Is Esther Honig beautiful? Well, that depends on who's being asked.
Honig, a journalist from Kansas City, decided she wanted to explore the idea of what it means to be beautiful around the globe. In a project she calls "Before & After" on her website, Honig sent an unedited photo of herself to more than 40 Photoshop aficionados in 25 countries. Honig's instructions were simple: "Make me beautiful."
The photo-editing software often receives media attention for its heavy-handed use in the fashion and magazine industries. Many celebrities including actress Kate Winslet and singers Beyonce Knowles and Lady Gaga have offered outspoken opposition to being retouched — contributing, they say, to unrealistic expectations of beauty.
The responses to Honig's request stun. Morocco put Honig in heavy eye liner and a brightly-colored head scarf. Germany gave her porcelain skin and red hair, while Pakistan darkened her skin and eyes. The U.S. made some of the most dramatic changes: Highly teased, long hair, a change of eye color and a complete face re-shape.
"Photoshop allows us to achieve our unobtainable standards of beauty, but when we compare those standards on a global scale, achieving the ideal remains all the more elusive," Honig said in a post on her site.
Honig's work has garnered praise online. The Gloss applauded Honig, saying the project "proved Photoshop can be used for good." Bustle concluded that the project reminded viewers that beauty standards are unrealistic no matter where they come from.
"What so many of them have in common, no matter how different they are to each other, is that they represent beauty standards that are as unobtainable as the ones we see here in the United States," Lucia Peters wrote. [The project] shows not only how beauty standards vary from country to country, but even more interestingly, how varied and complex the bigger global picture is."