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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Yesterday, I stumbled across a photo album (through AOL, I think) that showed regular and retouched photos of celebrities at photo-shoots. And, true to form, the retouched photos were ridiculously changed! Celebrities with gorgeous curves were reduced to formless androgenous-looking bodies, skin tones were altered, hips were cut off, arms were sliced... It seems so bizarre to me that "the media" or whomever is in charge of this charade seems to think that these alterations are improving anything, appearance, opinion, or whatever. I think it would be healthier for everyone involved if magazines represented people as they actually are. Report
I don't think that a warning label would help, by now in life you should know that all covers and photos have been touched up. I do think that some celebrity moms or women do have other stuff done other than exercise and personal chefs. You can't really blame them, if we all had the access to such tools we would all use them. But you don't have to have plastic surgery, personal trainer or a personal chef to succeed in the weight loss battle. Sure it would be a big help but it all boils down to you and what you are capable of. Good old fashioned exercise and eating clean is the key to a healthy body. Report
They'd never use a warning label lol but it's a good idea. Little girls, and even adult women, don't understand that these celebrities are totally unrealistic. Some have spens millions of dollars on surgery and lipsuction, not to mention they just get free crap thrown at them all the time, even with all the money they make. If I had that much money, I'd look like that too. I don't have kids, but I can see the influence this has on young girls and on young men, too. They think that any fat is "gross" and that girls who weigh a little more are "lazy" because they're not stick thin. It's hard to ignore these comments and it's hard to accept yourself when you're bombarded with these images. We need to focus on the empowerment of our younger generation. Lots of young girls die from eating disorders brought on by these surreal standards. Report
I don't see how a warning label would be helpful, but I think that health education, especially in childhood, should be taken a lot more seriously. Parents need to be setting good examples for their kids, and explaining the unrealistic standards of the "beauty industry". And it wouldn't hurt to have some discussions about this sort of thing at school, either, maybe as part of a phys-ed class. Report
Get info, and thanks for sharing the web links. Report
Wow, I went to the link that STARLY1217 posted (comment 157) to take a look at the photos of Jessica Alba. Now, I know that they airbrush for skin and definition but I didn't realize they completely alter a person's body, ie. height, length of limbs, bone structure etc. for a picture, especially when the originally was perfect to begin with (in a real woman's opinion anyway!). Report
when my 4 year old daughter looks at those magazines and then looks at her belly (which is acctually pretty lean) and says that she is fat then i know something needs need to be done. we are corrupting our children into wanting to be something that they are highly unlikly to ever be. i have sturggled with my weight my whole life, i have not weighed under 200 lbs since i was 15, granted i do carry it very well, most people dont think i weigh that much, i know that my 19 month old with struggle with it as well, and i do not want her growing up around this mess and beleiving that if she isnt super model thin then she isnt good enough. Report
Perhaps I am incredibly naive, but 'Shape' denies EVER retouching/photoshopping/airbrushin
g photos for their magazine. I have been a faithful reader of the magazine for a lot of years and see no reason why they would lie about this. Sure celebrities have trainers and chefs but as they make their living with their bodies, it just makes sense for them to be in shape. No one seems to doubt that Jillian of 'Biggest Looser' fame works for her body and doesn't need airbrushing, why should we doubt that many other celebrities are as dedicated to fitness and diet to attain theirs? Sure there are many magazines that use the techniques noted above but I think using Shape as an example was a poor choice. Report
Everyone should check out Dove's Website and their campaign for real beauty. They have a video that shows the whole process of making a magazine picture in about a min. from a girl's face with no make up to the finish product photograph.
It is called Evolution. It is shocking!!!
Also has anyone ever really heard a man in their life say "If only you worked harder you could look like that woman in the magazine." I think most of us feel this pressure but the men in our life never mean for us to! Who else truly knows how hard we work then the men in our lives. If your man is a good one then he knows how hard you try and he appreciates it! He does not have any expectations of you other than for you to be yourself. My husband was shocked to find out that women actually thought they should look like these women in magazines. Heads up for those of you whose men don't talk that much about this. Most men think that the super skinny (just survived the black plague) look that is in right now is not attractive! Most men what their women to have some curves!!! Report
I'll never forget this news clip I saw once about Tyra Banks and this girl who wanted plastic surgery to look like her. The girl had brought in a magazine cover with Tyra on it and showed it to the surgeon and they started a regimen of diet, exercise, and of cours, surgery. Some people went to Tyra about it and she went on and on about how much work was put into those magazine covers. Makeup, hair, dressing and then hours and hours of computer manipulation. Tyra even said she wished she looked like the woman on the cover.

