Keira Knightley’s Topless Wisdom

Keira Knightley takes a stand in favor of natural beauty (interview magazine.com).

Keira Knightley takes a stand against photoshop (interview magazine.com).

Brava, Keira Knightley! Well, sort of.

Knightley recently agreed to (NSFW) pose topless for Interview magazine in return for a promise not to Photoshop the picture. The actress, who is accustomed to having her image retouched, told TimeThat [shoot] was one of the ones where I said: ‘OK, I’m fine doing the topless shot so long as you don’t make them any bigger or retouch.’ Because it does feel important to say it really doesn’t matter what shape you are.”

Knightley continued, “I think women’s bodies are a battleground and photography is partly to blame . . .  Our society is so photographic now, it becomes more difficult to see all of those different varieties of shape.”

Amen to that. The actress may primarily be reacting to her own experiences—and in the brashest, most provocative way possible—but her comments underscore some important societal trends.

We now meet and befriend people online whom we may never meet in real life. And as photographs have become increasingly shareable, they have also become increasingly valuable, because people use them to burnish online personas.

Formerly the domain of celebrities and politicians, cultivating a personal brand that is both recognizable and appealing to strangers is now the business of anyone with Internet access. We do this in part by sharing pictures of ourselves, and the aesthetics of those pictures may drive attention, and success, on social media, dating sites, and other online destinations.

This is the Era of the Selfie. Everyone is photographed as often as a paparazzi-chased movie star, including those of us who don’t resemble them. Is it any wonder that growing numbers of Americans edit their own appearances?

Beyond simple photo retouching for Instagram, more people are literally revising their natural appearances. The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery surveyed its members and found “that one in three facial plastic surgeons surveyed saw an increase in requests for procedures due to patients being more self-aware of looks in social media.”

According to Dr. Aviva Preminger of Manhattan’s Preminger Plastic Surgery: “We as plastic surgeons help restore youthfulness all the time without changing one’s appearance. But, sometimes the patient actually wants to look different.”

Most troublingly, patients are skewing increasingly young. “Nearly 18,000 teens aged 13 to 19 got wrinkle-removing Botox last year, according to The American Society of Plastic Surgeons. . . The most popular cosmetic surgical procedures for teens includerhinoplasty (nose job) for 30,672, breast augmentation for 8,234 and otoplasty (ear surgery) for 6,871.”

Are we becoming a culture of homogenized beauty? It seems we can no longer appreciate, let alone tolerate, the physical quirks that make us individuals. It’s those differences, like David Letterman’s gap-toothed smile, Iman’s long neck, and Cindy Crawford’s mole, that make us memorable. Those differences are what make us human. If we think about it, they are what make us truly beautiful.

So, thank you Keira Knightley for taking a stand on behalf of photographic integrity and what we all really look like. And you might want to put on a shirt; it’s November.

This article appeared in Acculturated.

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