Recently, my Instagram feed was flooded with pictures of Kareena Kapoor Khan sizzling up the beaches in Phuket, Thailand, for a photo shoot for Vogue India. Bebo, as she is fondly called, wore glamorous dresses, swimwear as well as bikinis, and looked stunning! Although there was praise all around for the pictures, it was quickly followed with an outpouring of body shaming from trolls on Twitter.
Comments about how her apparently saggy tummy and legs had been airbrushed filled timelines. While some sought stretch marks - "Didn't she just give birth?" - there were others who were up in arms saying that stretch marks should be showcased with pride and shouldn't be digitally altered.
Those of us who follow glossies know that since Bebo gave birth to Taimur - her one-year-old son who has already become a social media sensation - she has been papped post her workout sessions daily. So it would be safe to assume that the Jab We Met actress indeed worked hard to achieve her post-baby body. Remember, she was the one who started the size zero trend in Bollywood. At the time, she was trolled for being too thin, which makes one wonder: does the perfect body type exist?
While Bebo has not yet addressed the photoshopping, Vogue India released a video in which the diva can be seen flaunting her body on the beach. The stretch marks are not visible. The buzz is that the video was released to quell the chatter that even the pictures were not morphed.
Digital alteration has become a double-edged sword for celebs. Since they are in the public eye, the editing software serves as a vanity-tool to make them appear perfect with a little painless nip and tuck, but an increasing number of voices have been asking to bring an end to these impossible beauty standards. And one could argue that celebs have signed up for critical examination by the masses, but this cycle of obsessive scrutiny and body shaming has become toxic.
Some celebs want to get digitally altered to tick all the glam boxes. During my stint at one of the lifestyle magazines in the region, when an A-lister's wife was to be featured on the cover of the magazine, she got in touch with "friends" to make sure no wrinkles were visible and that she looked 'thin'.
The phrase "make me look thin" is not only starspeak but has also become part of everyday vocab. I have often heard friends say that taking pictures from certain angles can give the illusion of looking slim. People ask professional retouchers to "make them thin," all to fit into society's unrealistic beauty standards. But does the blame lie with publications trying to showcase the perfect body or on celebs who are complicit in endorsing this culture, by posting edited photos and selfies on Instagram?
In the last year, a number of actresses have spoken out against having their pictures edited. The idea is to embrace the message of body positivity. While most magazines use photo editing tools, it's not okay for them to drastically edit photos without consent. Some amount of blemish removal and a few smoothed bumps are usually acceptable, but in the past, a little bit of retouching has resulted in missing body parts, as well as completely unrecognisable faces.
In October 2017, Solange Knowles (Beyonce's sister) got the #dtmh (don't touch my hair) trending. The London Evening Standard decided to crop her intricate hairstyle. It left the singer furious. A similar incident occurred in November with Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o, who made herself heard loud and clear when she took to Instagram to express her disappointment over her manipulatedimage on the cover of Grazia UK. The publication edited out her hair, which was pulled back into a ponytail, leaving her with a close-shaven head. These incidents were seen as unfair ways of portraying black women in the media.
But when it comes to trolling, the invisible people on the internet have a no-holds-barred approach and can whip up mean comments. When Priyanka Chopra was on the cover of Maxim in 2016, flaunting smooth underarms, Twitter was filled with hate for both the actress and the magazine. But instead of fighting the trolls, PeeCee shared a picture with both her arms raised, and wrote, "Here's another 'pit-stopping' picture to add to the debate. #WillTheRealArmpitPleaseStandUp #nofilter #armpitdiaries," putting an end to the controversy by having the last laugh.
We all come in different shapes and sizes, so to fit into the category of what one is 'supposed to look like' is potentially dangerous. Today famous women use social media to embrace body positivity. They show themselves unapologetically, and this inspires confidence in people who might have previously struggled with their own shape. It encourages them to wear their 'flaws' as badges of honour.
Deepa feels perfection is like the unicorn - it doesn't exist