What’s The Big Deal With This No-Photoshop Selfie?

Australian model Robyn Lawley is the latest celeb to proudly post her Photoshop-free pics. ELLE reports that Lawley Instagrammed the photo shown here to promote her swimwear line, and she often posts similar, unretouched photos of herself in bathing suits or lingerie. In doing so, she's amassed over 50,000 Instagram followers and become a sort of spokesperson for the body-acceptance movement. See, Lawley is considered a plus-size model — a sobriquet she embraces, but that boggles the mind when applied to a woman who would, in any world outside modeling, be considered on the slim side of straight-sized.
From Vanessa Hudgens' recent Photoshop-free ads and Aerie's "Real" campaign, to the increasing popularity of #WokeUpLikeThis selfies, the concept of the artifice-free photo is one that resonates with people weary of images smoothed to an inhuman level of perfection. No-makeup selfies and Photoshop-free ads tend to be met with the sort of earnest, "all women are beautiful" response we're used to seeing milked for tears in deodorant ads. But, there are folks of all shapes posting no-makeup, unretouched Instagrams at all hours of the day who aren't nearly as celebrated. Predictably, the most-vaunted practitioners of no-Photoshop pics tend to hew very closely to our culture's existing beauty standards, a wrinkle that can't help but subvert its revolutionary aim. After all, a hot girl with pores and stretch marks is still a hot girl.
Lawley, who is represented by Wilhelmina Models, told ELLE last year, “I think I’m so outspoken because if I had someone to look up to at that age, I would have been able to handle it better.” And, we certainly agree that our cultural definitions of beauty and "acceptable" bodies are in desperate need of redefinition, and that girls deserve role models who look like them. But, the celebratory discourse that pops up around unretouched images of conventionally beautiful women ignores the fact that Lawley and other celebs, even Photoshop-free, still represent an ideal that's unattainable to many (and that's to take nothing away from Lawley's admirable aims). If our beauty standards are (finally, slowly) expanding to embrace the size 10-ish woman, it's progress — but, it's a progress that leaves plenty of women out in the cold.
From a personal standpoint, it's strange to see that a body like yours functions in the public sphere as a "statement." From the looks of things, I'd guess I have a few pounds on Ms. Lawley. This weekend, I wore a bikini at the beach without benefit of Photoshop nips and tucks. I wasn't making a statement, of course. I was just trying to get a tan.
I'm sure I'm not the only person who'll experience that cognitive dissonance when seeing the response to this photo. It can be odd and off-putting to be confronted with a media discourse that implies you're "brave" just for living in your body. It can feel condescending in the same way it is to call a plus-size woman who wears a crop top "fearless." Still, in a celebrity world dominated by ultra-thin models and grown women who seem to consider fitting into their 4-year-old's clothes an accomplishment on par with a Pulitzer, a "normal" or "plus-size" body is political. We commend Lawley for presenting herself as she is, without apology. Here's hoping that other people will be inspired to do the same, regardless of their size — and, more importantly, that their choice to do so will be as validated as it is when made by the conventionally gorgeous models of the world. Maybe images like Lawley's will help wedge open the doors of acceptance for true body diversity. You know, wide enough for someone above a size 10 to slip through. (ELLE)
Click on for our favorite, Photoshop-free pics from Lawley's Instagram.

More from Celebs & Influencers

R29 Original Series