Nice reality check, eh? I think its important that everyone is aware of this. Those pictures are fantasy and there is no healthy way to achieve them! Report
I took a class in college on Eating Disorders, and our professor brought in an entire article that was all about body image and the effects on mainly women. Then, we had to sit down with our groups to go through so many magazines to find good ads. There were none. No media could make any of us feel good about ourselves, and we don't even know it. A year ago, I was teaching a mixed group of undergraduates, and we did this article and they were able to find a few ads and articles that were clearly trying not to be typical media, AKA Dove. But, otherwise, they were all shocked at the messages we're being sent. I haven't bought or really even went through a magazine in a really long time, because even though I know it's fake.. I still beat myself up, like I'm sure a lot of us do. Report
There's an interesting book out called subliminal seduction -- in addition to air brushing flaws out, many adverts (especially for liquor) and images also have sexual words and images airbrushed in. I went looking for them and found them (and also gave myself a headache looking for them, because they are not supposed to be seen, but if you look properly, you can find them. I know that sounds like a myth, but the book did a nice job of showing how to look for them. Rather disturbing, actually. But even pictures lie. Life and advertising is so interesting. Report
Now I'm a big girl and I understand that this is not a real picture. What does upset me is that my 12 year old and girls just like her do NOT understand that. They want to look just like some of these pictures out there. I can't even convince her that this is not what these people really look like. Damaging the next generation already is what their doing. Report
I once saw a program (i forget which) that showed how all this was done - the airbrushing, the style tricks, etc. So I have no illusions about what I'm looking at. Even some models and celebrities will tell you that they don't look like that in real life. What I don't like are when other celebrities say they don't workout or they just do yoga - B.S. Report
This is the photo that made me really incensed by this practice and woke me up to the extent of photo-shopping that occurs:

She looks totally hot on the left! And like a real person! I want to see a real person so maybe through hard work I could actually achieve a body like that. I don't want to have my arm muscles removed in order to do so. I was also really angry when I read the comment that said an editor said it was an "image, not a photo." Advertising is extremely damaging to young girls and adolescents especially. When I have children I know it's going to be a lot of work to show them alternatives to being beautiful than weighing 100lbs without any muscle and a perfect hourglass figure! Report
I don't buy any of these magazines. we all know that the photos aree touched up but looking though some of those images (especially as teenagers) can lower self-esteem. what the heck are we doing as a society when we deliver the message that perfection is what is required?
Definitly should have sometype of disclaimer label! Report
Even though it is common knowledge that these cover photos are touched up, I find it amazing just how much is touched up. It is not about just removing a few crows feet, but many times acutally resculpting the whole person.
Here is a great post about a photo of Faith Hill that Redbook altered to the extreme (roll over the large image to see the before and after):

The most galling part is that the editor-in-chief defended it by saying, "In the end, they're not really photographs. They're images."

