Why the Kerry Washington Photoshopping controversy matters

We know some magazines retouch their gorgeous celebrity cover models, and we know they sometimes go way too far with the retouching. The problem is that when celebrities become altered to the point of being unrecognizable, judgment becomes questionable, and beauty standards become even more narrow.

That’s where Twitter watchdogs come in—ready and able call out magazines for changing the faces of women we know, love and support. The latest — and aptly named scandal blowing up on Twitter— is Kerry Washington’s cover photo for the March issue of InStyle magazine. According to many social media users, Washington’s naturally lovely skin tone appears to have been lightened.

It’s not the first time a magazine has been accused of altering an actress’s skin tone. There was controversy over Gabourey Sidibe’s 2010 Elle cover, Beyonce’s 2012 People Magazine cover (which sparked a petition), and more recently, Lupita Nyong’o’s 2014 Vanity Fair photo. 

In response to the latest backlash regarding Washington, InStyle released a statement—denying the hand of Photoshop, but acknowledging the perceived alteration.

“We have heard from those who have spoken out about our newsstand cover photograph, concerned that Kerry’s skin tone was lightened. While we did not digitally lighten Kerry’s skin tone, our cover lighting has likely contributed to this concern. We understand that this has resulted in disappointment and hurt. We are listening, and the feedback has been valuable. We are committed to ensuring that this experience has a positive influence on the ways in which we present all women going forward.”

Washington herself addressed the issue on Twitter, giving a nod to InStyle’s statement, while still taking into account Twitter’s concerns. “Beautiful statement. Thank u 4 opening this convo. Its an important 1 that needs to be had,” she wrote.

Her point is well taken. While InStyle may have addressed this particular issue, it’s crucial to keep pressing for transparency in media and questioning the way women, particularly women of color, are portrayed in magazines. Each time a magazine is called out for “white-washing” a celebrity, we raise awareness about the distorted perceptions of beauty in the entertainment industry, and if nothing else, keep editors on the lookout for problematic messages they might be sending, even if it’s not at all their intention.

(Images via, via)

Filed Under