Have you ever watched the Victoria’s Secret fashion show? I caught a few minutes the other day. If someone asked me to describe it, I would respond by saying, "It’s quite something."

Every year the company spends tens of millions of dollars putting on a runway show to showcase their newest line. Models strut down the runway donning tiny pieces of underwear and enormous wings. (That sounds like the premise of a twisted horror flick.)

Despite the live performers on stage, the flashing camera bulbs and the grandiose staging, the models steal the show.

Without exception they are tall, thin and beautiful. They epitomize American media’s definition of beauty.

Their figures are flawless. They do not appear to have an ounce of fat on their body but have perfectly sculpted muscles. Their chests seem to float in space, their waists are smaller than a Subway sandwich and they have attained the notoriously sought after "thigh gap." For those unfamiliar with the term, "thigh gap" is just that: the space between a woman’s thighs when she stands with her feet touching. Why we needed to coin a term for "thigh gap" is beyond me.

The models also manage to have beautiful muscle definition. It’s as if Michelangelo sculpted their forms with the expectation that they would attend endless Pilates classes and subsist off of celery sticks.

All in all, the simultaneous achievement of height, slenderness and toning is mystifying.

I always wondered how these women managed to look like that. I don’t look like that. No one I know looks like that. Sure, these women hit the gene jackpot. But there had to be more to it.

What I found out was disturbing. For one Victoria’s Secret model, the two weeks before a runway show are, for lack of a better word, extreme.

She stops eating solid food during the two weeks leading up to the show. She stops eating food altogether, relying on just water and juices to keep her going, for the few days prior to the show. She then fasts the day of the show.

Her workouts also get kicked into "high gear," which I assume means spending many hours a day, many days a week in the gym with a personal trainer.

So in order to attain a runway-ready body, this woman deprives her body of sustenance while trying to burn any and all remaining fat.

I imagine what that would sound like to someone who did not have enough to eat or lived in an impoverished country. "You mean, she voluntarily stops eating so she looks prettier when she walks down a long stage in her underwear?"

Please know that I am not criticizing models or their chosen profession; I am criticizing the system which employs them.

What is happening when young men and women turn on the TV and see these models? The message being sent is that being a beautiful woman means being 5’9", a size zero and having a D cup-size.

It is no wonder self-esteem issues and eating disorders are so prevalent in our country. Every time I turn on the TV, watch a movie, or flip through a magazine I see tall, thin, perfectly symmetrical women. I am not seeing my mother, my sister or my best friends. So few women seen in the media look real.

And, as it turns out, they may not be.

I recently heard an interview about Photoshop. The interviewee, a woman, said that Photoshopped photos are not indicated as such because there is an assumption that the general public knows all photos released for entertainment or advertising purposes have been significantly edited.

That’s terrifying.

What happens when I catch a glimpse of Vogue while in a checkout line? Naturally, I assume the woman on the cover is a real human being. A human being who has no pores or arm flab, but a human being nonetheless.

Wrong.

She has been tucked, toned, tanned, trimmed and tousled. Lines have been pulled, curves have been exaggerated and blemishes have disappeared. She has become a computer-generated creation.

Practices like these foster unattainable and unhealthy expectations for our sons and daughters.

Jennifer Lawrence, who stars in the Hunger Games movies, is outspoken about issues surrounding body image.

She said in an interview, "You look how you look. Be comfortable. What are you going to do be hungry every single day just to make other people happy? That’s just dumb ... stop calling each other fat with these unrealistic expectations of women. It’s disappointing that the media keeps it alive and fuels that fire."

We live in a society that places a tremendous importance on physical appearance. It is socially acceptable to scrutinize and critique women’s bodies like objects that can be resized and reshaped.

That is where we have gone wrong.

I think it is time to re-evaluate. Perfection is boring. If we were all perfect life wouldn’t be so exciting.

For me, beauty means confidence and grace. What does it mean to you?

That’s all for today. Until next time,

Alana

Alana Redden is a senior at Leland & Gray. She can be contacted by e-mail at alana.redden@gmail.com.