I feel like a total boob. This morning, I got an e-mail from GQ alerting me to a new interview about the magazine's November cover shot of January Jones, which I speculated yesterday was heavily Photoshopped to make her breasts pop. Asked whether they messed with her cleavage, photo editor Dora Somosi responds: "No, absolutely not." She explains that Terry Richardson, the extremely talented photog behind the shoot, has a preference for "harder lighting" which "can create a stronger shadow -- that, and body position and perspective could give the illusion that her breasts are bigger."
There you have it: I was wrong.
Let me offer a glimpse of how this all transpired behind-the-scenes: My editor Sarah Hepola sent me an e-mail Wednesday morning with the subject line, "What the hell happened to January Jones' breasts?" She linked to the striking image and signed off with: "Bazoonga!" Yes, I thought, her cleavage does look rather unnatural. (For the record: I called them "porny" in my original post not because they were big but because they defied gravity in a manner that looked rather fake to me.) I published the item -- thinking of it as fun, ephemeral -- and turned to more pressing matters.
Then readers began questioning my assumption in the post's letters thread. A couple male coworkers argued that, hey, they also thought the photo looked legit. Hah! Sarah and I laughed. They just didn't understand. After all, women know real breasts and we know the ubiquity of heavily retouched women.
Oh, but I should have known better: As a teen, I spent uncountable hours propping up my breasts and smooshing them together to simulate the cleavage-to-chin look of Victoria's Secret models. I well know that slender women like Jones with anything above a B-cup can achieve this look with the right pose, outfit, lighting, camera angle or all of the above. Heck, I've been insulted in the past when a friend asked if my breasts were fake simply because of the way they sat on my slight build -- but there I was doing a very similar thing to Jones.
Why was I so quick to jump to the Photoshopping conclusion? Because it is so pervasive. My default setting is: Objects in magazine are other than they appear. After seeing the glossy rag beauty ideal you've grown up with revealed as a sham, it's easy to develop a defensiveness about such things. I wasn't the only one whose retouching radar was set off by the cover shot, either. Regardless, I'm sorry GQ. I said in my original post that I thought you were better than all that -- and you are.