Lena Dunham is ‘done’ with allowing her photos to be retouched, at long last


Last week, we discussed the Lena Dunham-Photoshop issue. It was pretty complicated, so if you want to review last week’s post, go here. The basic gist? Lena snidely bitched out a Spanish magazine for not “being honest” with their readers and Photoshopping an older photo of her. Except that the magazine, Tentaciones, clapped back and gave a detailed explanation of how they licensed an older photo and everything was done with the permission of Lena’s publicist. And they even showed her how they cropped the original image. Instead of apologizing for an obvious mistake, Lena then went on a lengthy rant about something something retouching, society at large, Hillary Clinton, etc. It was pretty annoying. Even more annoying? Lena is doubling down on all of it by devoting an essay in her Lenny newsletter to how she’s not going to stand for Photoshop anymore! After recapping the Tentaciones incident in exhaustive, it’s-not-my-fault-and-I-won’t-apologize fashion, she wrote:

But something snapped when I saw that Spanish cover. Maybe it was the feeling of barely recognizing myself and then being told it was 100 percent me but knowing it probably wasn’t and studying the picture closely for clues. Maybe it was realizing that was an image I had at some point seen, approved, and most likely loved. Maybe it was the fact that I no longer understand what my own thighs look like. But I knew that I was done.

Not done with getting my picture taken (once an insufferable ham, always an insufferable ham) but done with allowing images that retouch and reconfigure my face and body to be released into the world. The gap between what I believe and what I allow to be done to my image has to close now. If that means no more fashion-magazine covers, so be it. I respect the people who create those magazines and the job they have to do. I thank them for letting me make a few appearances and for making me feel gorgeous along the way. But I bid farewell to an era when my body was fair game.

I’m not the first female actor to express this, to demand a different approach. I’m looking at you, Kate Winslet, Jamie Lee Curtis, Zendaya. Thank you for letting me know that making such a choice or statement was possible. If any magazines want to guarantee they’ll let my stomach roll show and my reddened cheek make an appearance, I am your girl Friday. Anything that will let me be honest with you. But moreover, I want to be honest with me.

This body is the only one I have. I love it for what it’s given me. I hate it for what it’s denied me. And now, without further ado, I want to be able to pick my own thigh out of a lineup. Lena Dunham has five very different scars on her abdomen. Don’t even ask.

[From Lena’s latest Lenny Letter]

She also briefly touched upon the Vogue controversy from a few years ago, where Vogue blatantly retouched and Photoshopped her photos, and when Jezebel pointed it out and put out a bounty for the un-retouched photos, Lena threw a hissy fit and later said that Jezebel had made a “monumental error in their approach to feminism.” That error was not waiting until Lena wanted to say the same thing, I guess, because the point that she’s making in this Lenny letter is exactly the point Jezebel made years ago: that consumers have the right to know what’s being done to these photos, and that physical perfection is a myth being sold to young women. But I guess we’re supposed to be so grateful that Lena is finally acknowledging the problem, at long last, just because…? What exactly? Girls is ending and no one cares and she needs attention some other way?


Photos courtesy of Fame/Flynet.

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56 Responses to “Lena Dunham is ‘done’ with allowing her photos to be retouched, at long last”

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  1. Jag says:

    Can she just go away please?

    I truly don’t understand why photoshopping is so bad when it’s done correctly. It smooths the skin and makes colors pop.

    It’s done badly when they make arms into skeleton bones and completely change one’s face, of course.

    Back in my day, models didn’t need a ton of photoshopping and girls just tried to be healthy. Only when “celebrities” and actors started gracing the covers of magazines did all of this bad photoshopping hoopla start. Perhaps they should just go back to letting models be on the covers?

    • LadyMTL says:

      I think the issue with retouching is that it can often be used to sell an ideal that doesn’t exist. Case in point: I’ve had mild-moderate acne pretty much since I hit puberty, and I’m going to be 40 this year. When I was a teen I would look at the women in the ads – especially for beauty products / creams – and feel really bad about my own skin because it wasn’t nice, like in the pics. Obviously, as I got older I realized those images were pretty much lies, and that I could deal with my skin and not GAF about it not being “magazine ad” perfect. I’m not against things like enhancing colors or getting rid of shadows, but often times ‘shopping goes too far.

