A Real Girl Fights for Real Beauty
A 14-year-old petitions for more realistic photos of teens in magazines
The images of people we see in magazines aren't always what they seem. Julia Bluhm, 14, realized that last month when she was flipping through her favorite magazines.
"I look at the pictures, and they just don't look like girls I see walking down the street," the eighth-grader from Waterville, Maine, tells The New York Times.
Julia noticed that Seventeen—one of the magazines that girls her age love to read—publishes photos that have been altered using computer software. These computer programs are used to touch up models in photographs. They can remove freckles or blemishes on a model's skin, make her hair appear shinier, or make her body look thinner. This practice is used in many popular magazines—for both adults and teens.
But Julia believes these photos are unrealistic and have a negative effect on how many teen girls feel about themselves. That's why Julia decided to speak up. She started a petition asking Seventeen to feature one unaltered photo spread in each issue. She put the petition on a website that encourages people to start campaigns for issues they care about.
After receiving tens of thousands of signatures, Julia and her mother went to New York City and led a demonstration in front of Seventeen magazine's offices. A handful of teen supporters also attended the protest, which had been organized by two websites. At the demonstration, Julia was invited to meet with Seventeen editor-in-chief Anna Shoket to discuss Julia's concerns.
"We're proud of Julia for being so passionate about an issue," The editors of Seventeen wrote in a statement after the meeting. ". . . We believe that Julia left understanding that Seventeen celebrates girls for being their [true] selves."
Although Seventeen has not agreed to Julia's request, Julia says she still believes her voice were heard, as well as the voices of the more than 70,000 people who signed her petition.
"While I would still change some of the ways Seventeen portrays girls, I'm encouraged that they're willing to listen to me and the [thousands of] people who've signed my petition," Julia said in a statement.