SUNDAY TIMES - No airbrushing as campaign aims to rectify women's poor body image
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Sunday Times Beauty By SHANTHINI NAIDOO, 2017-03-05 00:00:00.0

No airbrushing as campaign aims to rectify women's poor body image

Luyanda Mngadi, a South African chartered accountant, spent years trying to fit in by changing her hair.
Image: MARIO TESTINO

Stop faking it - show us real women. This is the message from South African women to advertisers and the media about the unrealistic standards of beauty they are held up to.

A survey released this week asked 10,500 women in 13 countries including South Africa questions on beauty and body image. It found that women's confidence in their bodies was on a steady decline around the world.

And South Africans - 65% of older women and 72% of girls - said they wished the media did a better job of portraying women with diverse appearances.

The survey sparked the launch of the Dove Real Beauty Pledge campaign, shot by fashion and celebrity photographer Mario Testino.

It showcases 32 women of diverse backgrounds, shot naturally - without digital manipulation or airbrushing.

Luyanda Mngadi, a chartered account from South Africa, was one of the women selected from 15 countries. Mngadi said she struggled to fit in while growing up and spent a lot of time trying to change her hair.

"I don't know how many times I tried to do what was trending and I just never felt comfortable. In my first year of university I decided to stop trying to change it, and grew dreadlocks.

"As I matured, I realised that I loved my natural look. I have stopped trying so hard to fit in. My beautiful personality is written all over my face and that's the only beauty I need," she said.

The beauty company found her on a professional network.

Mngadi said she was "amazed and shocked" when she discovered, on the day of the shoot, that Testino was behind the lens. "I was absolutely thrilled to spend a day with an artist who is considered a genius. He was so easy and humble. The campaign resonated with me, because they were able to show real beauty as a reflection of confidence, not a portrait of what the world thinks you should look like."

Other survey findings included:

• Nine in 10 women and girls in South Africa are proud to be female, but most are unhappy with the portrayal of women in the public eye;

• Three-quarters of the local women surveyed said they felt that social media created pressure to look a certain way;

• Half of the women with low body esteem said they opted out of important activities and spending time with family and friends, because they didn't feel good about the way they look; and

• One in three avoided voicing their opinion, and even skipped job interviews, because of how they look.

"These stats clearly show that brand advertising and media are having a negative impact on South African women, which is why Dove is taking action to stop this trend," said Dove Global vice-president Sophie Galvani.

She said the company had changed its advertising casting guidelines, using real women, not models, from diverse backgrounds, who were chosen based on videos showing their personality, rather than photographs.

"The women and girls photographed according to the Dove Real Beauty Pledge celebrate true global diversity; each has her own unique beauty story and is a true inspiration for women everywhere," said Galvani.

Mario Testino says a photo can allow a woman to look herself. Image: SUPPLIED

Testino has photographed international celebrities for Vogue, Vanity Fair and GQ magazines, and produced fashion campaigns for Gucci, Burberry, Versace and Chanel.

For the Dove campaign, he shot a retired UK Paralympian who lost her leg to cancer, a Mexican football coach and other everyday girls and women.

"A photographer has a choice - they can take a picture and make it about themselves by using avant-garde techniques, sometimes capturing the weakness in women, or they can choose to give their picture over to the woman in front of the lens by making her look herself and feel her most powerful," said Testino.

The portraits from the Dove Real Beauty Showcase will be on display in New York.