The photos, released on her fansite, 'The Beyoncé World', show her in close-up headshots wearing bold eyeliner and red lipstick - sans Photoshop (I'll let you Google the images before you read on, if you haven't already). Of course, the media almost jumped out of their seats at this opportunity to degrade a woman of stature; it was almost uncanny.
Under the guise of the 'real woman' angle, the Daily Mail posted headlines such as 'Just like us, Beyonce isn't flawless' and 'Female fans rally in support of Beyonce after leaked shots reveal her spotty skin in pre-Photoshop L'Oreal ads'. On the outside, these headlines seem to support Beyoncé, but actually this is just as degrading as leaking the images in the first place. By making a story out of the photos, these news sites are increasing their circulation, and therefore promoting the invasion of Beyoncé's privacy and integrity even further. But what I'm most annoyed about is the contradiction revealed when, sifting through the Daily Mail's archive, I see a post detailing her sister's skin issues, 'Solange Knowles breaks out in angry red hives on wedding day', accompanied by a photo which was obviously taken at the wrong moment and from a deliberately awful angle. Sifting a bit more, I discover a whole host of articles focusing on picking out the flaws of celebrities - and, oh yes, they're all famous females on a night out, or at the beach, or running to the convenience shop in joggers and a hoodie.
How can you possibly preach about being in favour of the beauty of 'real women', when you're blatantly and intentionally humiliating women at their most real?
I'm sure most feminists will agree that the use of Photoshop by fashion and beauty brands is a key move in the objectification of women and the promotion of unobtainable standards - but we're all aware that women in magazines, commercials, films and music videos rarely look like they do in real life, because they've been warped into a universal idea of 'perfection'. And I'm pretty damn sure that Beyoncé's aware of this too, having worked in music (an industry just as superficial as fashion or beauty) for just under 20 years. Let's face it, if Beyoncé truly didn't want to be Photoshopped, she wouldn't have starred in that commercial - she's an intelligent woman, and she knows what the industry wants.
As for bringing out the 'real woman' cards as soon as a famously beautiful celebrity has their unretouched photos leaked - of course they're real women. They were real women before they were Photoshopped, and they are real women after. Using a graphic design tool doesn't change anything. Yes, she may have spots, pigmentation, scarring, and yes we might not always see that because these aspects are usually airbrushed - but that's not the degrading part. The degrading part is jumping on the back of these photos with the facade of celebrating real beauty in order to gain views for your news site.
Thus, Beyoncé's unretouched photos are irrelevant to the modern woman, so much so that some of us were rolling our eyes as soon as we saw the headlines. We're not idiots. We know that we're all women, celebrity or not. We know that we have our good days and our bad days. And we don't gasp in shock and cover our mouths when we all of a sudden find out that Beyoncé or Solange or whoever is a 'real woman' because some tabloid told us so. We knew that she was bloody well real anyway.
On a defiant note, here's an image of Beyoncé as it was intended. Real woman and all.
Image via Purple PR