Mags: Teen Vogue's superslim ideal

In her October issue editor's letter, Amy Astley takes aim and fires at L.A.'s glamour girls – namely, those who partake in a little plastic surgery action – with reference to the mag's 'Hot Topic' feature of the month, 'Faking It'...

"The bland sameness of what passes for L.A. glamour is worse than boring – it's hazardous to mental health! Witness the clonelike armies of perma-tanned, hair-extensioned, pillow-lipped, breast-implanted superskinnies that many of us measure our appearance against. Hollywood's version of beautiful and sexy seems to embody one aesthetic – and women of all ages, from Heidi Montag and Ashlee Simpson to Pam Anderson (okay, she invented the look), contort what nature gave them to conform to the prevailing standard. But really, what is sexy about doing unnatural things to your body in pursuit of looking like everyone else?"

But while Teen Vogue clearly disapproves of the tacky-glamour aesthetic popular in L.A., it's only too happy to endorse its own aesthetic ideal – one that's arguably harder to attain and places more strain on the 'mental health' of young women. It's one thing to be "superskinny" with fake boobs (bad) but apparently it's entirely different to be plain "superskinny". And white (unless you are Chanel Iman). And WASP-like. And tall, too, if you please. The generic beauty ideal that Teen Vogue serves up for readers month after month via its fashion, beauty and even 'real girl' editorials certainly eschews the well-endowed (Vogue is no place for boobs – fake or real; suppress your womanhood like a good girl, an androgynous, svelte 13-year-old boy figure is what you want – just look at Anna Wintour, Carine Roitfeld and Astley herself). Here are some of the Vogue-approved girls to feature elsewhere this issue...

Actress Hayley Bennett reminds me a little of Blake Lively (who also gets TV's nod – though it's Gossip Girl's Leighton Meester who features this month) and seems to be enjoying the sun on her alabaster skin. Thin. White. WASP.

And here we have a typical Teen Vogue model. Thin. White. Tall. WASP.

And Agyness Deyn, of course. Thin. White. Tall. WASP.

Even this super-slim 'super fan', who interned with Phillip Lim, fits the Teen Vogue mould (though she could be Jewish – diversity!).

Admittedly, Teen Vogue is ostensibly trying to convey a positive message in 'Faking It', despite its undercurrent of WASPy clones: "There's no doubt that feeling insecure about your looks can be difficult to deal with," writes Jane Shin Park, "but plastic surgery shouldn't be seen as a quick-fix solution... start making improvements from the inside out." And it has gone to the effort of including Zooey Deschanel, Taylor Momsen, Ellen Page, Lily Allen and America Ferrera in a 'Unique Starlets' side-panel (one Hispanic with hips – check!). But the message is still loud and clear: in the great white world of Vogue, it's survival of the slimmest... and boobless.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

8 comments:

jess said...

Erica I completely agree. I discovered Teen Vogue when I was in Year 11, and I paid more attention to the fashion and styling rather than the models. And when I read it today that's still my focus. But your analysis is spot on. I don't know why it's never affected me though. Perhaps because I've always viewed TV as a fantasy teen girl magazine. So pretty to look at, but not really...real.

jess said...

Also Erica did you know that you receive a mention on GoFugYourself.com? =)

Erica Bartle (nee Holburn) said...

Jess, if I could give out awards for commenters, you'd be hard to beat. Thank you for your thoughtful and articulate feedback (always) and for the GFY tip-off (nope, didn't know that, but shall have a little look now). :)

frangipani princess said...

I get so sick of Teen Vogue models. Sometimes I just flick over the fashion pages altogether, or like jess said, just look at the styling and clothes. I want to see diversity in teen vogue! Other magazines have done it, why can't they! Models are the ones in the minority, not everyone else! Why do magazines like Teen Vogue insist on using stick thin models to make us feel bad and in the minority? And teen vogue's 'super fans' are never just random readers. They're always readers who have lots of money, or famous parents, or have done something fabulous like intern at Phillip Lim. Again, show some real girls!

gg xx

Julia said...

I agree with your thoughts on Teen Vogue's hypocrisy (perhaps it's a little strong, the word, but it is what it is) completely!

I've been reading Teen Vogue for a whole year now and though I feel thoroughly discontented after each issue, I still stuck with it because of the pretty fashion eye-candy inside. However, enough was enough when I finally cracked after I was done with the previous issue with V. Hudgens on the cover. The uber-skinny models really made me feel nauseated as I'm a firm believer of "real" bodies being portrayed in the media (Girlfriend did a good job reminding me about Self-Respect).

So this month, I skipped the Zac Efron issue (what were they thinking?! Zac??) just because it just didn't satisfy. It doesn't mean I won't be reading Teen Vogue anymore, because I know I will succumb to prettiness of an issue, especially if there's an admirable cover girl that month, but I'm just trying to say that I may have had enough of Teen Vogue in my life. Not that they're the only magazine that portrays such unhealthy body-image, but a line needs to be drawn. Us readers need to know that thin line that separates the true meaning of beauty and the superficial, unattainable "ideal body" the media so loves.

Phew. Soapbox over! :)

jess said...

Thanks Erica, that's so sweet! It's because of your insightful posts and thoughts about contemporary issues affecting women and society that I feel compelled to comment in the first place.

But back to TV. I know that as a magazine read by impressionable young girls, it should have a responsibility to present more realistic images. However I don't think TV has ever claimed to be "just like us", even though they explore issues like weight, peer pressure etc. I always feel like when I read Amy's editor's letter, or the articles, that in some way it's like, "This is your problem and here's what to do about it", with a small sense of authority. That said, I don't take their articles very seriously (is that harsh?) because they're very short and general and you can read a much better article on the same topic somewhere else.

As for their use of celebrity and designer offspring...I must admit that I like having a glimpse into their privileged lives, fully aware that my wardrobe will never compare to the wardrobe of Vera Wang's daughter. It's all just a fantasy...

rachel said...

I was really interested to see the Faking It story in this month's TV - I've got a similar (more adult, though) story coming up in a forthcoming issue of Cleo. I agree with your analysis - one of the points I make in the article is that, even if we don't subscribe to that particular blonde, tanned, big boobed look, most of us subscribe to one beauty ideal or another. That ideal is an interesting one to analyse, though, because it's so common.

josh said...

agyness deyn is an itgirl...bad example