Teen Vogue’s Ugly PR Blunder

Two teenage girls have created a crisis for Teen Vogue after asking if the mag digitally enhances their images.  The girls are requesting that Teen Vogue show “real girls” in their magazine.  The magazine claims, “we do not digitally alter anyone’s body size and that it shows a slew of real girls. It declines to say whether it removes facial flaws,” according to The Daily Beast.

The two teens created a petition in July asking Teen Vogue to “pledge not to alter body or face size in your models and to celebrate beauty in all its forms.”  Neither girl reached out to the magazine prior to launching the petition.

The girls were inspired to begin the petition because a few months prior, a 14-year-old girl asked Seventeen to attribute one untouched photo shoot a month.  She created a petition on change.org that generated so much buzz that there were 25,000 signatures within days.  Due to all the noise, Seventeen’s editor-in-chief, Ann Shoket, met with the girl at the magazine’s headquarters.  “Shoket served up cupcakes and ultimately created a ‘Body Peace Treaty.’ Published in the August issue, which hit newsstands in early July, the treaty vows to “never change girls’ body or face shapes,” according to The Daily Beast.

Seventeen confessed that they do remove blemishes but claims that they never have altered a girl’s size or face shape.  The fact that Seventeen made a public statement means they are now held responsible in the future and forced to stick to their word, which is a small victory for young girls around the world.

Since the girl was able to get through to Seventeen and create a small change, the two teenagers were inspired and hopeful to do the same with Teen Vogue, which unfortunately was not the case.

The duo had the opportunity to meet Teen Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Amy Astley, as well as a public relations representative.  “They made us wait for 15, 20 minutes. When we walked in, there were no introductions, no handshakes,” says one of the girls. “They were like, ‘You wanted this meeting. What do you want to say?’ They took out this huge stack of Teen Vogues, all with little cards marking what they perceived as culturally diverse models. They were all very thin African-American models. We were like, ‘These are examples of diversity, but not in body type,” according to The Daily Beast.

During the meeting, the girls claimed that the representatives were extremely protective.  “The meeting ended in about five minutes, with them calling us horrible accusers. Beauty comes in so many shapes, sizes, and colors—we just want them to portray that in their magazine,” said one of the teens.

Teen Vogue reprimanded the girls, telling them to do their “homework” prior to creating a campaign like this.  Post meeting, the blogosphere exploded with irate headlines relating to the incident.  Teen Vogue released a statement in their defense, “Teen Vogue makes a conscious and continuous effort to promote a positive body image among our readers. We feature healthy models on the pages of our magazine and shoot dozens of nonmodels and readers every year and do not retouch them to alter their body size. Teen Vogue pledges to continue this practice.”

I think that Teen Vogue handled the situation inappropriately and could have portrayed themselves differently.  Even though they did not agree with the girls and were on the defense, they could have been less aggressive and could have stated their case in an appropriate manner.  The topic of the campaign shed a bad light on the magazine but their actions in the end made them look even worse.

Today, the majority of teenage girls are consumed by magazines and media that skew their idea of how they should be portrayed.  I think that it is plausible that these young readers are beginning to realize that the images of girls in magazines are absurd and are trying to take a stand and act on the issue that affects so many girls around the globe.

Do you believe that Teen Vogue handled this issue correctly?  If not, what would you have done differently?

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