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The Globe and Mail

Teen petitions magazine for pictures of 'real girls'

Stock photo | Thinkstock/Stock photo | Thinkstock

All 14-year-old Julia Bluhm wanted was a handful of fashion spreads completely free of Photoshop in her Seventeen magazine.

Using an online petition drive through, she asked the magazine's editors to "commit to printing one unaltered — real — photo spread per month." That petition has garnered nearly 70,000 signatures, from women and men.

Throughout the bad publicity, Seventeen's editor-in-chief has played coy about the degree to which photos are retouched in the teen magazine, this even as she met with her young critic.

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"I think we do a phenomenal job of celebrating the authenticity of real girls, of celebrating them for all of their real authentic beauty, of skin tones, of ethnicity, of body shape and size," Ann Shoket told The New York Times. "These are young girls. They look great."

Too great, thought Ms. Bluhm, noting that the girls featured had nary a zit, shiny pore or dimple of cellulite on their flesh. Pressed further by the Times about airbrushing, Ms. Shoket demurred, "I don't want to get into the specifics of what we do and don't do."

This week, Ms. Bluhm landed another strong ally among her 68,174 online supporters: DeDe Lahman, a former Seventeen editor who quit the magazine and refreshingly, opened up a bakery.

In a statement issued to The Jane Dough, Ms. Lahman wrote:

"In an ideal world, Julia wouldn't need to request one unaltered photo spread a month, because unaltered photos would already be the norm. However, in the glossy world of magazines, truth and beauty are not always one and the same. I think a reasonable first step for Seventeen to take toward Julia's ultimate goal would be to do a behind-the-scenes piece about how a photo shoot comes together. After all, girls can only run the world if they're privy to its tricks."

Ms. Lahman told Jane Dough writer Amy Tennery that she'd "fought for more realistic images for our readers" while working at Seventeen. She eventually quit to lead speaking tours about "what the magazine did to make our models look perfect and how to decode the misleading advertising."

While a regular, un-retouched spread seems unlikely even for Seventeen (hardly the worst culprit in the industry), the magazine's reticence is proving to be bad PR: "The longer Seventeen refuses to address the Photoshopped images or even take a metaphoric seat at the discussion, the longer their brand will seem publicly indifferent to the well-being of girls," Koa Beck wrote at

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Ms. Bluhm pointed out the altered images are bad for boys too: "It shows them unrealistic images of girls," she told the Times. "Also, a lot of the boys in Seventeen magazine have, like, 12-packs, and that's definitely not very realistic either."

Would you want more un-retouched photos in your fashion magazine?

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