The real Transformers

Danielle Paquette
is a junior majoring in journalism.

Somewhere in America, humans are transforming.

Eyes widen, hips narrow, lips plump, hair lengthens and pores disappear without the aid of severe medical procedures or rigorous dietary changes.

Rather, the simple click of a mouse sends average, everyday men and women to the otherwise unattainable realm of perfection.

I recently witnessed firsthand the incredible power of Photoshop — which is, as many of you may know, a computer program designed to manipulate and enhance images.

As an intern at a large retail chain’s corporate headquarters, I gained access to the company’s photo studio one sunny afternoon. The state-of-the-art building exuded all the glamour one might associate with shoots in New York or L.A. — a fantasy world of lights and buzz.

Uber-coiffed male models pouted at flashing cameras, equally coiffed businesswomen barked orders and miles of clothing lined the steel-colored walls.

The sights and sounds overwhelmed my Indiana-adjusted senses — “That guy looks like Snooki!” one of my fellow interns observed of a deeply bronzed pouter — but the quiet work conducted behind the scenes was the most intriguing of all.

As we entered the photo-retouching center, I spotted a table covered with pairs of photos, “before” and “after” versions.

I tiptoed from the rest of my tour group to discover a startling truth: Nobody’s perfect.

Before me lay original and retouched images of a famous fashion designer, a pop megastar, a famous actress and dozens of recruits from major modeling agencies. And with a black Sharpie, someone had played God.

Circles around one beauty’s inner thigh dictated that someone was to “trim here.” Markings on several noses demanded digital rhinoplasty, and scrawled notes suggested already lovely blue eyes be converted to a jolting cerulean.

Then, I spotted a heavily edited shot of a well-known reality TV star from California.

“Why did they circle under her eyes?” I asked a nearby employee.

“Well, she always has big dark circles under her eyes. They get pretty puffy, too,” he replied. “Maybe it’s that West Coast lifestyle.”

Dark circles? No way. She always looked great on television.

“Why not leave her the way she is?” I asked.

He paused and lifted the Sharpie-assaulted photo.

“What’s the fun in that?”

Sure, it’s a lot of fun. Anyone who’s played Halo or downed shots of Grey Goose knows altering reality is generally a good time.

It’s damaging, too: Witness the inevitable hangover and the Mom-I-failed-finals-because-gaming-rocks-and-studying-sucks phone call.

But Photoshop’s repercussions are more insidious.

We see the perfectly retouched faces on billboards, on movie posters, on commercials, in magazines. We see the scientifically proportioned bodies every day in the car, on buses, on television.

And then, we look in the mirror.

We empty our bank accounts on beauty products, expensive clothes and diet pills only to learn that efforts to look like Megan Fox or Brad Pitt mostly prove futile.

By the time we reach high school, many of us become that poor horse struggling to reach the proverbial dangling carrot — chasing an impossible dream.

But why?

Someone once told me inner beauty shines brighter than stiletto lashes or buns of steel, despite common societal projections of what makes someone attractive.

Worrying about things we can’t control is utterly exhausting, and let’s admit it — most people are too caught up in their own lives to notice Mount Vesuvius on your forehead anyway.

So this is my plea to you: Just stop.

Try to relax. Focus on the positive.

Technology might skew our perception of outer beauty, but it can never change our hearts. (Oh, and rest assured that those celebs look totally normal beneath the lights and buzz.)

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