      Anyway! As for Lena, I can’t with her. She’s so insufferable, and it comes off like she can never admit a mistake, other than to try to spin it half to death. I can’t wait until she fades back into the ether.

      • Nicole says:

        Thank you LadyMTL.

        I love the before and after pics when they get leaked and released. They definitely restore my self esteem!

    • Bearie says:

      She has a creepy boundary limit with her family and the fact that no one really bothers to make this an issue, esp as she’s calling out Bill Cosby is a bigger problem to me than airbrushing.

    • aenflex says:

      Huh? So confused.

      So only models should be allowed on covers and in editorials? Models are photoshopped too, you know. Even ‘back in your day’ they used filters, they were just physical rather than digital.

    • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

      The times they have a changed.

      At this point they can basically construct a woman that wasn’t exist through various forms of photo editing. Quite a humongous leap from what was going on in the 90′s.

    • Sugar says:

      It wasn’t that back in your day models didn’t need photoshopping (airbrushing back then) or that now that actresses are on covers they do need photoshopping, it’s that photoshopping technology is so much easier and much less expensive. So of course magazines are going to use it injudiciously.

    • K says:

      Models get it too you’d be shocked what is done and can be done. Best thing that could happen to teenagers self esteem is have them go into a catalog or magazine production. It would ruin celebrity mystic but they’d never feel bad about themselves again.

    • Nerdista says:

      Because you don’t like Lena doesn’t make her wrong. Jezebel was wrong before and it’s fine for Lena to change her mind.

      • SKF says:

        I agree. I love Jezebel but what they did with that bounty was snarky and nasty and mean and it had nothing to do with feminism. Look, Lena’s not perfect but I think she’s the first to admit that. She does her best and sometimes she’s wrong and like all of us she’s flawed. I just think it’s a nasty trend that when a woman comes out strongly as a feminist we then all turn around and pick them apart. Nothing is ever enough and every misstep or potential flaw is seized upon and attacked mercilessly. At least she is trying.

  2. Sam says:

    Is it bad that the only reason why I know her is because she’s friends with Taylor Swift? Like girl you’re a part of the “squad.” I guess she wants to be the outcast because everyone of those women is all about her image whether it be Selena Gomez, Gigi, Karlie Kloss or Blake Lively and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that which is why I don’t get why Lena is making this a big deal. Like your BFF is BFFs with a bunch of models who are all about this life.

    • Tiffany says:

      I think that they only became friends is because Lena’s bf is a popular songwriter. Taylor was getting in his good graces.

  3. Pinky says:

    There is no one more insufferable and self-obsessed. She is as KardShian as they come. Yeah, I said it. Two sides of the same rusty, oxidized, frustrating, take-my-coin-Please! penny.


  4. NewWester says:

    No amount of Photoshopping could hide some of Lena’s awful fashion choices over the years.

  5. lilacflowers says:

    How about no more publicity pictures ever, Lena? There, problem solved.

  6. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    Too bad they can’t photoshop her into oblivion.

  7. Amelia says:

    Dammit, Lena.
    I’ve finally finished the transition from fan, to apologist, to ignoring it and hoping things will go back to how they were originally, and finally – I’m completely sick and tired of her.

    What really frustrates me is that occasionally, she really does have valuable things to say about mental heath, industry sexism (there was a comedy actresses roundtable earlier on in the awards season with Vanity Fair or THR, I think – I recommend watching it, it’s a pretty funny half hour with some great discussions about workplace bullsh*t) and campus sexual assault.
    But all the reasonable things she talks about end up buried under a pile of sh*t-talking, book promoting, attention seeking ridiculousness.

    Thankfully there exist people like Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) who’s a great example of intersectional feminism at its best, rather than Lena’s 1% middle class woes.

    /rant over.

    • Betsy says:

      “1%” and “middle class” are not two things that go together, especially when you consider that many people who would formerly have been middle class have slipped backwards down the ladder.

