—Ana, Mineola, New York
The B!tch Replies: Not often. Usually, the folks at, say, Vanity Fair just go ahead and Photoshop a naked Keira Knightley into looking like a mere concentration-camp survivor rather than an all-out carcass. I understand that such retouch jobs require armies of young people in Scandanivian-designed eyeglasses, working in shifts until their gently tapered fingers bleed.
Most magazines do what they want—with limitations. Some publicists routinely call editors to demand final approval over cover shots. Editors who do not have Smuckers grape jelly where their spines should be usually ignore these people.
"Some magazines allow celebs to have final say," says Cathy Areu, editorial director of Catalina magazine, which has featured stars ranging from Daisy Fuentes to Judy Reyes to Roselyn Sanchez.
"As a matter of fact, some celebs won't agree to a cover shoot without final say. We just don't work that way."
However, if a publicist sweetly asks for a small fix, like erasing the Restylane needle marks around Jessica Simpson's lips or brightening the tar-black aura encasing Angelina Jolie's entire person, that's usually okay. Sometimes the celebrity even requests that a flaw remain in a picture.
"Mary J. Blige had a scar on her left eye," recalls Ira Yoffe, creative director of Parade magazine. "And the publicist called and said, 'Please don't retouch that scar, it's such a part of who she is.' "
The magazine obliged. However, Yoffe says, extreme slimming or other drastic measures are out of the question.
Occasionally, the kids in the Scandinavian glasses will get a little squirrelly in the retouching room, slimming curvy celebrities all the way down to birch saplings. This kind of thing tends to please celebrities, but not always.
Kate Winslet once complained, after British GQ apparently thought she wanted to look like Posh Spice Beckham. They had slimmed the Titanic actress a bit too much.
And, of course, there was the Katie Couric flap, though I think Katie should have thanked the folks at CBS for slimming her down in its promotional publication. Anyone who could make me look less like a leprechaun would get my eternal gratitude.