In the past few weeks, Esther Honig, a freelance journalist based out of Kansas City, has gained international recognition and popularity for her most recent social experiment.
By Casey Diaz
In the past few weeks, Esther Honig, a freelance journalist based out of Kansas City, has gained international recognition and popularity for her most recent social experiment. Honig manages her own personal blog, “Before & After,” which is geared towards young women and explores the ideas of inner beauty and the effects social media has had on beauty standards.
The idea for her blog’s latest feature came to her when she was browsing an international freelancing website and noticed the frequency of Photoshop listed as a skill among freelancers. She began to wonder how each individual freelancer would alter a photograph, imagining that due to their varied environments and upbringings, each would hold different aesthetic values.
From there, Honig sent a natural, unaltered picture of herself to over 40 Photoshop professional and amateur enthusiasts around the world, accompanied by a simple message: “Make me beautiful.”
Reaching over 25 countries, Honig was shocked by the variation and degree to which her self-portrait was returned completely transformed. “Seeing some jobs for the first time made me shriek … others took my breath away because they were far more insightful than I could have expected.”
Viewing each altered photograph, one can see how an individual, a culture, or a country regards beauty. It is clear by the makeup added which specific features and styles are held in high regard; also, by the degree to which Honig was transformed, it is clear just how much people around the world expect women to change for the sake of beauty.
When taken in totality, the project is striking, opening a global conversation about unattainable beauty standards. Honig reflected that what she has learned from her experiment, and its resulting commotion, is that when standards of beauty are taken to a global scale, “achieving the ideal [becomes] all the more allusive.”
While some may think that programs like Photoshop are helping women to attain perfection, beauty will always be held in the eye of the beholder.
The author graduated from School of the Holy Child last month and will attend the University of Delaware this fall. She is interning at The Rye Record this summer.