Surprisingly, the best part of the March/April issue of the Economist’s lifestyle and culture magazine, Intelligent Life, is not a story called “The Rise of the Man Bangle.” No, it’s the lovely cover photo of Cate Blanchett, who shows us how ‘no airbrushing’ should be done.
Blanchett, who has been spending much of her time lately as co-artistic director (with husband Andrew Upton) of the Sydney Theatre Company, is 42. And what we see above is the face of a (very pretty) 42-year-old woman. Compare that to these photos we saw of Demi Moore for Helena Rubinstein cosmetics earlier this week, where 49-year-old Moore is glossed into an image that looks more like daughter Rumer than her. Heck, compare that to some of the ads Blanchett’s done for skincare company SK-II:
I understand that ads for cosmetics or skin care products have different needs than cover photos for Economist-produced culture magazines (though really, SK-II? that woman looks barely legal). So rather than thinking of this as a screed against airbrushing or whatever, let’s just call this giving props to Blanchett and Intelligent Life for depicting a lovely 40-something woman like she is a lovely 40-something woman, and not a college co-ed.
In a statement of purpose about the cover shoot, IL editor Tim de Lisle wrote:
When other magazines photograph actresses, they routinely end up running heavily Photoshopped images, with every last wrinkle expunged. Their skin is rendered so improbably smooth that, with the biggest stars, you wonder why the photographer didn’t just do a shoot with their waxwork.
It’s a supreme example of having it both ways. Publishers want a recognisable person on the cover, with a real career; but they also want an empty vessel—for clothes and jewellery and make-up, which often seem to be supplied by the advertisers with the most muscle.
[...] Cate Blanchett, by contrast, appears on our cover in her working clothes, with the odd line on her face and faint bags under her eyes. She looks like what she is—a woman of 42, spending her days in an office, her evenings on stage and the rest of her time looking after three young children. We can’t be too self-righteous about it, because, like anyone else who puts her on a cover, we are benefiting from her beauty and distinction. But the shot is at least trying to reflect real life. It’s a curious sign of the times that this has become something to shout about.
A curious sign of the times, indeed. I think that part about not being self-righteous, though, is my favorite part. Thanks, Tim!
[Also: I was lying earlier. I couldn't actually read "The Rise of the Man Bangle because it's not online, so who knows?; it could be the best thing ever.]
Photos: 1) Intelligent Life March/April cover; 2) P&G.com