Over the Thanksgiving holiday I was talking with a family member about her experience working in PR and Marketing in Los Angeles. I immediately asked her to share her experiences with all of you. She has generously agreed to talk about what she learned and how it influenced her feelings about her weight, body image, and sense of self in this two-part series. I hope you enjoy it.
In the summer of 2005, I worked at NBC Universal and Full Picture PR Firm as an intern. I was so excited to be entering into a world of magic and perfection, where the streets were paved with Chanel and celebrities were wandering about on every corner…or so I thought. In reality, my Hollywood experience was drastically different from what the pages of Vogue and Cosmopolitan depicted.
At first I was star-struck by working near Rodeo Drive and the NBC Universal lot and what I quickly realized was that nothing in Hollywood is as it seems. Now, I had amazing experiences with both internships and was so happy to see normal, decent , hard-working people making a living doing what they love. But what took me by surprise was how hard these people worked to keep Hollywood’s façade alive and well. You see, it takes a whole village to keep up that Hollywood veneer.
I would be at photo shoots prepping for the talent that hadn’t arrived yet and when they would walk onto the set, I couldn’t recognize them from the magazines I would read. The stars would be in hair and makeup for hours and hours before they were camera ready and camera ready meant they had a whole bottle of hairspray keeping their hair in place, layers and layers of makeup, girdles to suck in the belly pooch and other tricks of the trade like bean bags in their bras to make their boobs look plumper, and enough light on them to cook a chicken, which helps them look fresh and natural.
When the talent would get in front of the camera, the photographer would start by reassuring that everything and anything can be Photoshopped, so let’s have some fun. And the shoots always were fun, but the real work started after the shoot was over. Graphic designers would get the images and start working their magic by blowing up each image on their huge screen and editing the tiniest details. They would edit out the bags under the actor’s eyes, the blemishes and zits, underarm flab, belly pooches, thigh flat, and anything else you can think of that society deems unacceptable. These actors would look like normal individuals that wouldn’t necessarily catch your eye at first, and some celebrities would come to work looking slightly homeless, knowing that hair and makeup would fix them up for the day and make them look picture perfect. Celebrities that were advocates in the media for healthy nutrition and exercise to lose weight and keep the perfect figure would only eat a piece of celery and a slice of cheese with a side of packs of cigarettes and vats of coffee to keep their figures slim. Some even getting tummy tucks and liposuction in secret while telling the media they did vigorous yoga routines and ate only salmon and steamed veggies. I could see why normal girls were getting so frustrated with their bodies because they weren’t losing their extra weight as quickly as these celebrities were, but without their own personal chefs and those Hollywood tricks, no human being can achieve perfection.
That Hollywood sparkle was starting to fade when I started to all the unhappy celebrities. Maybe it was because they were starving themselves or that they live in a very fake world that seemed normal to them, but I realized I would rather be happy with my size and flaws than harming my body to live up to an impossible standard. So, before you start obsessing about being the same size as your favorite celebrity or starving yourself to reach their standard of perfection, please remember that THEY can’t even live up to their own standard of perfection because it is all fantasy and Photoshop.