It’s hard to believe that a 14-year-old could actually inspire change in the fashion industry, but that’s just what teenager Julia Bluhm did when she teamed up with girl-activist group SPARK Movement last April, petitioning Seventeen magazine to feature unaltered, un-retouched real girls. Seventeen EIC Anne Shoket finally responded earlier this month with a “Body Peace Treaty“–pledging to be more transparent about their photography practices and to “always feature real girls and models who are healthy” and “never change girls’ body or face shapes.”
Now, a ripple effect is underway. Today other members of the SPARK Movement demonstrated outside of Conde Nast to petition Teen Vogue to make similar changes. Though their numbers were small (only a handful of girls showed) their message was loud and clear: they want to be able to open a magazine and see girls who look like them. To that end they harnessed some creative girl power and rolled out a red carpet to stage a fashion show complete with photographers and cameramen at the end, and walked the runway holding up white boards with messages like “Let’s Get REAL: ALL Girls Are Beautiful!” scrawled across them in colorful marker. They’ve also gathered over 28,000 signatures for their petition on Change.org and met with Teen Vogue EIC Amy Astley today at 3:30 p.m. (Cross your fingers the meeting went well!)
Emma Stydahar, 17, who spearheaded this latest glossy petition, told us she used to subscribe to Teen Vogue but stopped because, “I remember looking through these magazines and thinking, ‘Oh I wish I had those legs, I wish I had her hair,’ and never seeing anyone that looked like me, never thinking, ‘Oh, wow, beauty comes in all different shapes and sizes.’” She was quick to rattle off the stat that 75% of girls feel badly about themselves after just three minutes flipping through a magazine.
It was a Stydahar family affair outside 4 Times Square as Emma’s little sister Hannah, 14, came along too. “Something needs to change,” Hannah told us, “because no one should feel [badly about themselves] when they don’t look like someone in a magazine.”
And their no-alterations requests are getting pretty detailed. “Today people have been asking me about the little photoshops, but even brushing out a pimple or fixing teeth – all of those things really add up and then all of a sudden these teen girls don’t feel beautiful,” Emma said. And while that seems like a tall order–a request that we sadly can’t imagine would be granted (this is an industry focused on beauty after all) we hope Teen Vogue hears them out and agrees to make some changes.
We’re waiting to hear how they were received by Teen Vogue, but this is definitely a group of girls to watch. They have some exciting projects in the works, including an Instagram campaign through their website SPARKmovement.org, where girls can tweet about what they think is beautiful. “The end result is to change what beautiful means to us,” said Hannah. Sister Emma agreed, “I don’t think girls should have to grow up in a world where their self esteem can be compromised by something like a magazine.”
In a world where even Kate Upton isn’t free from attacks on her body, we’re inclined to agree!