The Keep It Real Challenge

I want to see regular girls that look like me in a magazine that’s supposed to be for me.”

-Julia Bluhm, Spark Teen Activist


This Wednesday, June 27, our friends at Spark Summit and Miss Representation are preparing to launch a collaborative three day campaign called  “The Keep It Real Challenge” targeting mainstream magazines that regularly photoshop and airbrush women and girls.

This social media campaign (involving twitter, blogs and Instagram) follows the efforts of Spark activist Julia Bluhm, who recently petitioned  Seventeen Magazine to print 1 non-photoshopped image per issue. So far the petition has received over 80,000 signatures.

Seventeen Magazine refused to comply.

We at FAAN Mail support The Keep It Real Challenge and will be participating in the three days of action (explained below). Our youth media program, Sisters Action Media, made this video in support of the campaign:

Like Sisters Action Media, FAAN shares concerns about mainstream magazines and the messages they send around beauty. We agree that photoshopping is a problem. But as women of color, before we even notice the photoshop, the lightening of skin for example, we often notice that we are straight up missing. We notice that when magazines do portray black and brown sisters, they usually have light skin, straight hair or white features.

In a recent issue of Seventeen Magazine, Sisters Action Media counted 14 girls of color and only one dark skin girl in the entire magazine. Sad, but are we really surprised?

Yet a Seventeen Magazine spokesperson recently asserted “…there is no other magazine that highlights such a diversity of size, shape, skin tone and ethnicity.” (via Jezebel)

Clearly Seventeen standards for diversity are incredibly low,  just like other mainstream mags.

Given this context, The Keep It Real Challenge  is an important opportunity for women and girls of color to stand with our allies and challenge magazines like Seventeen to celebrate REAL GIRLS and REAL BEAUTY without photoshop, without skin lightening and with true diversity.


The Keep It Real Challenge asks print magazines to pledge to use at least one non-photoshopped image of beauty per issue.  We at FAAN and Sisters Action Media support this demand, but want to push magazines to take a step further. Below, we have added our questions and demands in red, along with 4 tweet suggestions.

  • Day 1: Tweet it  Use #KeepitReal on Twitter to challenge magazines to drop photoshop. Tell magazine editors that including only a handful of black and brown girls is not diversity, it’s tokenism. Tell them to stop lightening black and brown skin. And ask magazine editors: why do you exclude dark skin girls?  Use the twitter handles of mag editors and mags so they hear you! For example:
  1. Hey @annshoket, stop excluding dark skin girls from @seventeenmag! #KeepItReal
  2. @annshoket including only a handful of black and brown girls is not diversity, it’s tokenism. #KeepItReal @seventeenmag
  3. Editor @Mrjoezee at @ellemagazine, stop digitally lightening black & brown women’s skin in your Mag! #KeepItReal 
  4. Tell Mags like @voguemagazine, @seventeenMag & @ELLEmagazine to stop lightening black & brown skin! #KeepItReal
  5. ‎(VIDEO) Teen girls of color tell @SeventeenMag to drop photoshop & start including real diversity! #KeepItReal Pls RT
  6. Use this list of magazines/editors to call them out today on Twitter: #KeepItReal
  • Day 2: Blog It  Use your voice to tell the world why photoshop needs to go. Vocalize your concerns about mainstream magazines and get people talking. Identify the magazines that you support and explain why. 
  • Day 3: Capture It  Take pictures of what real beauty means to you and post them with #KeepitRealChallenge for a chance to be featured on a billboard in NYC – the heart of the magazine industry.    

Download the Keep It Real Toolkit which includes the contact information of Magazine Editors we will be targeting and other important details.

Below is a clip from the powerful documentary, Colour of Beauty, about diversity and racism in the fashion industry. (You can see the full film here)


In the spirit of activism, alternatives and talking back, we hope you join this challenge. #KeepItReal.

In Solidarity,
FAAN Mail/ @faanmail


About Nuala Cabral

Nuala Cabral is an educator, activist, filmmaker and co-founder of FAAN Mail, a media literacy and activist project based in Philadelphia.

Posted on June 24, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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