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Teens Wage War Against Magazine Photoshopping

By Mary Johnson | July 13, 2012 8:13pm
Carina Cruz and Emma Stydahar have appeared on multiple news programs to spread the word about their mission.
Carina Cruz and Emma Stydahar have appeared on multiple news programs to spread the word about their mission.
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MANHATTAN — Just say no — to Photoshop.

That’s the message several teenage girls are sending to some of the nation’s leading magazines for young women, delivering tens of thousands of signatures to the New York City offices of “Seventeen” and “Teen Vogue” in recent weeks from those who object to image altering.

The push began several months ago when 14-year-old Julia Bluhm, who lives in Maine, started an online petition urging “Seventeen” to start publishing one Photoshop-free spread inside its magazine every month.

Bluhm, who is a member of the female empowerment organization SPARK, collected some 85,000 signatures and staged a mock photo shoot outside the “Seventeen” offices.

The magazine’s managing editor subsequently published a “Body Peace Treaty” in the pages of its August issue. In it, the magazine pledges to “never change girls’ body or face shapes,” to “always feature real girls and models who are healthy” and to “celebrate every kind of beauty in our pages.”

Bluhm’s efforts prompted fellow SPARK members Carina Cruz, 16, and Emma Stydahar, 17, to launch a similar petition urging “Teen Vogue” to do the same.

Cruz and Stydahar have since collected more than 20,000 signatures and appeared on multiple news programs to discuss their mission.

“I'm a ‘Teen Vogue’ reader, and I want the magazine to publicly commit to their readers, like 'Seventeen' did, to never alter the body size or face shape of the girls and models in their magazine and feature diverse beauty in their pages,” said Cruz, who launched the campaign on Change.org, in a statement.

“As a girl of color who has struggled with my weight,” she added, “I want ‘Teen Vogue’ to tell girls like me that they think we’re beautiful just as we are.”

On Wednesday, Cruz and Stydahar staged a mock fashion show in Times Square, right in front of the “Teen Vogue” offices inside the Conde Nast building, to draw attention to what they say is a need to have real girls of all shapes, sizes and ethnic backgrounds to be represented in the pages of the magazine.

The event was followed by a brief meeting between the activists and several representatives from the magazine, which left the girls “disappointed,” according to a blog post on the SPARK website.

“The staff made no mention of the campaign or the magazine’s photoshoot process,” the organization wrote in the post. “Instead, they gave Emma and Carina copies of ‘Teen Vogue’ and told them to use it to ‘learn about the magazine,’ as though we didn’t already know about it.”

A representative from “Teen Vogue” released a statement explaining that the magazine is always open to reader feedback and that “'Teen Vogue’ makes a conscious and continuous effort to promote a positive body image.”

“We feature healthy models on the pages of our magazine and shoot dozens of non-models and readers every year and do not retouch them to alter their body size,” she added. “’Teen Vogue’ pledges to continue this practice.”

The news was welcome for the two girls who have waged war on unrealistic body images, but Stydahar said the magazine should go one step further.

“We’re glad Teen Vogue says they don’t Photoshop,” Stydahar said in a statement. “But we want them to say it where it matters, in the pages of their magazine."

Editor's Note: Carina Cruz is the daughter of DNAinfo.com New York editor Wil Cruz.