First up was journalist Esther Honig who asked re-touchers from countries all around the globe to make her beautiful using photoshop in Before & After, which went totally viral. Next, Honig’s friend Priscilla Yuki Wilson applied the same experiment to investigate how the world sees her bi-racial features.
Now Bustle blogger Marie Southard Ospina has used the experiment to look into how plus-size women are perceived – a thorny topic in a world that still, mostly but as Ospina’s experiment discovers not always – pits thin as the beauty ideal.
As Ospina points out, there are lots of common refrains commonly thrown at plus-size women when it comes to how their beauty is perceived.
“As most plus-size women know, there are certain repeated phrases thrown around at women of size quite consistently: “You have such a pretty face; if only you lost some weight.” “You’re pretty for a big girl,” she writes.
Ospina wanted to know how photoshoppers around the world would view her 'plus-size' beauty and so she asked 21 'experts' from different parts of the world and asked them to make her beautiful. She sourced them online and paid them between $5 and $30.
The results are as varied – and occasionally surprising – as you would expect. Some countries made more changes than Ospina expected – Pakistan made her eyes blue for example, and Latvia sliced away quite a lot of weight. All but three of the editors removed the mole on her face, but only three made any drastic changes to Ospina’s bone structure or body shape. Most kept in the bare shoulders, though Bulgaria added a bubblegum pink ball gown.
It's all very interesting, and proves, again, that beauty is subjective and that's impossible to be definitive about it. Which is a good, fine and liberating thing.
As Ospina says of what she learned about beauty, body size and femininity in her experiment,
"The point is, "feminine" doesn’t have a solitary definition. Like "womanhood" or "feminism" or "beautiful," "feminine" remains elusive. They are words that mean different things to different people, and if there’s one thing this experiment has solidified to me, it is that trying to live by one standard of beauty is futile."
For Ospina, understanding this is a step toward accepting – and even loving –the skin that you’re in.
As Ospina told People,
"I love being plus-size. I like that I'm curvy and thick and voluptuous. My body makes me feel feminine, strong and empowered. And my wish is that more plus-size women start seeing the beauty in their wobbly bits as time passes, too."