What Beauty Looks Like, From Argentina to Vietnam

Esther Honig sent an untouched image to Photoshop designers around the world. She had one request: "Make me look beautiful."
The original, untouched photo of Esther (Esther Honig)

It started with a self-portrait. Esther Honig sent a photograph of herself, lit simply and shot from the shoulders up, to a designer in Sri Lanka. She sent a simple request along with the photo: "Make me look beautiful."

Honig is a journalist and social media manager based in Kansas City, Missouri; in her work, she'd come across the international freelancing site Fiverr, and noticed how many people on the service were advertising their skills in Photoshop. She got an idea: What would happen if she asked designers from different countries to manipulate her photo—with nothing but a request to "make her look beautiful"?

Honig did just that, asking a group of some 40 designers to Photoshop her into their own idea of beauty. (As a response to anyone confused by her request, Honig would ask the designer to make her look "like a woman in one of their country's fashion magazines.") The results of this exchange are collected in Honig's project Before & Afterwhich offers a revealing, if not at all scientific, insight into various countries' and cultures' assumptions of beauty. There's a lot of lightened skin. And lightened eyes. And heightened hair. Some images give Honig some clothes. One gives her a tattoo.

I asked Honig whether any of the global Photoshops particularly surprised or impressed her. She replied: 

Morocco was the most surprising image, the way the concept of "make me beautiful" was interpreted in this instance left me breathless. In turn the image I received from the U.S. (blond hair) made me shriek, it's been manipulated so radically that it was like looking in the mirror to see a warped image of my own face.

Here's the original, untouched image of Honig:

And here are the results of the Photoshopping, country by country. 

Argentina:

Australia: 

Bangladesh

Bulgaria

Chile

Germany: 

Greece: 

India: 

Indonesia: 

Italy: 

Kenya: 

Morocco: 

Pakistan: 

Philippines: 

Romania: 

Serbia: 

Sri Lanka: 

Ukraine:

United Kingdom:

United States (1): 

United States (2):

Venezuela: 

Vietnam: 

 

Presented by

Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

Video

What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in Technology

Just In