Brand building through storytelling

Hold the Botox, but please don’t deprive me of Photoshop!

I’m about two weeks younger than Bruce Springsteen, whose fist-pumping, gyrating performance at last night’s Superbowl made me almost proud to be closing in on 60. Did you notice how The Boss leapt around that stage? And how about that slinky limbo move at the microphone? Has this guy never heard of osteoarthritis? Me, I feel lucky to get out of a chair without leaning on the arms for support.

Still, I have it on good authority that I too qualify as a role model for almost-sexagenarians. Beside me as I write this is the latest issue of Being Well, the magazine of the Southlake Regional Health Centre Foundation. The cover features my gently airbrushed face and the caption “Rona Maynard Aging Well.”

I flip to the story, by journalist Robin Harvey (who previously wrote a sensitive review of My Mother’s Daughter for The Toronto Star). Not a fact wrong, not a quote out of context. Lots of observations from this website, including several of my favourites. As a journalist myself, I understand the difference between a reporter and a press agent. It would be churlish to ask for more.

But as a woman with a normal vanity quotient, I do have one little quibble. I ask for photos that don’t tell quite the whole truth. The photo next to the story, which I supplied myself, looked pleasing enough in its original size. Blown up to fill a page, it reveals every pore and spot, every bag, vein and fold. Is this weathered face really mine? I’ve said no to Botox, Restylane and those cosmetic treatments that whiten your teeth—all of which I could use, to judge from the photographic evidence. And I’ll continue to hold the line. But when it comes to Photoshop, I start to feel defensive. Give me authenticity! Just don’t give me every damn wrinkle!

The media’s Photoshopping of women has a long and infamous history. Case in point: Redbook’s much-reviled retouching spree on cover subject Faith Hill, then 39. Not content to buff away wrinkles, the magazine also shaved flesh off her arm. I was one of many who cringed at the flagrant distortions. But I must come clean: when I was editing Chatelaine, we did do some modest retouching. We never made anyone thinner (in fact we occasionally thickened a stick arm that looked downright unhealthy). Still, we did whiten teeth and soften a few shadows.

Why? Because while women want to see other women look authentic, they also want to see them look good. I’m talking about the difference between how a woman looks at her best, from a comfortable distance, and how she really looks up close after a sleepless night and a thick stack of new bills to pay. It’s a fine line, of course. A photo that’s been doctored too much resembles a bad facelift: you wonder if there’s a soul behind the smile.

I’ve complimented Being Well on the profile, although I I did tell my friend Rena Scheffer, the marketing and communications director at Southlake, that I’d have liked a tad less realism in the photo. (What are friends for if you can’t speak your mind?) Rena respectfully disagrees. She thinks a retouched photo would be out of line with my writing. “We need a role model and you’re it,” she says.

Hmmm. Am I ready for this role model business? And do I measure up? The photo on the cover of my book has seen a fair bit of retouching. Does it cross the line? Over to you.


Posted by Rona

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