Below is a reprint from Ayesha Hakki’s letter from the 2014 Bibi Bridal Annual print magazine explaining the decision. Order your copy here.
For such a simple word, it sure is loaded with all kinds of subjectivity. What is beauty? Is it that A-lister actress who’s had “work” done, or is it that cover model who hasn’t eaten solid food in three days so that her abs look just right. Or is it that woman in your neighborhood who always looks pulled together and who genuinely smiles when you meet her?
Do you see what I’ve done? Simply by the way I posed the question, I’ve already made the decision for you. That is the power that we, as publishers and editors, have. Sure, we sift through much research and information to formulate articles that you, the reader, will find interesting, but in the same process, we also subliminally clue you into a way of thinking simply by how we present it. I’ve been publishing Bibi Magazine for 14 years now, and with the countless issues we have put out over the years, one thing has always remained constant. We have influenced your idea of South Asian beauty by the models we have chosen and the Photoshopped images that have ended up printed in our final selection.
That being said, no other part of the magazine has received as much scrutiny as the women in the pages of our editorial. From the very first issue to our next fashion show, we are constantly being told that the models were too dark, too fat, too ugly, too bland, and sometimes, those comments are all about the same woman. Over the years, we admit to bending under pressure and succumbing to this idea of ‘perfection.’ We’ve slimmed out waists, enhanced hips, lips and busts, lightened skin, blurred pores, removed scars, filled out hairlines… all with the magical wave of a Photoshop wand. Perhaps it was an effort to “sell” you the perfect product or perhaps it was because we were tired of the snide comments, but whatever the reason, we take full responsibility of presenting an unachievable level of what we perceived as beauty.
Recently, much attention has been given to the idea of real beauty, with countless news stream backlashes over magazines that let loose the Photoshop gods over their latest covers and editorial spreads. Also in the spotlight are plastic surgeries, especially the botched ones and, of course, all the lightening creams and the celebs who endorse them. This is on one end of the spectrum.
On the other side are blog posts about certain celebrities who didn’t lose the baby weight fast enough, or tweets renouncing those who are aging too fast or not well. Let me take this one step further with the proliferation of social media and the ubiquitous selfie. We all want to look good, sure, and so we purse our lips, suck in our cheeks and snap away from the perfect angle so as to look what we perceive to be attractive, defining our happiness with the amount of “likes” and “comments” we are able to rack up amongst our “friends.”
With every wrinkle, bulge and blemish being scrutinized so intimately in the public forum, it’s no wonder that we women, and even more frighteningly young girls, find ourselves slaves to the idea that perfection equals beauty and you can never be happy if you are not perfect.
We here at Bibi Magazine have decided to do something about all this unattainable nonsense. Starting with this issue, we are committing to pulling back on the Photoshop in an effort to show you that beauty can be real. As you go through the pages, you may notice a scar here or a curve there. Instead of making the models ‘perfect’ as we have done in the past, this issue forward, we’re presenting the realness of the model. This doesn’t mean that we have not removed a blemish or lightened a dark shadow – after all, you wouldn’t wear a stained lehnga to your wedding – we’ve merely removed the transient spots, and left the natural – the real look of the model.
South Asian women are beautiful because they come in all shapes, colors and sizes. Take, for example, this issue’s cover bride, Sheetal Sheth. Her skin is smooth, her eyes – and yes those are her natural eyes – are bright and her whole persona is illuminated with her inner beauty. Azura Vandenberg, a professional model, is also beautiful with her bronze skin, care-free attitude and healthy body. Both of these women are presented as they are with the bare minimum of Photoshop. And then there’s me, the real me, on this page, not looking as thin as I would like, but healthy and happy nonetheless. And that to me is beauty. Real beauty. I’m sure you will agree.