“Real, honest and gorgeous.” That's what a leaked, un-airbrushed photo of Cindy Crawford in her lingerie was branded in February this year.
Women praised the supposedly realistic portrayal of the model and the photo (below) quickly went viral after it was tweeted by ITV News anchor Charlene White.
But for the first time, Crawford has spoken about the picture, saying it was not real and that the public's positive reaction left her feeling blindsided and manipulated.
“I felt that [the journalist] was inauthentic because she acted like this was great but she didn’t check if I wanted this out or if it was a real picture.” Crawford, 49, tells Elle Canada.
“The story had run a year and a half before, and the picture of me in that outfit was from the bust up...We spoke to the photographer, and he was very upset because he didn’t put it out there. He said: ‘Cindy, I’m going to send you the real one and it’s nothing like that. It’s clear that someone manipulated that image to make whatever was there worse.’ It was stolen and it was malicious, but there was so much positive reaction [to the image].”
The American supermodel said the praise she received made her feel conflicted.
“Why would seeing a bad picture of me make other people feel good? I felt blindsided,” she continues. “Sometimes, the images that women see in magazines make them feel inferior—even though the intention is never to make anyone feel less. So somehow seeing a picture of me was like seeing a chink in the armour.”
“I know my body, and I know it’s not perfect, but maybe I have a false body image; maybe I think I look better than I do. I think that most women are hard on themselves. We think we look worse than we do. So I assumed I fell into that category, even though that picture didn’t reflect what I saw when I looked in the mirror—even in the worst dressing-room lighting.”
Ultimately, Crawford decided not to react to the photo or respond to messages about her.
“Whether it was real or not isn’t relevant, although it’s relevant to me. I don’t try to present myself as perfect. It put me in a tough spot: I couldn’t come out against it because I’m rejecting all these people who felt good about it, but I also didn’t embrace it because it wasn’t real—and even if it were real, I wouldn’t have wanted it out there. I felt really manipulated and conflicted, so I kept my mouth shut.”
She says her children, 13-year-old daughter Kaia and 16-year-old son Presley, asked her to prove the world right.
“My kids were like ‘Mom, you don’t look like that!’ They wanted me to go down to the beach in a swimsuit so the paparazzi would take a photo of me, but that would be playing into it. How do I rise above the situation? What do I do? Go on Good Morning America and pull up my shirt and say ‘I don’t look like that’? That didn’t seem like the right response.”
“This is exactly the type of thing that I wouldn’t want my daughter to do to another girl online. It’s social bullying. I’m a big girl and I can handle it, but I used it as a teaching lesson for my own daughter,” she said.
The model also speaks about hashtags such as #nomakeup or #loveyourlines which encourage women to share pictures of their unadorned faces and natural bodies:
“I can have no makeup on and do a selfie in great lighting or ugly lighting. If I choose good lighting, is that bad? It goes back to what is real. If someone wants to wear makeup and that makes them feel good, fantastic...If someone wants to use a filter, that’s fine—I would! Even some of those people who say ‘Hey, I love my lines’ probably took five pictures of themselves and chances are they picked the one that they think looks the best.”
“To me, that kind of editing is the art. And putting on a filter is an art—just like hair and makeup. Do I think that sometimes retouching is abused? Yes, but if an artist paints a woman who has acne and he chooses not to show that, is that inauthentic? Is that not art anymore? To me, it’s the same with photography.”
Read the full interview at ellecanada.com.
Images: Rex Features, Instagram/cindycrawford