Having worked as a Fashion Stylist for the past three years I have had a pretty good idea of  the way models bodies are manipulated to fit our ridiculous standards of beauty. And you know what? This insider view has actually made me happier with my own body. I have met size 4 women, 6ft tall and breathtakingly beautiful, yet they still have cellulite, stretch marks and, wait for it, spotty bums! My only wish was that I could share with others this knowledge so that they may gain some kind of self-confidence through knowing no one is perfect. Which is why I was so thrilled to read the recent Refinery 29 article where a Retoucher comes clean on all the Photo-shopping she has done for brands such as Victoria’s Secret, and you know what? Turns out the consumer may actually be the ones to blame. Still working within the industry, R29’s source doesn’t give her name away instead referring to herself as Sarah, but that’s just about the only thing she holds back on…

First of all they pad EVERYTHING!

“The first thing they do is they put in [hair] extensions,” says Sarah. “I don’t think I ever was on a shoot with a model that had real hair.” Then, they throw in “chicken cutlets” and other shaping pads, “If you hold up the bathing suit in your own hand, it’s so heavy because they have all this shit sewed into it” ads Sarah. “They put a push-up bra under the bathing suit. And we retouch out the bra…a lot of [staffers] would complain because they even did it with strapless stuff. When you’re wearing a strapless bikini, in no way, shape, or form [can] you have cleavage. It’s physically impossible with the way gravity works.” Of course the bra gets taken out, and any nipples erased. Sarah was often asked to make breasts rounder, higher, perfectly symmetrical, and larger. Sarah admits to “adding meat on their bones. Models are thinner than you actually think they are, and we retouch them to look rounder.” Sarah routinely plumped up butts, hid protruding ribcages, and softened sharp hipbones.


Everyone gets grey armpits, cellulite and stretch marks.

“Everyone’s armpits turn grey on camera. No matter how closely you shave, you’ll have a shadow” she says. And many of the models she worked with didn’t bother even shaving: “They come to these photo shoots and, like, they have their arms up in the classic beach pose, and they have, like, hairy armpits. They all have stubbly pubes — all the normal stuff [non-models have].”Sarah goes on to mention that every model has cellulite, stretch marks and acne and that removing these ‘flaws’ was second nature.

Plus size models get slimmed down

Just as standard-size models get plumped up, plus-size models get slimmed down. “Anything to make [them] look delicate,” says Sarah. Not just waists, but wrists and ankles are taken in. “They make the neck more narrow because that is a very female, delicate thing to have.”

So why are companies still using these girls? We all seem to have a good idea these tricks are being done and lord knows there has been a big move to using more ‘normal’ looking models. The sad truth is consumers don’t want to see normal girls, why buy a reality when you can buy a fantasy? We’re not stupid we know that every model has pubes but at the same time if we were to see these bits around a bikini line the focus would be taken away from the product, and would you rather buy a bikini that you thought could give you gravity defying breast or one that flattened your chest?

During Sarah’s time at Victoria’s Secret, “they tried different models and different body types all the time.” Consumers just didn’t buy it. “One time, during a swim season, they had these two girls come in that had abs and thick thighs and busts. They were really toned and their skin was amazing. They were still obviously models. But they were a different look. But, they didn’t sell anything and so they stopped using those girls.” Of course there are companies like Dove that ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ but it’s still just that, a campaign, a novelty, a way to sell more products.

At the end of the day it’s about money, companies need to sell their products and until us as consumers are prepared to buy into this more realistic image of women jobs like Sarah’s aren’t going anywhere.