Ever since Singapore imposed its version of a national lockdown, I’ve had far too much spare time on my hands. I’ve wisely chosen to spend the bulk of it on Instagram, refreshing the explore page and scrolling through the curated content presented based on my past likes and interests. This has been devastating for productivity, but on the bright side I have discovered some interesting new accounts that make me feel slightly less bad about not picking up a new skill/having a proper routine/getting out of bed.
Amongst these is Celebface, an account dedicated to exposing the truth behind photos of celebrity influencers. Through obsessive scrutiny and meticulous sleuthing, Celebface reveals the secret behind the mandatory tiny waist, plump lips, and poreless skin now sported by basically every Instagram model – airbrushing, and a lot of it. The account calls out doctored images in two main ways: firstly by highlighting warped backgrounds and other noticeable Photoshop mistakes left by careless celebrities, and secondly by sharing GIFs that alternate between unedited newswire photos and the polished versions uploaded by influencers themselves. Prominent celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Kendall Jenner have not been spared, with Khloe Kardashian even blocking the account after it posted about her.
The account has gained a cult-like following of over 1.3 million users – clearly the disjunct between Instagram and reality is a topic that many find interesting. The effects of social media on negative body image, especially for women, is well-established. Common changes and tweaks highlighted by Celebface include lips being made to look poutier, hair being edited to appear more voluminous, and waists/hips being enhanced to achieve an hourglass effect. Whilst it is human nature to want to share only the best aspects of oneself, the polished, glossy versions presented in the kinds of photos exposed by Celebface contribute towards a culture of dysmorphia, where photoshopped perfection is naturalised and others are made to feel inadequate for not conforming with the kinds of beauty celebrated on Instagram.
The account has been accused of cyberbullying on numerous occasions, often due to its sneering captions and overall snarky attitude. For instance, it faced great backlash after it posted images from a Vogue Japan shoot featuring Bella Hadid, with the accompanying caption: “Your parents bought your career, but they didn’t buy the confidence for you. I wish you to be happy, because you don’t love yourself and are unsure of yourself.” Some have argued that even famous celebrities and influencers are not exempt from insecurities and self-esteem issues, and that Celebface shouldn’t encourage its wide following to display unkind and judgemental behaviour.
I am personally unconvinced by such calls for Celebface to stop its brand of digital shaming. Claims of cyberbullying feel overblown, especially when you consider the high-profile targets of Celebface’s posts: even with 1.3 million followers, the account has an almost paltry following relative to the prolific influencers it features. The disparity in power is evident not only through follower counts, but also in terms of the social and financial resources that the celebrities in question command. Furthermore, many of the influencers exposed by Celebface rely, at least in part, on their appearance for profit – Celebface holds these celebrities accountable for their role in perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards, and promotes transparency in the previously opaque world of famous people and their perfect bodies. Beyond that I’m also generally just really impressed by the amount of effort and attention to detail behind each post, for seemingly no financial benefit at all. By shedding light on how what we have come to celebrate as perfection really only exists within the frame of a screen, Celebface runs counter to dominant trends on social media and marks an important step forward for body positivity.