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

        I could see how Amelia is combining the two.

        Lena’s whole shtick is she’s like ‘us’, down to earth, schlubby, just an average normal girl often times ignoring the very comfortable and unique life she’s lived.

        It’s often at her most “Aren’t I so normal?” pandering that she lets it slip how abnormal she is. Like what happened when she tried to tell a story about her childhood leading to the whole discussion of whether she molested her sister.

        With the magazine she tried to stand up to the big bad photo editors and be a champion of body positivity only to be handed her face back to her when the magazine responded and showed she okay-ed the editing. Even then she couldn’t just admit her wrong and had to turn it into another crusade.

      • Amelia says:

        Side-eye summed it up far better than I could have! Need caffeine.
        So yeah. The disconnect between an extremely privileged upbringing and painting herself as ‘one of us’ whilst her school fees cost more than a lot of people earn per year.
        Nothing wrong with that – except she doesn’t relate to how it makes things far easier for her than many others.
        I’ll be at the coffee counter.

    • knower says:


      You couldn’t have said that comment more perfectly. I mean, really. Took the words right out of my head and wrote them!

  8. nicole says:

    I’m not a huge fan of Lena’s but I’m also not strongly opposed to her. What I don’t get is why she is held to a different standard? Like why with her is that she is “finally” done with photoshopping? Every model/actress/musician are getting photoshopped, many of them already near physical perfection. Lena has already gone to great lengths to show us her realistic body which is a lot more we can say about most celebrities. But for some reason we demand that she eschew fashion/beauty all together just because of…feminism? I don’t know, the Jez thing was gross and they put a bounty on Lena to prove she wasn’t hot apparently. That’s messed up.

    • Lisa says:

      I thought the Jezebel thing was unfair. I think her statement reads as someone is over sensitive about how her body comes across because she is not the 5 foot ten perfect thin blonde. Everybody photoshops – men do it too. I don’t care that she does it. No wonder our kids are think they are too fat when there is so much focus on weight.

      • hannah says:

        But she’s not bad looking or fat , she just chooses the worst clothes possible for her body type . Maybe she has self image issues and thinks of herself as 100 lbs heavier than she actually is.

    • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

      The Jezebal thing was 100% wrong and I say this as someone who doesn’t care for her a bit.

      That being said I feel like she plays the same game as most celebs. Lena can’t be ‘perfect’, she won’t be a Karli Kloss or Taylor Swift physically so she goes full speed in the other direction. She wears ill-fitting clothes, bad patterns, terrible makeup all in an effort to show how real she is. She could easily dress comfortably and look beautiful as dozens of women with unusually body types have done in Hollywood this year, but that would be going against her personal mission to mistake real for ugly.

    • Mgsota says:

      “That error was not waiting until Lena wanted to say the same thing, I guess, because the point that she’s making in this Lenny letter is exactly the point Jezebel made years ago: that consumers have the right to know what’s being done to these photos, and that physical perfection is a myth being sold to young women. But I guess we’re supposed to be so grateful that Lena is finally acknowledging the problem, at long last, just because…? What exactly? Girls is ending and no one cares and she needs attention some other way?”

      She gets so much hate. God forbid she has changed her mind on issues…or it took her some time before she decided she was done with Photoshopping.
      I identified as a republican and was pro-life for God’s sake…but as I matured and became the woman I am today, I changed. Maybe she was fine with Photoshopping at one point and now she’s not…but according to most of you, we should take her outside and beat her with a stick because she’s fake an phony and everything has to be on her terms. The hate for her is mind boggling. I like her and her show, so there.

      • Down and Out says:

        Mgsota, I don’t think anyone is arguing she shouldn’t be allowed to change her mind. My problem with Lena is that she is very self-righteous about her views. We’re all human, we change our minds, we grow as people. But have a little humility about it & don’t lecture the rest of us as though you are the definitive guardian of feminism. I don’t think she should keep quiet or stop speaking out, but she goes on these crusades (e.g. current attack on Tentaciones), demanding others meet her current standards while having little recognition of her own shortcomings.

