Beauty Myth

Is Demi Lovato’s Pride In ‘Unretouched’ Nude Pictures Really a Humblebrag?

‘Vanity Fair’ photographed the singer in the nude and sans make-up. Is it empowering, or just showing off?

As soon as Demi Lovato’s “spontaneous, nude, makeup-free photo shoot” for Vanity Fair was posted Friday afternoon, it set tongues wagging in praise.

Her fans quickly began tweeting out #WeAreProudOfYouDemi. “After your whole life of fighting to get at peace and to finally have it is amazing,” one supporter tweeted. “She is finally confident in her skin. I’m so freaking proud of you,” tweeted another.

There was good reason for the outpouring of support.

Lovato has gone to rehab for, among other things, bulimia, and she has been quite open about her body image struggles. She also commendably called out her former employer, Disney, when its show, Shake It Up, featured a joke mocking the eating disorder.

For these reasons, I don’t doubt that it is a struggle for Lovato to make peace with her body—even though it more than surpasses all standards of sexiness.

I also don’t doubt that this photoshoot was perfectly timed with the debut of her new album, Confident, which is referenced repeatedly in the Vanity Fair write-up and by Lovato herself:

“I’m about to launch an album that finally represents who I truly am. How do I embrace this new chapter in my life? How do I really walk the walk? What does it mean to be confident?”

The answer is stripping down and making it clear to the world you are implausibly sexy, even without the aid of Photoshop, cosmetics, and strategic lighting. The answer is reminding every person who also feels insecure about their body that they don’t look as good naked as you do.

It’s a thought we civilians outside the celebrity world often have when we pass your faces and bodies on magazine covers, but the nude, unretouched photo shoot has a special way of making us feel terrible. It hammers the message: “Don’t kid yourself that you could almost look like her if you had professionals. This is how good she looks without any help.”

Lovato’s skin is glistening, her eyes are smouldering, and her ass is nothing short of perfection—and we are supposed to feel bad for her? Or praise her for her confidence? Or empathize with her body struggles?

A young, hot celebrity posing for an unretouched photo shoot is the ultimate humblebrag.

Claiming that this shoot is her way of “letting go, being authentic, saying I don’t give a fuck” suggests that Lovato perceives this act as transgressive and courageous. I hate to break it her, but it’s not as defiant as she thinks.

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To be fair, Lovato is hardly the first to woman in Hollywood to go naked in an attempt at seeming accessible to masses of women, while, perhaps inadvertently, making them feel completely inferior and hyper-aware of their own physical flaws.

Masking these types of spreads under the guise of “brave” and “revealing” is standard fare for glossies. Allure’s annual nude issues are ostensibly grounded in making celebrities appear both inspirational—for courageously displaying their bodies—and relatable, because they, like us untoned, pale, pimply, pudgy mortals, feel insecure about their appearances.

I complained about this masquerade in 2012, and I will be apparently complaining about this as long as hot young celebrities think getting naked makes other women feel better about themselves.

If anything, I have far more patience and even a bit of appreciation for Lovato’s take on the unretouched humblebrag because she has been vocal about her body issues and eating disorders for years.

As someone who has been through therapy for eating disorders and has candidly discussed her continued battles “with obsessing over food and [being] terrified of it at the same time,” Lovato should absolutely revel in her body and be proud of how it looks—and also acknowledge that it meets pretty much every conventional standard of sexiness.

Demi Lovato may be more beautiful than she realizes—and less brave than she thinks.