that they are aspiring to something that cannot exist, the better. Report
they should add a warning sign to readers that the photos are not real and it took a lot of airbrushing to make the pictures look perfect. And hello those people work out for hours per day! Even the contestants on biggest loser after shedding all those pounds, they still have all this excess skin hanging around, no way anyone should get those shoulders without having surgery. Report
Nicole I think you hit the nail on the head! I agree, these fake images of women let men think that they are real & that THAT is how all women should look. THAT is discouraging. I try not to let how other people see me affect how I see myself, but it’s hard to not have a high expectation when it’s thrown at you from every direction.
SO… yes, I most definitely think these magazines need to come with truth labels. So that we can know, those abs aren’t hers, she didn’t sculpt those calves & her arms are not really that toned. Honesty is always the best policy
What bothers me most about these celebrity covers is that they almost always feature celebrities whose only healthy quality is their body mass index. Who cares if you have a six pack abs if you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day. Let's stop sending the idiotic (and extremely dangerous) message that looking good in a swimsuit is synonymous with good health. Report
I am going through a hard time with my body image. I have wrote a blog about it. I would
love other womens opinions!!
Best thing to do is not to buy these beauty magazines. They only sell because people buy them and the products. I haven't looked at this rags in years. Over the years, I threw them away if I ever found them in my daughter's room. It is struggle enough being female in our Western Culture without advertisers telling us how to look, how to act, and how to solve our problems with their "perfect product." Report
Someone mentioned Shape magazine does not photoshop. Yes, I read editor's note too and I don't know what the magazines consider photoshop but it is very obvious that they do alter the pictures. They alter the skin tone the very least, I watch Kelly Ripa from time to time on tv and sometimes i see her in magazines, pictures taken while she is walking around etc and she doesnt have the same skin she has on the magazine cover. Don't get me wrong, one can have amazing skin but you will still have pores, you know the normal ones that exist on human skin :P, beauty marks, wrinkles.. It bothers me that shape claims the models are natural...

As for European women not being insecure, of course they have insecurities, why would anybody think they don't? Fashion shows/magazines bother European women too. Maybe they are not obsessed like North Americans because on average, Europe doesn't have the same overweight/obesity rates and Europeans, they are better educated on human anatomy, what is a healthy weight, what is not... Especially Mediterreneans, they really know how to eat healthy, all this fruits and olive oil stuff have been known to them for centuries, and they appreciate a womanly figure. They don't look at skinny american teenage starlets and wish to look like them... Report
How come European women don't have the insecurities that we do?
They have the same magazines. Report