Extremely Perfect

Stars Reveal They Are Far From Perfect

Beautiful as she is, Christie Brinkley says these days even she can't live up to the perfect images of women displayed in today's magazines.

"If I were standing next to a model of today, you'd only notice me on the page because I'd take up more room," says Brinkley, now 49.

Her healthy, California look is a far cry from today's ultra thin models, and that is a big concern because she's the mother of three, including a teenage girl.

"They compare themselves to the girl on the page," says Brinkley. "And the girl on the page nowadays has, you know, hips this narrow and the tops of their arms are literally this small."

It's just an exaggeration of what real women look like - a high fashion ideal. Lesley Stahl reports on a story that first aired in April.

"The magazines are going to over-exaggerate and overemphasize to make a point, and you shouldn't try and copy it to a T," says Brinkley.

"We need to somehow demystify the fashion industry. I think what Jamie Lee Curtis did was really important because she really, in a very bold way, showed how you can manipulate a magazine cover to create whatever you want."

"How many women look at a magazine and look at the cover and go, 'Oh, forget it,'" says actress Jamie Lee Curtis, glancing at the magazines on display.

"Nobody's going to look like this. She doesn't look like this, and she doesn't look like this," adds Curtis.

"What, do we think she's not wearing makeup and hasn't been air brushed? People don't look like this. People are flawed. It's why we're people. We're flawed."

When she was 24, Curtis had fewer flaws and showed off her perfect body in the movie "Perfect."

"I looked really good in a leotard, I'll say that," remembers Curtis.

Last year, at the age of 43, she decided to unveil her body again, even though she says it's now far from perfect.

"I am struggling or have struggled for a long time with the fact that my body changed," says Curtis. "My famous, beautiful body changed."

So she approached the editors of More magazine – which is geared toward women over 40 – and made them an offer that they couldn't, in all good conscience, refuse.

"I said to them, 'Let's take a picture of me in my underwear. No lighting, nothing. Just me. No makeup. No styling. No hair. No clothing. Pretty brutal lighting," says Curtis, holding up her picture.

"The whole goal for me with this was just that people would look at it and go like this, 'Oh, I get it. She's real. She's just a person like me.' And that was my whole goal. Look how happy I am, because I was so free. I was so happy."

The public's reaction was "100 percent positive," says More magazine editor Susan Crandell. "We got hundreds of letters from women saying 'Thank You' and they were saying 'You look like me' or 'I look like you.'"

Brinkley says Curtis represents the image of the confident woman.

"When you see her moving, when you see her talking, you would never in the world think of her as having even an ounce of weight on her," says Brinkley. "She looks good."

In her interview with More magazine, Curtis said to readers: "I don't have great thighs. I have a soft, fatty little tummy. I don't want the unsuspecting 40-year-old women of the world to think that I've got it going on. It's such a fraud."

She says the fraud is perpetrated by magazine editors who rely too heavily on photo retouching - which gives models and actresses a "digital diet" long after the photo shoot is over.

"The fraudulence really has to do with perpetuating something that isn't real anymore," says Curtis.

No matter how beautiful or how thin the model, she's often retouched in some way to make her even more beautiful and thinner still. What the magazines are selling, Curtis says, is a beauty that is largely unattainable.

But it wasn't always this way.

"That's something that's changed a lot during the course of my career," says Brinkley. "When I started modeling, retouching was hardly ever done. It was very expensive." The temptation to retouch with new technology "is getting out of hand," she said.

Kate Betts, former editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar, says most fashion pictures are retouched nowadays. But what can a good retoucher do?

"A good retoucher can basically make the person in the picture look better, enhance the way they look," says Betts, who was also a former top fashion editor at Vogue. "They can do anything. They can open eyes wider, make them brighter, change the shape, contour the face a lot."

We wanted to see for ourselves, so we visited retoucher Geraldine Lucid who, truth be told, works on some very familiar faces around CBS.

Just for fun, we let Lucid have a go at Curtis' photo from More magazine. Lucid adds a waist, slims her thighs, moves her necklace and takes away wrinkles.

Betts says such tricks of the trade should not surprise anyone given our society's demand for perfection.

"I think we do live in a culture that is about display, and I don't just mean the red carpet. I mean everybody is concerned about their image, whether they're Nicole Kidman or Jane Doe on the street," says Betts. "And I think image has become a big part of our culture."

But is it too much? Betts thinks this may lead to a backlash.

But Curtis is after honesty, and her message may be spreading.

On the February cover of British GQ, actress Kate Winslet looks absolutely terrific. So who's complaining? Winslet herself, who says these were not her thighs that appeared on the cover.

"The worst thing is this. We know that's not her. We know that they altered it, but then what did they write in the ad line? That's what's pervasive and horrible," says Curtis, as she reads the ad line from the magazine. "'Kate Winslet looks sexier than ever. Slim, elegant and self consciously flirty.'" So what the editors are saying is the reason Kate Winslet looks sexier than ever is because she's slim."

"She is someone who has a beautiful body, a very real woman's body," Curtis adds. "So the crazy thing is the message that you're only sexier than ever if you're slim. That's insane."

It also says, Curtis believes, that the most beautiful women in the world are not beautiful enough. "That's where I just jump off the boat, swim back to the island and hang out with my family. I'm serious."

Betts believes it's a constant battle for her to keep models looking healthy on the cover of magazines. It's a battle that Brinkley also believes is worth fighting for.

"I think it's important for the magazines to emphasize good nutrition and its effects on you later in life. A lot of girls want to be skinny because they want to look good, but it's so shortsighted," says Brinkley.

"They may be beautiful for five minutes, but in terms of their lifetime you want to have a healthy life throughout. To be beautiful towards the end of your life, you need to be healthy and vibrant. That will only come from taking good care of yourself."

For Curtis, the message couldn't be clearer. Perfection is not copying some unattainable image from a magazine.

"For me, perfect can't be some weird ring - a gold ring that has no relevance to who you are," she says. "To me, perfection is being happy with who you are. Look at me, I'm happy."

Curtis' new movie "Freaky Friday" hits theaters nationwide on August 6.
  • Rebecca Leung

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