You know it's a weird month in celeb-land when Good Housekeeping cover girl, Michelle Obama, is photoshopped within an inch of her life and Marie Claire cover girl, Jessica Simpson, is not only un-airbrushed, but also sans makeup.
Both women are known for their beauty (oh, and by the way, Ms. Obama might also be married to the President of the United States, or something) and have been targets of intense media scrutiny regarding their looks. So it is fitting that each in her own way -- and you can't possibly be more surprised than I am that I'm putting Michelle Obama and Jessica Simpson into the same category -- is on a current campaign to reshape global attitudes about our bodies.
Ms. Obama has made headlines recently for departing from previous First Ladies' safe platforms and tackling the touchy subject of childhood obesity. After launching a nationwide initiative to "end childhood obesity in one generation" she reinforced her point by revamping the traditional Easter celebration at the White House. This past weekend she removed all candy from the candy-infested holiday and instead treated children to exercise stations hosted by Olympic athletes, hand-washing stations and the inexplicably named "pre-screened" fruit in their goody bags.
Strangely, the same media that laments the obesity crisis on a daily basis lambasted the First Lady for "stealing Easter." The Easter Bunny notes that he is "not threatened" by Ms. Obama, although he thinks some of the Olympians might have been looking at him funny.
Also making mixed headlines, Ms. Simpson has been traveling the world for her new reality show "The Price of Beauty" showing what women in other cultures perceive as beautiful and the means they use to achieve it. This week's episode had the girls and their hairstylist visiting Uganda to watch women being fattened in the name of beauty. This ritual, which to my Western eyes seems every bit as eating disordered as anorexia or bulimia, highlights an important point: not everyone thinks thin is as in as we do. In fact, adiposity is adorable in some cultures.
Somewhere in these extreme messages, there is a middle ground. Catwalk thinness and obesity are both undesirable from a health perspective. And neither should be a moral statement about the person possessing said body. Now, if only we didn't have to photoshop our already-gorgeous First Lady or take contrived pictures of the already-gorgeous Jessica Simpson to prove it.
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