Here's a link to the Jamie Lee Curtis photo that others have mentioned:
/ Report
I think the magazine's should have the actress/actor or models on/in magazine but leave the touching up out. This will give the rest of society a break on themselves. A good place to see how the photo shop is done go to
What I wish is that, just once, they'd show the un-retouched photo alongside the 'finished product,' just so we could see what goes on. When you look at supermarket tabloids, where the photos do their level best to make the stars look like overweight behemoths in bikinis, you know you are getting just another illusion. Maybe once a year, every mag. should be required to show their technique--like med. ads have to list their side effects. Report
oh i know its all fake. they rarely show anysize of 14 and you can forget 16 plus. i dont think anyone should feel bad. what i want to know is how much do i have to pay for someone to make me look like that in a picture? oh that would be awesome! i would blow it up and hang it on my entire door! Report
Well on Jay Leno, Debra Messing admitted that on the cover of Shape, they should have included that it took her 2 or 3 years to lose her weight. Report
oh also I wanted to add most of these people on the covers are fitness models, so yes they have to look good and they do spend many hours in the gym and have to really watch their weight but it is a lifestyle they chose for themselves..I give them a Hats off for that kind of Dedication! I think it is up to us in the fitness industry to really educate people about the right and wrong way to workout and really emphasis healthy eating habits and positive self esteems , you are who you are and are loved for whether you are size 0 or a size 24!! And REMEMBER touch ups are done to make the cover look good...That is what sells that magazine! Report
I don't know if anyone has seen the cover of this Month's Muscle & Fitness Hers, now that is a bad airbrush cover...the cover has Samantha Harris on it she is from "Dancing w/ the Stars" It almost looks animated.... Report
I dont think there should warning labels, some women celebs do work very hard to lose weight and get into shape, and besides, if you eat healthy and exercise you too can have a toned, and beautiful body, maybe not look identical to the celebs but you can all have wash board abs if you do the correct abdominal exercises and eat healthy. its all a matter of willpower and determination. I focus on myself, I could care less how skinny some celeb is anyway, I'm realistic with my goals too. Report
It's funny that the image used is that of Kelly Ripa on the cover of Shape. She herself said that she knew without a shadow of a doubt that the photos of her had been retouched. She's an "outie" but the magazine gave her an "innie." Talk about a crazy thing to retouch! Report
Don't really care if photos are touched up. I wouldn't mind one myself. What I do mind is that there really isn't enough "real" out there. I thought the "Dove" ads with the full figured woman and the hair ads were wonderful and sent a really great message to all. Too bad they are gone now. I thought they were great for my teenage daughter to see. I wish the message out there was more about health and education, but I guess what sells is what gets printed. If only we had better things to focus on. Not that all the articles in all the magazines aren't worth reading. I think there are quite a few that do focus on healthly eating and fitness, I just think some of the routines and/or goals are unrealistic. If only we lived in a perfect world. Report
I don' t think a warning label is necessary. What do we with women who really have washboard abs? What if she's 41 and doesn't have a chef and trainer, etc? Everyone isn't out of shape. There may be a star who had a parent teach them to eat properly and exercise and they're simply well toned. Why all this focus on stars anyway? I thought the point of this website was to promote health and fitness. Report
Come on, do you really think a warning label will make people feel better? As long as they are on the covers, people will aspire to be them. Most know the images have been touched up anyways. Report
Or you could just do what I did at my heaviest weights... I used PhotoShop to add jawline definition, slim myself down, etc., etc., etc. LOL! Report
Yes it should. It should read: Warning, images have been touched up to make picture look better than the actual person. Attempt to look like this at your own risk! Report
Ugh, I can't believe I used to subscribe to these magazines. It makes me sick now. They're so unrealistic. I was subscribed to Shape, Self, and Fitness all at once. I know, I'm embarrassed to admit it myself. The ironic part? I started my weight loss journey and my lifestyle change and losing weight AFTER these subscriptions left my house. I was at the hairdressers 2 months ago and they were sitting there and I leafed through... They all say the same things over and over. Now I'm a proud subscriber to Runner's World and read it cover to cover.

YES they should carry a warning label, or they need to STOP being airbrushed. Report
Why does this surprise us - it is nothing new! Throughout history the media, whatever it was at the time, has tried to depict beauty in its ideal. Why? Because we like to look at beauty! I find these magazines very enjoyable and motivating. Don't get me wrong - I am a very imperfect 52 year old. But I appreciate looking at beautiful things in nature - including the human body. Also, these magazines are not all about having perfect bodies. There is a lot of content that encourages health in nutrition and spirituality. We need to see them for what they are. Report
I won't have the magazines in the house. They are totally unrealistic. The majority of womankind don't and can't have that kids of body and they aren't fully healthy that way either.
I don't appreciate having their next to nude bodies thrown up in my face at any time. Many Grocery Stores have taken them from at least 1 check out stand so we and our children don't have them crammed down our throats everytime we are there. Report
I think they only serve to make women feel bad about themselves. Those types of photos give women impossible role models on which to build their self-image. Love yourself, ladies, just as you are! Make healthy food choices and get some exercise. And don't try to live up to unrealistic expectations based on false photos. Report
Wonders why they put those magazines about fitness and body image right next to the candy ((both impulse buys) right at the cash registers?!?!?

Body fit magazines might have more of an impact if they were placed in the vitamin isle. Or to keep from prying young eyes, put in the feminine /contraceptive isle.

