You might recognize Cassey Ho from her wildly popular website and YouTube channel, Blogilates. What started out as a platform to share expertly crafted Pilates workouts has expanded to include meal plans, merchandise, and more. I personally head to her website to find easy at-home workouts, and when I say easy, I don't mean the workouts themselves because those are hard. I mean that they require little to no equipment, and they can be done almost anywhere.
You can also find her on Instagram. Here, she often shares positive and motivational messages with her 1.4 million followers. Yesterday, she shared a particularly powerful message in the form of a series of photoshopped images. Unlike other Instagram influencers, accounts, and advertisements, these images were obviously altered in order to demonstrate a point—a very powerful point at that.
This is what Ho looks like sans editing. In the following images, she used Photoshop to modify her body to fit the so-called "perfect body" from each major period throughout history. However, she didn't intend this to be a history lesson; she intended to spread a message of body positivity and confidence, proving that trends will always come and go, even in regard to body type. Her hope, it seemed, was to show her followers that their body image should remain constant and positive, despite what features might be trending.
After all, the "ideal" body type is always subjective and arbitrary.
She started all the way back in the Middle Ages—more specifically the Renaissance period between 1400 and 1700. In the accompanying photo, her legs, torso, chest, and arms are visibly edited to look curvier than they actually are IRL. "Looking full with a rounded stomach, large hips, and an ample bosom is in," she wrote in the caption. "Being well fed is a sign of wealth and status. Only the poor are thin."
Next came the 1920s. Ho's body is modified to erase any curves in order to look "boyish," as she put it. "Appearing boyish, androgynous and youthful, with minimal breasts, and a straight figure is in! Unlike the 'Gibson Girl' of the Victorian Era, women are choosing to hide their curves, and are doing so by binding their chests with strips of cloth to create that straight figure suitable for flapper dresses."
Ho's photo to demonstrate the "perfect body" type in the '50s was edited to give her the famous hourglass figure that was so idealized by pop-culture icons like Elizabeth Taylor. "The hourglass shape is in," Ho wrote. "Elizabeth Taylor's 36-21-36 measurements are the ideal. Marilyn Monroe's soft voluptuousness is lusted after. Women are advertised weight gaining pills to fill themselves out. Playboy magazine and Barbie are created in this decade."
The '90s were notorious for making super-thin bodies look "ideal" in the eyes of society. Models like Kate Moss and Christy Turlington were icons. "THIN IS IN," Ho captioned this photo. "Having angular bone structure, looking emaciated, and super skinny is what’s dominating the runways and the magazine covers. There’s even a name for it: 'heroin chic.'"
Now it's on to the mid-'90s through the 2000s. "Big boobs, flat stomachs, and thighs gaps are in," Ho wrote. "In 2010, breast augmentation is the highest performed cosmetic surgery in the United States. It's the age of the Victoria's Secret Angel. She's tall, thin, and she's always got long legs and a full chest."
Finally, Ho posted a photoshopped version of her body to demonstrate the "perfect body" from the 2010s all the way to the current trend of 2018. "Big butts, wide hips, tiny waists, and full lips are in! There is a huge surge in plastic surgery for butt implants thanks to Instagram models posting 'belfies.' Even cosmetic surgery doctors have become IG-famous for reshaping women. Between 2012-2014, butt implants and injections rise by 58%," the caption reads.
You can clearly see that Ho's legs and butt have been modified to appear curvier while keeping with a thin, hourglass-shaped waist. It's a body type that's reminiscent of A-list celebs like Kim Kardashian West and Nicki Minaj.
After each description of the ideal body type, Ho ended the post with some final (and powerful) thoughts. "Why do we treat our bodies like we treat fashion?" she asked her followers. "'Boobs are out! Butts are in!' Well, the reality is, manufacturing our bodies is a lot more dangerous than manufacturing clothes. Stop throwing your body out like it's fast fashion. Please treat your body with love & respect and do not succumb to the beauty standard. Embrace your body because it is YOUR own perfect body."
Let's go back to the original, unaltered photo one last time. In a second post, Ho opened up about what photoshopping her body (and sharing it with over one million people on the internet) was like. "You know, this project was so interesting to me because as I was looking at myself getting photoshopped, I thought that I might secretly like one of the results. But the super odd thing was…all of them didn't sit right with me. Not one! As obvious as it is to say this, I didn't look like myself in the photos.
I actually much prefer my body just as it is. Sure I've got a small butt, small boobs, a soft belly, and hip dips, but I've also got powerful legs, strong shoulders, and a figure that is all mine—unlike anyone else's."
We love this Photoshop experiment and Ho's candid conversation about body image—something that's notoriously fraught with conflict for ourselves and others. When it's so easy to get wrapped up in comparison (especially on social media), it feels refreshing to have this as a little reminder to be kind to yourself. And now that it's almost 2019, idealizing specific body types is out. Accepting all bodies, regardless of shape or size, is in.