  9. Patricia says:

    I love how she said she won’t do magazine covers unless they comply with this. So that will be her excuse for why no magazines come calling anymore, not the fact that she’s an insufferable and difficult person who’s star is quickly fading.

    Also does she really think everyone cares so much about her every thought? She especially seems to think people care about her thoughts about HERSELF ( 98% of all her total thoughts).
    She was reallllly raised as a special snowflake, this one. Lena, nobody cares!

    • Esther says:

      “I love how she said she won’t do magazine covers unless they comply with this. So that will be her excuse for why no magazines come calling anymore, not the fact that she’s an insufferable and difficult person who’s star is quickly fading”

      like Emma Watsons “im taking a break to focus on feminism” because she cant read books while she is working… Emma at least has a big movie coming out but no one is buying her stupid excuse, she just does not get good roles.

  10. Kate says:

    That thing with Jezebel years ago was so gross. They weren’t making the point Lena’s making here, they only tried to spin it that way after they got the un-retouched images and they weren’t a tenth as ‘shopped as they’d hoped. It was pure click-bait, they might as well as have just written an article entitled Lena Dunham is Fat & Ugly and let their commentators fight it out.

  11. Barrett says:

    She just had surgery on her ovary.

    Guess she is back and writing

  12. Jewbitch says:

    Cannot. Stand. Her.

  13. mia girl says:

    “(once a insufferable ham, always an insufferable ham)”

    Let is never be said the Dunham lacks self awareness. 😉

  14. Breakfast Margaritas says:

    Can this little sister molesting egocentric person just go away?

    • Hellohello says:

      Thank YOU. She is a child molester. She salivates over Woody Allen. Enough said to dump her in a hole, can’t Photoshop morals onto someone.

  15. kri says:

    I gt through exactly three minutes of the first “Girls”, turned to my sister and said “this sucks, and I can’t stand this girl”. All these years later, I still feel exactly the same. Go away. Go. Away.

  16. Nicole says:

    This is too confusing. Let’s just all stop taking pictures of Lena Dunham. That’ll solve the problem no fuss no muss. :D

  17. Betsy says:

    People hate her a lot more than I thought.

    Good on her. Photoshop has gotten ridiculous.

  18. Narak says:

    I’m surprised by the amount of vitriol aimed at her- for what? She’s allowed to change her mind, and she herself said that she liked the way theVogue spread made her look- but hindsight is 20-20 and she’s realized that these faux images are harmful – I like her and hope she keeps writing and creating and yes- being photographed.
    With so many words being said about body shaming and policing other women you’d think there would be more love for Lena, who is self aware and brings attention to body as theory vs reality.

    • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

      All her theories revolve around her own body. All her self-awareness stops at the tip of her nose. She gets judgement because she has found to be a hypocrite and often manipulate genuine social issues as a way to talk about herself and redirect the attention onto her.

      In my eyes she’s no more dedicated to women’s issues than Kim Kardashian, just a different side of the coin. I don’t need her to go away, I put her in the boat with those who will eventually dig their own grave (publicly speaking) because they keep making the same mistakes over and over.

  19. benchwarmer says:

    I just love Lena so much. She’s a role model, she’s a hero. And I love her screenwriting, I’ve been envious many times. Girls was a trailblazer and Tiny Furniture too. Honesty is her brand and I love it.

  20. Izzy says:

    Lord, she’s an insufferable narcissist. Her show is such a reflection of her. No wonder I couldn’t sit through even one full episode of it.

  21. christina says:

    She seems to go out of her way to look hideous. Maybe I’m wrong and she really does have terrible taste in clothing and hair styles.

  22. Whitney says:

    I don’t get the vitriol towards her. I think she’s exceptionally intelligent and funny. I love that she does nude scenes and doesn’t care what people think of her body. I’m sad Girls is ending, which I guess makes me “no one”.

  23. Sonia says:

    I love her. We need More people like her. We need real. Not perfect. Cause perfect is a lie.

  24. anna says:

    GO AWAY!

    You are an entitled know-it-all-know-nothing and your looks are the least offensive thing about you. Get some much-needed airbrushing on your personality and how you conduct yourself.

    GO AWAY!