I read an article in this weekends Sunday Telegraph by Celia Walden with great interest about some leaked photos of Cindy Crawford pre Photoshopping.

The article which is below (with the infamous photo!) talks about how it is women mainly rather than men that bitch about other women. The horrors of someone in Cindy Crawfords position of  not having the perfect body. In my experience, it’s not other women but ourselves who are our greatest critics. The fact are bellies aren’t perfectly flat, our thighs have dimples, our boobs aren’t C cups and pert. It’s time to embrace ourselves with all our perfections and enjoy our bodies, whatever we feel we look like. What do you think?

This time last year, in the strip-lit ladies room of YouTube’s LA headquarters, I found myself staring into the same mirror as Cindy Crawford. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. I’d go so far as to describe it as an ego bungee jump from a thousand feet up.

I’m pretty sure she hadn’t been photo-shopped (although you never know with these supermodels) and she looked as good to me then as she did writhing around in some kind of mesh vest on my brother’s wall some twenty years earlier.

Crawford’s the kind of woman you’d let your husband leave you for, if ever she came running. I think we all know that’s never going to happen, which is why on day one of our honeymoon I granted him that particular “get out of marriage free” card. And why I was intrigued to know what he thought of Crawford’s un-retouched Marie Claire photos, leaked last week, which appear to show the 48 year-old looking – whisper it – flawed.

Having considered them briefly, he snapped his laptop shut with the words: “This doesn’t affect our deal, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

If only women were as generous as men about female flaws. If only we reacted – like men do – with our senses rather than our paranoid and insecure little minds. When more than 200 un-retouched photos of Beyoncé – from a 2013 L’Oreal cosmetic campaign – were leaked 24 hours later, the responses both online and in the media were as overwhelmingly positive as they had been for Crawford.

But women are rarely – if ever – truthful in public on the subject of female beauty. None of the comments on social media (“Could not love Cindy more!”, “Beyoncé ’s still beautiful!”) betrayed any of the petty bitchery and schadenfreude being bandied about by women privately. Had we been privy to the real discussions going on at water-coolers and in magazine and TV conference rooms across the world, I suspect we would have found the tone laughably different.

There may have been a time when women were able to have genuine responses to each other on an issue that belittles us all by consuming far too much of our time and brain power.

But having tied ourselves up in knots with notions of fairness and unfairness in female beauty – the “right” and “wrong” way to age, which ruses and trickery are allowed and which qualify as “cheating” – most of us have lost that ability. What should be as honest, immediate and above all as personal a reaction as the tasting of food has turned into a whole feminist philosophy – with all the clutter and posturing that comes with it.

Years ago a male friend asked me why women were unable to have straightforward responses to a man pointing out another woman’s beauty either across a room or on screen. “They’ll never just agree – there always has to be some caveat. ‘But look at her legs!’ or ‘there’s no way she’s a natural blonde.’ Then they’ll point out a very plain girl and insist that she’s the real beauty.” He wasn’t dense: he knew that this was about jealousy. What he couldn’t understand was why one woman’s beauty was any reflection on another’s. Why – furthermore – it could be an affront.

Crawford’s less than impeccably toned stomach and Beyoncé’s smattering of pimples sends us into giddy ecstasies not because – as we may like to pretend – of some higher moral ground they’re breaking, but because it makes them flawed, just like us. Only I’ve got news for any woman high on schadenfreude right now: these women are nothing like us. I’ve met Crawford and sat a foot away from Beyoncé for over an hour as I interviewed her. She no more resembles those garishly lit untouched L’Oreal close-ups as she does the retouched versions, which have her looking as poreless as a cyborg. She is, however, improbably, alarmingly and wonderfully beautiful.

I didn’t feel jealous of either woman, not because I’m above such stupid and pointless emotions but because it was clear to me what a hard slog maintaining that level of perfection was. Beyoncé was at pains to point out that any woman envying her should know that she rarely ate what she wanted to eat, didn’t drink and got up early every morning to work out – and work – like a maniac. One of the greatest indulgences of her life, she confessed, was going back incognito to a little diner in her hometown in Houston, sitting in a baseball cap in the corner and devouring a piece of strawberry shortcake.

Both Beyoncé and Crawford are well aware that their looks are an enormous part – if not all – of their brand. God knows that must weigh down on them every single day. Whatever they may say over the forthcoming days or weeks – and so far, tellingly, neither has said a thing about the leaks – they do not want to look like “real women”. Even real women don’t want to look like real women. “Women like to aspire to impossible ideals,” one model agent once told me when I criticised the fashion industry for using such impossibly thin models. “It isn’t men perpetuating this unreachable fantasy – it’s you lot.”

If you don’t believe that, ask your friends who they would rather look like: Cindy or Beyoncé – or a Dove soap “Real Beauty” model? Then ditch the whole cretinous discussion, pick up a book and work on an aspect of yourself that you stand a hope in hell of improving.


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