The best warning to young children (and some adults) who feel they have to look like magazine models to be "perfect", is to tell them, NO ONE IS PERFECT! Report
I don't know if we need warning labels, but I certainly think we need to work harder to promote media literacy in children. I've used photoshop enough to know its not hard at all to make an average body into a bikini body, but I didn't find that out until high school. I think elementary and middle schools should be teaching children the truth about advertising and media to help counteract some of the negative impact of constantly seeing "perfect" bodies. Report
I think spreading awareness is a good thing to do. Perhaps not a warning, but having discussions on it on places like here and especially schools where perhaps young impressionable kids/teenagers may not be aware of how fake some of these models pictures are? I know with how much we can be bombarded with the ficade of underweight models as the norm I like to be reminded of how fake it is. Report
I don't know if a warning label is the correct warning, but I must say I appreciate this as I'm 65 and not the thin woman I was, but I'm still not bad. Don't make me feel I have to get rid ot 15 pounds and hide myself if I don't. Report
I know that the photos of celebs will always be touched up. Even though they do have the resources to have bodies that we would probably have to quit or reduce our hours at our jobs to achieve. A lot of people have insecurities of some sort when it comes to their bodies (including celebs). And yes I do envy the hard bodies out there. But I do not hold magazines responsible for any esteem issues I may have. I do see real life people that have "perfect" bodies (as well as bodies with curves) at the beach, pool, gym ect.. The fact is we all come in different shapes and sizes and it is unavoidable to never see people that have hard bodies (and I will feel a little envious when I do). We should all talk to our daughters and sons.Help them realize that what they see in everyday life is the norm. (they will see people of all different shapes and sizes)We should help them feel as comforatble in their own skin as possible, help them live healthy life styles, and let them know that pics in magazines do not reflect reality or better worded only reflect one portion of what is out there and that most of the pics in magazines are air brushed or enhanced in some way. I do not feel the magazine should have to label pics they touch up. There are many things in this world from television to hot coffee at Mcdonalds that is really up to us to discuss and teach (as well as accept.) I just know that any esteem issues I may have did not come from pics I saw in a magazine but more from words and actions of people around me. I do believe that if a person has eating disorders or major self esteem issues there is something much bigger going on then a pic in a magazine. Just one more thought ( I promise) ..Magazines are marketing their product( which is the magazine it self) and well the "perfect" touched up Barbie and Ken type pics sell...well I guess that just brought it full circle back to our laps. Report
You know, I think this is a good idea. Of course it doesn't need to be as blunt as the example given, but as someone already stated, a dimple sentence on the back of the cover such as "this photo has been altered" is not a bad idea. I mean, I KNOW the photos has been retouched and yet still can feel crummy at the supermarket when I see the. The power of suggestion is real. If we suggest that this photo is unattainable it may influence a realistic view of ourselves. Report
People will react how they will react, regardless of a warning label........which is silly in my opinion, both the reactions and the warning labels. Besides, about as much attention will be paid to warnings/disclaimers on these pics as those on cigarettes and other items out there. I'm with SASSYSACY.........if you believe all the garbage you see and hear, a warning label isn't going to change anything. Report
I don't subscribe to any fitness magazines. I do see them in the stores and I figure you have to take the images with a grain of salt. I believe not just fitness magazines practice the "art of photo touch-ups". I recall a controversial photo of Sarah Palin because she had NOT been touched up. Even in real image -- I will NEVER look like a celebrity. I am chubby, have scarred skin from puberty, am only 5'3' tall, have enormous breasts, feet and nose... But you know what? I am ME. I am UNIQUE. I am HAPPY. And no one is going to be suddenly surprised by a less than perfect body underneath my clothes, as I suspect some celebrities have experienced. Buying the magazines perpetuates the practice. Stop buying into them! Report
The only magazines I even look at any more are "Woman's World," "Time," "Newsweek," and "Business Week" and NOT on a weekly basis, just every now and then. Many years ago I used to work for a newspaper (not as a reporter/photographer) - I got out when I realized that most of what's put in print is half-truths or downright lies.
So, when I see a celeb or model, I do not compare myself to them because I do not believe them to be the standard that I have to measure up to! I simply need to be healthy and then happy follows right along! Report
For a long time I didn't realize that the photos were retouched and was really depressed by what I saw. Then I saw an article about a guy who retouches fashion photos and is very much in demand by magazines. I was blown away by how he took perfectly beautiful people and "tweaked" the pictures to get rid of anything that looked like a real body. Report
I don't think celeb photos should automatically, but retouched photos should! Just a small note saying something like "this photo has been altered for - purpose" would be good. It's useful info. Report
I go into the magazine knowing that this isn't normal. Sometimes they just look too thin in my opinion. Report
I feel they should use REAL people the way they really are.. Tyra Banks, said this , She is so proud of the Dove soap ads using real women & healthy women too!!.. I feel the same ..THERE isnt any perfect body out there without some kind of help..Love to see more real people the way they really are.. UNTOUCHED.. Thanks. Report
I don't think it makes a difference in knowing whether a picture has been altered or not. People will continue to feel bad about it even though they know about the illusion. :( Report
I sure would like to see Oprah fess up about whether or not her magazine covers are touched up. It annoys me that she toots her horn about how we're all okay then probably does the very same thing all the other stars do. Makes her less credible in my eyes. She looked far too thin for her real size on the November cover. Report
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